Instrumental albums, to me, are hit and miss. I used to live for them as an aspiring guitar virtuoso. I would consume all that I could from the guitar legends of the past and (then) current day. I used to be a huge Steve Vai fan, but those days are long gone. Yngwie Malmsteen’s first album blew me away. Blues Saraceno’s Plaid was an amazing album that I still listen to every once in a while. Of course, Joe Satriani’s skills are legendary as well.
Back in 2008, I checked out Jeff Loomis’ Zero Order Phase and really got into it, but I never really went back to it. It was my changing tastes all over again. I love me some great guitar solos, but I need strong vocals to keep me interested these days.
First and foremost though, Jeff Loomis is a beast. There are not too many guitar players out there that can shred like him. I am not knocking most guitar players out there, because there are some good ones, but most of the guys out there today are a dime a dozen. Loomis has always stood out though. He was technical as hell and just knew how to shred. Love them or hate them, Nevermore was so deep back in the day. I know that a lot of people cannot stand them, and that is simply because of Warrel Dane, but I love the guy and have followed him since Sanctuary. Believe me or not though, Loomis was the strength of Nevermore during those early years. He was not the only one that carried the band, but most of their sound originated from Loomis. Make no mistake about that.
On to Loomis’ latest release, Plains of Oblivion. He is now sans Nevermore, but is still keeping himself busy. Plains of Oblivion is evidence of that. As expected, the boy can simply shred, and proves it with each passing minute, but what sets him apart, and what always set him apart, from the crowd is that he is heavy as hell while being technical and while using the guitar to make an emotional statement.
The funny thing about Loomis is that he is not your typical guitar virtuoso. He does not sport baggy dress shirts or any of the other silly things that some of these guys wear. He is also not shredding for the sake of shredding. He can compose a song where you will not even miss a vocalist. He has been doing it for a while with Nevermore even. He would record the guitar tracks and would have no idea how the vocals would come out of it.
Part of what keeps the album fresh are the guest vocalists on a couple of the tracks. Christine Rhoades makes another guest appearance with Loomis. She is a Seattle girl who you many know from doing backup vocals on Nevermore’s Dreaming Neon Black. She does vocals on two tracks. Another guest vocalist is Ihsahn from Emperor fame. Check out Surrender. It is a relentless track with Ihsahn shining his darkness onto the track. Other guest musicians include former Megadeth members Marty Friedman and Chris Poland alongside Tony MacAlpine and Attila Voros.
From track to track, Loomis seems on a mission to prove that he can handle himself, both musically and on his own two legs. We always knew that he could, but Plains of Oblivion is just the proof that others needed. That is not to say that I miss him with Nevermore. They will never be the same, but I do believe that ship has sailed, so whether Warrel Dane decides to go at it on his own (which he will) or do something else, Nevermore will most definitely never be the same.
Plains of Oblivion Tracklist:
1. Mercurial (feat. Marty Friedman)
2. The Ultimatum (feat. Tony MacAlpine)
3. Escape Velocity
4. Tragedy and Harmony (feat. Christine Rhoades)
5. Requiem for the Living (feat. Attila Voros)
6. Continuum Drift (feat. Chris Poland)
7. Surrender (feat. Ihsahn)
8. Chosen Time (feat. Christine Rhoades)
10. Sibylline Origin