Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nevermore - The Politics of Ecstasy

Confessions of a Former Fanboy - Vol. II: Enough Acid to Burn a Hole in the Floor 

Now, even when I was a shameless Nevermore fanboy, The Politics of Ecstasy was my least favorite album of theirs. Fans of the band were never there for crushing heaviness or chaotic noise, we stuck around because their mid-late era was so abundant in progressive melody and shredding soloing.  That was what I enjoyed the most.  I mean, I loved the whole package, but Jeff Loomis was always the main draw to me, and even if he plays the exact same diminished phyrigian and locrian scales in every single fucking sweeping run he's ever written, it sounds awesome.  That's why this album is pretty much the other black sheep in their discography (the other being the self titled), the band still didn't have much of an identity at this point, and the sound they'd eventually settle into and become synonymous with was still a few years away from fully solidifying.

The thing that's strange about The Politics of Ecstasy is that, despite what I just said like a dozen words ago, there are hints of their soon-to-be-signature style to be found here, but they're woefully underdeveloped.  There is a pretty high concentration of live staples and fan favorites to be found here ("Next in Line", "This Sacrament", "The Learning", "The Seven Tongues of God"), but it's all of a style that's only tangentially related to what they were doing before and afterwards.  Basically this album is a lot more dissonant and noisier than what they'd become known for, and it's not really for the best.

Not even anachronistically stacking this up against their later albums, it's totally underwhelming for the most part.  There are some absolute stinkers here, namely "Passenger", which is just slow and grinding and dull and pretty much every adjective along those lines you can think of.  Nevermore has always sucked at this kind of track, and this here is a brilliant example of why.  The whole album is also plagued with the band's utter inability to recognize a repetitive section and subsequently rein it in.  Almost every song here is too long (the title track and "The Seven Tongues of God" are the most obvious examples), and it's not because they're too slow or there are too many sections or the solos go on forever or anything.  No, it's usually because the riffs are just repeated ad nauseam.  It's a shame, because they're not even good riffs.  Loomis is a shredder, not a riffer, and Pat O'Brien is just painfully miscast.  The man is a death metaller, as evidenced by his immediate departure to join Cannibal Corpse (and stick with them even today) shortly after this album, and his influence here just makes the music more dissonant than it probably should be.  There are good moments, don't get me wrong.  The middle section of the title track rides on a great riff, "Lost" is one of the few that doesn't overstay its welcome, "42147" has a fucking beastly main riff, and I still really like the overlong and overprogressive "The Learning", but overall there's this feeling awkwardness that pervades throughout the entirety of the record, and it's really distracting.

But honestly, I feel like one of the biggest problems with The Politics of Ecstasy was Warrel's obsession with LSD and Timothy Leary and his writings.  Every single line is drenched in symbolism relating to his books and life, from the views on drugs as a gateway to higher enlightenment, to the views of the police and the government being misguided and oppressive, it feels to me like the man didn't have an original thought in his brain whilst writing this album (ironic considering many of the lyrics advocate acid and other hallucinogens as vehicles for unlocking one's true potential and creativity).  It feels like 80% of the album is just a really roundabout advertisement for Warrel's political and recreational viewpoints, and it's probably the only time in the history of music where the lyrics are too preachy while simultaneously being in favor of rebellion.  None of it comes off like merely a theme or a subject, it's basically just propaganda being shoveled at the listener from beginning to end.  Honestly, this should be one of the poster-children of the anti drug movement.  "Don't do drugs, or else you'll turn into a pigheaded and pretentious douchebag who thinks he has everything figured out because he tasted purple once.  JUST SAY NO".  I always go on about how lyrics really shouldn't factor negatively against one's enjoyment of any given metal album since they're usually non-things, but this here is one of the few exceptions for me.  The music isn't good enough for me to overlook them (like with Arghoslent) nor is the vocalist talented enough to really overcome them.  Warrel's penchant for taking shitty poetry and shoehorning it into the context of already written songs is most obvious here, with the verses for most songs just having no logical cadence.  His clumsy delivery is just goddamn irritating.

Despite the fact that there are a lot of fan favorites here, this stands as the weakest album in the band's discography for me.  The previous album was disjointed and ugly, but it still had some really good (if flawed) tracks like "Garden of Gray", "The Sanity Assassin", and "Godmoney".  The Politics of Ecstasy?  Well, there are plenty of good moments from time to time, but the only song I actually still like from beginning to end now that I'm no longer a ludicrous fanboy is "The Learning", which is ironic because it's the one I should probably hate the most on paper.  It's the most overtly sappy and emotional in the clean parts and by far the longest and most progressive track, but it's still full of great leads and well written riffs.  Plus it's its own little self contained story lyrically, being the only track not to enthusiastically fellate Timothy Leary, it's got that going for it.  I suppose it's more mature and thought out than it's predecessor, but it's still a very awkward and disjointed sounding album.  Were I a fan of Sanctuary during this time, I'd've completely abandoned the band by this point. 

RATING - 35%

PS - Some pressings have a cover of Judas Priest's "Love Bites" at the end of the album, and it's alright I guess.  It's the most fitting Priest song Nevermore could have covered I suppose.

No comments:

Post a Comment