THE DEMO CORNER
Staunchly devoted to Nevermore and its camp, I find myself quite excited to hear the sophomore effort from (now former Nevermore) guitarist Jeff Loomis. After a very impressive debut with Zero Order Phase from ’08 the bar was already set somewhat higher than usual. It took four years (with much tumultuousness in between), but Plains of Oblivion finally emerges from the swirling din that was the aftermath of Nevermore’s untimely hiatus with losing two members.
When you hear any Jeff Loomis guitar you immediately know it’s him; his fluid riffing and intense style that seems to chug along with tremendous ease and even flow is much more than a signature sound; his style is, quite innately, all his own with a tone and scale mastery so brilliant it should be patented. For this time around the solo album bush Loomis pulls out the stops in terms of guests on the record. Marty Friedman (Hawaii, Cacophony, Megadeth) Chris Poland (Megadeth), Tony MacAlpine and Atilla Voros (Warrel Dane, Nevermore) all lend their individual guitar talents to the album, while Ihsahn and the wonderful Christine Rhoades spark the fires with some vocals to the otherwise strictly instrumental piece. In fact, her voice has been a haunting reminder in my head since her wonderful performance, albeit brief performance on Nevermore’s Dreaming Neon Black back in ’00. “Tragedy and Harmony” could well be, in all honesty, a Nevermore track with Rhoades in place of Warrel Dane, and it works incredibly well. Unlike most female vocalists today Rhoades allows the music to be her guide as opposed to leading the music with inane soaring vocals and ho-hum wailing. Her strong, yet easy delivery is so rich and subtle that I’m now a fan for life.
To hear Loomis trading riffs with some of these players is as consuming for me, the listener, as much as it must have been a privilege for him as a player/peer. His track “The Ultimatum” with Tony MacAlpine is a short essay in wonder and guitar majesty, while teaming with Atilla Woros (Dane’s solo band/Nevermore) for the intricacies contained in “Requiem of the Living” are just two of the elements that make Plains of Oblivion one of the better instrumental albums in some time. I have always appreciated Loomis’ style and sound, and therefore I would hold his solo material to a much higher standard than I would a casual acquaintance; that is, I’m likely to be harder on Loomis’ solo material than another player I’m intrigued by but not wholly consumed with. That said I can ascertain that, while retaining the powerful Nevermore sig sound he made famous, Loomis ventures into areas criminally untapped during his tenure in a band and lets loose within his own freedom and familiar devices.
“Continuum Drift” is what I would like to call a ‘watery’ mixture of engaging sounds. I almost feel as if I’m being tossed around on a high-seas boat adventure with crashing waves and momentary respites of calm and tempestuous interims before the next large cascade of water hits the boat frame. I know it’s probably an extravagant visual to create, but it’s how I feel the first two times I heard it; it creates some fantastic visuals. When an instrumental album helps create such wondrous visuals to help you along the journey of the piece you know you have something great at your mind’s fingertips.
With this said, I will say the one flaw I have with the tracks on the record is “Surrender”, which has vocals from Ihsahn. As much of a fan as I am of Emperor and Ihsahn’s solo material, this vocal is more distracting to the music than a pleasant additive; it just seems to pull more in the way of unnecessary volatility than anything else. It’s sort of all over the place and seems to convolute the flow. While I do enjoy the howling scream Ihsahn is famous for, for me it just didn’t fit this track or the theme of the record overall. It’s a small nitpick, but one that threw me off nonetheless.
Loomis also proves that speed and sweeping aren’t all he has hidden in his repertoire; “Chosen Time” lulls the senses with a slow-and-steady pace as Rhoades once again regales with her beautiful tonal wonderment. I would love to hear more collaboration between these two, especially by way of a full-length album.
By all points, Jeff Loomis takes the best of him and lays every bit of it bare for his latest solo effort. With all of the amazing arsenal he has at his expert fingertips he only serves to fine-tune the sensory self with terrific ability that doesn’t give complete subservience to ‘shred’ and carves a niche so well-crafted it’s a true treasure to hear the man redefine himself with familiar, yet always interesting musical exclamation points.
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2. The Ultimatum
3. Escape Velocity
4. Tragedy and Harmony
5. Requiem for the Living
6. Continuum Drift
8. Chosen Time
10. Sibylline Origin
Total playing time: 47:44
Release Date: April 9, 2012
Label: Century Media Music
Jeff Loomis - Plains of Oblivion
May 24, 2012