A decade ago Seattle's NEVERMORE released an album that would be the first of several demonstrating its truly unique blend of heavy power/thrash/death metal, gloriously dark melody, and intelligent lyrical content. 1995's self-titled debut and the "In Memory" EP hinted at the massive potential that existed with the band, but it was "The Politics of Ecstasy" that would begin to solidify the group's standing as a world power in extreme metal. All three albums have now been re-released with bonus material. "The Politics of Ecstasy" includes the bonus cover of JUDAS PRIEST's "Love Bites" that is given an extra spooky work over by the group. A video for "Next in Line" and new liner notes from Martin Popoff, which includes quotes from vocalist Warrel Dane, are also presented. The Perry Cunningham remastering brings the textures out a bit more, though the original Neil Kernon treatment wasn't exactly weak in the first place.The new heights reached by the band on the album are apparent from the opening notes of "The Seven Tongues of God". The incredibly fat guitars and accomplished soloing of long-timer Jeff Loomis and Pat O'Brien (who left afterward to join CANNIBAL CORPSE), as well as Jim Sheppard's bass clangor and Van Williams powerful drumming, are damn near orgasmic. Warrel Dane's edgy, often despondent, and masterfully tuneful vocals seem to transcend what a mere vocal pattern can bring. His passion throughout is breathtaking. It is on "This Sacrament" though that the band's expansive dark melody on the chorus and one hell of a main groove on the verse is first heard. Live staple "Next in Line" features more of the same, and there is just something about the manner in which Dane shouts "I don't want to be saaaaved! I'm Next in Line to Die" that sticks with you in a way that is both catchy and haunting as hell. The slow and brooding "Passenger" pulls one deep into the abyss, a vibe that is heard on the title track as well, that is, until a furious thrash riff and speedy tempo kicks in around the 3:00 mark. The soloing on the latter cut cuts deep and bleeds profusely. "Lost", "42147" and "The Tiananmen Man" are classic NEVERMORE mid-to-up tempo stompers that burst at the seams with O'Brien/Loomis guitar fire. A quiet break and slowing of the tempo during one section of "42147" serves to build tension before the band re-launches into power drive. The lyrics to "The Tiananmen Man" tell of government tyranny and one man's defiance in the face of certain death as the world watched the tragedy that struck in 1989 China. A nicely done acoustic interlude called "Precognition" and the nine-minute, epic closer "The Learning" round out the album. People still debate how exactly one should categorize the NEVERMORE sound, my desperate stab at dark, heavy and melodic power/thrash/death metal included. Perhaps "the NEVERMORE sound" is the only appropriate way of describing the style of this hugely talented and influential band. That "The Politics of Ecstasy" does not sound dated in the least and continues to stimulate the mind and excite the senses as much as it did 10 years ago speaks volumes, as does the debate in this writer's mind concerning whether 8.5/10 is high enough. Then again, the band continued topping itself with "Dreaming Neon Black", "Dead Heart in Dead World", and last year's phenomenal "This Godless Endeavor". We'll call it another great NEVERMORE album and leave it at that.
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