Whether you listen to Nevermore or not, I bet you’ve heard the name of their former guitar legend Jeff Loomis more than once. Personally, I don’t belong to his or the band’s fan base, but I do love instrumental music when it’s done good, and for the most part, such is the case with “Plains of Oblivion“.
Without much preparation, the album dives deep into shred territory with the fast-paced opener “Mercurial“. While this and second track “The Ultimatum” are certainly of high standard, they’re actually the downside of this release, making you feel something along “been there, heard that”. However, following them, the good part kicks into gear, unveiling a release filled with incredible variation, coupled with top notch crushing riffs.
“Escape Velocity” signals this change with its powerful main riff and melodic never-ending solos a la Paul Gilbert, but the real magic happens on “Tragedy and Harmony“. Hope you like Dream Theater, cause this this track is effectively a by numbers power prog metal song, which features excellent singer Christine Rhoades. I thought this album would have no singing, so this was a welcome surprise – definitely my favorite track on “Plains of Oblivion“.
On “Requiem For The Living” and the ballad-like “Continuum Drift”, Jeff returns to his “regular” face melting shred approach, which is my only small gripe with this effort and in general, this whole subgenre of metal. Even as an avid fan of the likes of Joe Satriani, I can safely that by itself, the style has grown tired and is in risk of becoming irrelevant.
However, the immensely experienced Jeff Loomis is clearly aware of that issue just as we are, and decided to make things more interesting than you’d expect. With the help of first-class metal artists such as a Dirk Verbeuren(Soilwork), Chris Poland(Ex-Megadeth) and Ihsahn(Emperor), he managed to craft a diverse record that is sure to please most fans of heavy metal & shred.