NEVERMORE
"This Godless Endeavor"

(Century Media)

01. Born (The Retribution of Spiritual Sickness)
02. Final Product
03. My Acid Words
04. Bittersweet Feast
05. Sentient 6
06. Medicated Nation
07. The Holocaust of Thought
08. Sell My Heart for Stones
09. The Psalm of Lydia
10. A Future Uncertain
11. This Godless Endeavor

RATING: 9/10

"This Godless Endeavor" may just be the most complete and musically accomplished NEVERMORE album to date. Quite a pronouncement, I know, especially when considered in light of a classic like "Dead Heart in a Dead World". However, as with any NEVERMORE album, repeat listens to the 57 minutes of "This Godless Endeavor" reveal layer after layer of metal majesty and beautiful song craft. Time will tell whether it will be considered the best of the bunch. It's a superior effort to "Enemies of Reality", an album that got more negative criticism in some circles than it should have due to Kelly Gray's muddy production (the Sneap remix on the limited edition is far superior). Incidentally, to say that "Enemies of Reality" is somehow a sub-par metal album is laughable; it just happened to come after "Dead Heart in a Dead World". Anyway, fans will be pleased to hear that Sneap is back in control on "This Godless Endeavor".

At almost an hour of music, "This Godless Endeavor" may be a filling meal, but it's also a satisfying one. A masterwork shouldn't be one that is completely understood after one listen anyway. My first reaction to the album was that it didn't boast immediately catchy songs like "Inside Four Walls" and "The Heart Collector" from "Dead Heart in a Dead World" or even the title track and "I, Voyager" from "Enemies of Reality". Once again, one must be patient, as the classic NEVERMORE dark melodies are everywhere. "Final Product", "Born (The Retribution of Spiritual Sickness)", "Bittersweet Feast", and "Medicated Nation" overflow with vintage NEVERMORE songwriting, all conveying that unexplainable feeling of sorrow, even despondency, characteristic of an album like "Dreaming Neon Black". Spin this one a few times and you'll be hooked, no question about it.

Letting up on the gas pedal at a few points along the way, some of the album's most stunning moments occur on the somber, ballad-esque diamonds "Sentient 6" and "Sell my Heart for Stones". The piano and acoustic guitar on the former make the seven-minute track an especially moving experience. Few bands can so effortlessly pull off these kind of melancholic pieces without making it feel as though an intermission has been taken until the hyper-crush begins again.

It's almost a waste of time to applaud the six-string wizardry of Jeff Loomis and new permanent member Steve Smyth, as anyone that's heard the last few NEVERMORE albums knows that the riffing is monumental and the soloing will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. If it's shredding you seek, look no further than the monster soloing on "The Psalm of Lydia"; the words "holy" and "shit" are sure to roll off your tongue. And yes, the rhythm section of drummer Van Williams and bassist Jim Sheppard is both colorful and devastating. Getting back to the axe swinging, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that one James Murphy (formerly of TESTAMENT and DEATH) lays down a solo on the minute-and-a-half instrumental "The Holocaust of Thought".

Coming to the end of our journey, the album-closing title track is also its longest. At almost nine minutes of tension builds, speed bursts, and overwhelming intensity, to call it an epic would be a gross understatement. After traveling through 48 minutes of sheer NEVERMORE bliss, it's an extraordinary capstone to what will end up a serious contender for album of the year.

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