Imbued with a wide assortment of musical characteristics that bridge the gap between traditional, thrash and modern metal, Seattle’s Nevermore can’t be filed away in a certain category. While they lack these confining terms, those with a taste for melody found in Opeth and In Flames, the melancholia of Katatonia and My Dying Bride, guitar shredding of Arch Enemy and Mercyful Fate, spine-tingling shrieks of King Diamond, and down-tuned groove found in Slipknot and Lamb of God tend to gravitate to Nevermore records.
Nevermore’s multi-faceted sound insures them room on a diverse billing of acts. On their way to Austin to promote The Obsidian Conspiracy, the Seattlites brought a unique supporting cast. Denmark’s Hatesphere attracted the death and metalcore fans. Beer-swilling, jig-dancing metal heads came for Mutiny Within’s replacement, Blackguard and head bangers would once again work their necks into traction thrashing to Warbringer.
Before all these groups started, Nevermore conducted a meet and greet. Held outside in the courtyard (for a better term) between the indoor and outdoor stages, the Seattle quintet shook hands, signed various memorabilia and lined up for pictures. The darkness and shabby look of the picnic tables where Nevermore sat presented a strange contrast to well-lit record stores, malls and Ozzfest tents one would normally associate with signings.
Local symphonic black metallers Vesperian Sorrow took the stage first. I missed most of their set, but what I caught sounded grandiose and majestic. I’ve seen these guys before and they put on a good show, especially if you’re a fan of Dimmu Borgir, Emperor and Cradle of Filth.
Danish artists Hatesphere were the first touring act of the night to take the stage. Featuring Blistering.com columnist Pepe Hanson, Hatesphere assaulted the crowd with fireball of energy. Hanson created catchy riffs in the style of The Haunted, and the band’s hard breakdowns lit a fire under the crowd’s ass. New singer Esse twisted his face into crazy gestures while hitting meaty vocal lines. Because of his rotund shape, a friend commented that he wore glasses he would be the Danish version of Trevor from The Black Dahlia Murder.
Barney Greenway from Napalm Death was in town for another visit with his girlfriend. He said he mostly came to socialize, but Hatesphere was one of the bands he really wanted to see. He agreed that they played catchy riffs and was happy to hear his one of his favorite songs.
Blackguard filled in for Mutiny Within who decided to cancel the tour and focus on writing their next album. The Montreal act has a Canadian take on Finnish folk metal such as Finntroll and Ensiferum, penning tracks about French-Canadian folklore. Having no keyboard or violin player on stage, the group played these parts through the PA system. Although certain parts made me want to do an old-mountain-man-whisky-jug jig (and there were plenty of beer songs), Blackguard relied on the heaviness of its music to elevate the crowd response. Singer Paul Ablaze looked the part of a disgruntled construction worker, ready to drop iron beams on the heads of his unsuspecting co-workers. The rest of the band looked tight in their music and posture, banging their heads, helicopter style, in perfect unison.
Having missed Warbringer play the Kreator and Exodus show last year, I was excited to see them go on before Overkill earlier this year. This excitement has waned quite a bit due to this being the fourth time I’ve seen them this year. While I didn’t watch all of their set this time, what I saw entertained me. Singer John Kevill once again commanded the crowd with his energetic stage antics and war cries. Guitarists John Laux and Adam Carroll kept the crowd in thrall with speedy riffs and ambidextrous solos. The L.A.-based group received the best crowd response of the night when they give a big shout out to Texas before playing the theme to King of the Hill. Note to bands playing in Texas: you can’t go wrong by dedicating a fitting song to the Lone Star State.
I heard Nevermore’s tour manager say they sold about 100 tickets prior to the show, which was not enough for the larger, outside stage. About two hundred people made the smaller space inside a bit stuffy but not overcrowded. The inside stage shielded us from the torrents of rain that came intermittently throughout the night. Nevermore’s volume seemed too loud for the lesser PA system. Warrel Dane made up for the gruffness in his voice with emotion and a strong middle range. The crowd resembled an old, dead forest, curling their fingers and hands into gnarly formations while they passionately sang along with the passionate frontman.
Even though Nevermore featured at least one track from every album, bar their self-titled effort (Dane explained this was his least favorite album), the group focused mostly on material from their new album and Dead Heart in a Dead World. They played a balance of heavy songs (“Narcosynthesis,” “Inside Four Walls,” “Seven Tongues of God,” and “Enemies of Reality”) with melodic tracks (“The Heart Collector, “Moonrise (Through Mirrors of Death)” and the new single “Emptiness Unobstructed”). Lead guitarist Jeff Loomis was in top form. Whether moving his fingers in a labyrinth patterns across the frets or producing screaming notes through bent strings, Loomis’ performance showed why he’s considered one of the world’s top shredders.
Bassist Jim Sheppard’s drunken disposition contradicted Loomis’ pro stature. Sheppard kept nudging Dane and verbally enticing him until Dane knocked his ass across the stage. Sheppard lay on his back for so long I thought Dane had knocked him out, but he may have just been puking. Dane had to get the crowd involved to urge Sheppard back on stage when Sheppard exited the stage to get a drink from the bar. Sheppard ended his performance mid-way through the last song by handing his bass to a member of the crowd. Dane didn’t always display his self as a professional, either. Once, he sang at floor level so he could use the stage to type up a text message he just received.
All of the night’s bands put on a great show. Nevermore’s sound could have been better, but their set list highlighted their best material. I’ve never seen a band physically get into a fight on stage, so their quarrel made for a memorable concert and great material for a show review. Jim Sheppard has been with the group since the beginning, so we’ll see if there is a backlash. However, since he’s been a part of the group for so long, I’m sure this isn’t the first time he’s been on the hot seat.