Sound — 9
There were several of us who were a bit worried when it was announced that Peter Wichers would produce the new album. Wichers and Dane worked together on Dane's excellent solo album, Praises To The War Machine. While it was a very enjoyable effort, the question-marks raised regarding how Wichers/Dane would mesh with Loomis were indeed justified. Not only that, but the simple fact that they'd again write and record as a four-piece after the departure of relative newcomer Steve Smythe. When listening to the album, it's clear that the production remains the same. Nevermore's efforts in the past decade have one constant, and that is the style of production that Andy Sneap introduced them to. It is heavy, thick and complements Jeff Loomis' accentuated and aggressive riffs perfectly. If we completely disregard the quality of playing, then I'd say Jeff hasn't sounded this good ever, his solo effort aside. He has had performances but none have been captured as well as on The Obsidian Conspiracy. Behind all of this remains the spine, the backbone of the Nevermore sound and that is the combination of Van Williams' drumming and Jim Shepherd's bass. It might not be the first thing to catch your attention, but remove it and the void is immense.
Lyrics — 8
Warrel Dane is one of the most easily recognizable vocalists and lyricists in modern metal. It's obvious that Dane feels comfortable when working with Wichers, because they have managed to retain the same relaxed and focused vibe they established on Praises To The War Machine. While it is a far cry from the Sanctuary, or even Politics-days, Warrel stays within his comfort zone and delivers exactly what the song needs, and that is his unique touch and style. It might be that Warrel used some of his best writings in recent years for his solo effort, such as Messenger and When We Pray, that would've fit nicely into Nevermore's realm. Half-jokingly, I would've liked more references to the pigs (Born) but Warrel still has his style and his way of putting things that make him stand out above other lyricists in the genre.
Overall Impression — 8
It's been awhile since Nevermore recorded as a four-piece and I'd still liken this album to Dead Heart In A Dead World, which in many ways was a watershed between the old and the new Nevermore and was a huge source of debate within the fanbase. Is The Obsidian Conspiracy as controversial? Not nearly, as it's not that much of a departure from their recent string of albums. The Peter Wichers-influence is very noticeable as it's safe to say that he has affected the direction of the band on this album, but it still sounds fresh and unmistakably like Nevermore. It is on the short side of what we're used to, at roughly 44 minutes split onto 10 tracks. In my book, that's obviously not a bad thing as there's little room for filler and the guys deliver the goods without missing a step. One of my friends said that it's a good album but there aren't that many songs where you find yourself saying now we're talking, like with riff-fests such as Born and Enemies of Reality. I'm inclined to agree, but Nevermore still know how to pen a good, catchy and heavy song. It is undeniably heavy, it's just not as riff-and-solo-centric as This Godless Endeavor was. Then again, that was one of the best albums in that department of the past decade, so trying to top it in the same fashion would almost have been foolish. The Obsidian Conspiracy will probably disappoint a few fans, but on the whole it's an extremely solid effort, that manages to bring something new to the band's sound without completely altering it. I have a hard time finding a song that doesn't have something worthwhile, as both Loomis and Dane rarely miss the mark in a song. Some songs have a vibe where Warrel takes the frontseat, and some let Jeff shine a bit more. Playing off one another on such a level and with such reliability is extremely rare, and that's one of the key reasons why Nevermore are still hugely successful, almost 20 years after their inception.