Plains of Oblivion is guitarist Jeff Loomis’ second solo album and the first since the demise (?) of Nevermore. In this work he has brought together seasoned professionals from different realms of the metal world along with a brand new bassist he found on Youtube. The resulting album is a sometimes aggressive affair with periods of more serene melodies and song writing. In all, the album is Nevermore-like, but what would you expect? Plains of Oblivion is definitely a guitarist’s album and a pretty good metal album.
To kick of the album, Mercurial is a blast of speed, power and aggression, transitioning to a slower, solo filled affair (including guest Marty Friedman – Megadeth) and some definite Nevermore-like riffing. Heavy and fast, this is the proper way to start a metal album. Follow up song The Ultimatum is also a speedy offering with a lot of lead guitar melody and that kind of downtuned Nevermore type of riffing. Loomis proudly displays his shredding talent all over these tracks, solos abound (with second guest Tony MacAlpine). Typically I am one who prefers a vocalist, but these songs are well enough crafted that I don’t really miss the vocals – yet.
Next up is Escape Velocity, yet another thrasher, blasting by along with some slower, melodic parts with more soloing of course. Drummer Dirk Verbeuren of Soilwork puts on a quite impressive display of extreme drumming here, leaving me wondering how he did it all with just 4 appendages. He is solid during the whole album. This song includes a nicely constructed melodic line over the faster riffing as well, where sometimes throughout the album they get a bit lost in places. Tragedy and Harmony follows with guest vocalist Christine Rhoades who previously appeared on a Nevermore album. This is a good song, but seems kind of forced. Not that she is a bad vocalist at all, but I think perhaps a male singer would have fit a bit better.
Requiem for the Living is a nice mid-paced song, crafted with some well done melodies and, again, solo work. Attila Vörös, who worked with Nevermore, is the featured lead here, performing some great solos and lead work over the lightning quick drumming and riffing going on. Chris Poland (Damn the Machine, Megadeth) guests on Continuum Drift, a slower paced, somewhat epic sounding tune. By this point, though, I am starting to feel some overload due to the almost constant shredding going on. The music is undeniably well written and performed, but solo after solo starts to wear on me.
A song very reminiscent of Nevermore is next in Surrender with guest vocalist Ihsahn. It feels like a Nevermore song with black metal/death metal vocals. I am not a black metal fan and kind of choosy when it comes to death metal (preferring melodeath), but here I welcome the vocals. They definitely add to the chaotic song structure of the verses and the melody of the chorus. Chosen Time, a decent ballad featuring Christine Rhoades again seems much more suitable for her style. Rapture is an acoustic piece, very well performed, but a weird ending. Wrapping up the album is Sibylline Origin, a heavy, slow and actually one of the highlights of the album. Great, impressive work by all musicians on this one, again sounding in places like Nevermore is back.
Plains of Oblivion is absolutely a guitarist’s album with shredding and solos all over the place, but that is to be expected from an artist like Jeff Loomis. He still writes awesome riffs, much in the Nevermore vein. The album is a variety of offerings, but the second half is stronger due to the diversity of songs, whereas the first half is just kind of overwhelming. I also must mention the use of fadeouts (which I can’t stand), though on the closing track it is just the guitar playing a melody and works in this case.
I definitely enjoy Loomis’ work and have for a long time now. His work here is heavy, passionate, technical, and overall very metal.
I hear the sound in a METAL way.