The Greater Goal Achieved
CoC talks to Jeff Loomis of Nevermore
by: Jackie Smit
How many times have you heard a band's forthcoming effort described as "heavier, but more melodic"? This commonly used combination of adjectives (I stopped counting at thirty) has during the last few years served more to warn fans of impending drivel, than actually stir up some excitement for a record. Always the exception to the rule however, Seattle's Nevermore are actually able to say this of their forthcoming album, _Enemies of Reality_, and still hold their heads high. Having steadily been releasing a succession of excellent records since 1995, _Enemies of Reality_ is quite simply their greatest and most well-rounded accomplishment to date. What better time then to catch up with main songwriter/guitarist Jeff Loomis than on the eve of its release?

CoC: Well, Jeff -- let me say first of all that I've had the advance of the new record for about two weeks now and it's awesome.

Jeff Loomis: Thanks.

CoC: As much as I enjoyed the previous Nevermore albums, I always got the feeling that you were capable of and were actually working towards something bigger. Do you feel that you have achieved this on _Enemies of Reality_?

JL: Definitely. I think that there are some fundamental differences on this album from the last that helped us achieve that, especially in that the songs are a bit shorter and there's only nine on the record. I don't think that we wanted to do another sixty minute epic, because I think it kind of gets to the point where you're sitting there listening and thinking "Man, is this ever going to end?". This album is really fast and to the point.

CoC: The songs also sound as though you paid them much more attention and in general the whole album feels a bit more well-rounded.

JL: I agree, and I think that it basically comes from just getting better as a songwriter over the years, you know what I mean? I don't really think we follow any set path or whatever, and I never pre-plan anything; I usually just press record on my eight-track in my home studio and just come up with whatever I can and then pick out the best stuff at the end of the day.

CoC: Did you handle most of the writing for this album again?

JL: Yeah, I usually write the brunt of the music and then Warrel handles all of the lyrics, and it was the same for this album.

CoC: You had to cancel quite a large part of your 2001 tour with Savatage because of the events of 9/11. Did that reflect in any way on how _Enemies of Reality_ came out?

JL: No, I mean, maybe we were a little angry at the time or whatever, but these are all just really personal bits of poetry we came up with ourselves and that didn't have anything to do with it.

CoC: The new album does sound a lot angrier than _Dead Heart in a Dead World_ though -- where did this extra rage come from?

JL: I don't know... <laughs> Like I said, I don't really plan anything. I mean, things like the war in Iraq and stuff like that made me worried about stuff like the band's safety, since we travel all the time, but after a while I just started ignoring it, because I'm not really a very political person. I think that a lot of it comes just purely from inspiration from the stuff I've been listening to and it might also have a lot to do with this Kelly guy we used to produce the album instead of Andy.

CoC: He did a really good job, by the way.

JL: He did an excellent job! I think that Kelly was trying to approach recording us in a different sort of way. With Andy we sort of had to take a building block approach and we would spend so much time on every little thing, whereas Kelly would set up the whole band and we'd play a lot of the songs live. So really what you're hearing is the live aspect of Nevermore. Of course I would add three other tracks of guitars later on, but in the end everything came together and made for a very good album. Also with Andy we'd have to do all the instrumental parts first and do all the vocal bits last, and to tell you the truth it's not a really good idea doing that, because the vocals tend to get really burned out. After every time we had completed one song on this new album, Kelly would bring Warrel in and do the basic vocal tracks, so we'd have one song, one vocal, one song, one vocal... And basically we'd have Warrel singing through the duration of the album.

CoC: That also probably gave his voice time to rest between recording.

JL: Oh yeah, and it's really important when you're recording. You can't blow your voice out, because you'll be screwed.

CoC: Now, this is the second time that Nevermore recorded as a four-piece. Have you guys ever given any thought to replacing Pat O'Brien?

JL: Well, Pat's in Cannibal Corpse now and I don't think that his heart was really into the style of music that we wanted to do to begin with. I mean, I was living with him at the time and he would literally wake up every morning and listen to Cannibal Corpse. <laughs> And I think that all of us are really happy that he got into Cannibal, because it's his dream band. As for Tim, our other guitar player -- I think he just had other priorities at the time. He got married and he was always into aviation, so he's now actually flying planes for a living. Basically right now, it's just easier for us to go on as a four-piece, especially in the studio. I can tighten up everything pretty well in the studio and also business-wise it's easier for us to work this way. And we take someone with us when we go on tour anyway. Right now it's going to Chris from Jag Panzer who'll be coming out with us when we play in Europe and the States in a couple of months.

CoC: There are quite a few songs on Nevermore where there's an almost death metal-type feel to the riffs.

JL: Yeah, definitely. I actually started off in a death metal band in Wisconsin, where I'm from, and I think that there's almost always been an influence. And I think that you can hear that especially on the second song, where there's almost a Morbid Angel-type harmonic bit going on in the middle section. I think it's kind of cool that Warrel can actually sing over that and not do the typical death metal growl. That's why I actually stopped playing in bands like that, because I thought that the vocals were very restrictive in a sense. I like vocalists that can sing nowadays.

CoC: Did Warrel have any vocal training?

JL: I believe he did. As far as I know it was from this guy by the name of David Kyle, who actually taught a lot of people in Seattle who did, you know, this falsetto stuff and things like that. I think in the early Sanctuary days, his voice was much higher and over the years it's sort of evened out a bit into a kind of mid-range to the point where it suits our stuff really well.

CoC: You mentioned the live aspect of this album earlier and Nevermore does have the reputation of being quite the performers -- do you think your records or your live shows form the most important element of the band?

JL: I think definitely the live experience is where it's all really at for us. I much prefer playing live to being stuck in a studio, because that tends to kind of suck most of the time. In a live environment you have all the people really in your face and you're able to just really let go and go off into another world. And it's really inspiring to play live -- actually it's the place where I'm most inspired.

CoC: So, what's been the most inspiring Nevermore gig, in your opinion, so far?

JL: Well, there's been so many, but off the top of my head I'd have to say the Dynamo festival in 1995. We had just started out as a band and we played in front of like 80,000 people and to play to such a large crowd is just indescribable. We went on at noon and I've never played in front of such a big crowd before; it really looked like just a vast ocean of people. It was pretty intense.

CoC: Do you have a job outside the band?

JL: <laughs> Yeah, at the moment, I think we all have to work because we're right in the middle of the re-signing process. I try to keep myself busy all the time -- I teach guitar to students. Warrel and Jim are both really killer chefs and Van probably has the best job out of all of us -- he works for Nintendo.

CoC: Have you recorded any bands in your home studio yet?

JL: I did, actually. A couple of months ago I recorded a death metal band out of Seattle and it came out really cool. I'd like to actually do more of that, but it's really hard finding the time.

CoC: Nevermore are often quite unfairly lumped into the power metal genre -- does this bother you guys at all?

JL: Yeah, a little bit.

CoC: So how would you describe yourselves to people who haven't heard you yet?

JL: Well, I think we're an ever-changing band, which makes it really hard to say. We have so many different styles that come together in this band that it's really hard to say, and it's probably impossible to categorize. I think we get a lot of the power metal references because Warrel sings, but to me power metal just sounds a lot happier as opposed to our stuff.

CoC: Well, you also don't sing about demons and dragons and wizards either...

JL: <laughs> Yeah, dungeons and dragons, demons jumping out of the PA -- that's not us at all. I can't really put any tag on us, because from album to album you never know what you're going to get with us. It's always ever-changing.

CoC: Now, you're obviously pretty happy with how _Enemies of Reality_ has turned out. In your honest opinion, what do you feel is this album's potential?

JL: That's a hard one to predict. You know, it's about a month away from coming out, but to tell you the truth, I think it's going to be our best one yet. You've got to be optimistic about things like this or you sit at home, shaking and wondering what's going to happen. I think some people might freak out because of the difference in recording sounds -- I mean Andy Sneaps was so sleek, whereas this one's focusing on the rawer approach that we can get. I do look forward to seeing what people think, but I definitely believe that this will be our best-selling album. We have always outsold every successive album, so we've pretty much always been going up.

CoC: What are your touring plans for 2003?

JL: Well, we'll be coming to Europe with Arch Enemy in September and then after that we'll be hitting the states with Dimmu Borgir, Children of Bodom and Hypocrisy. I think it's cool to have a show like this, because most of the time when you go to the States, there'll be four death metal bands playing and it just gets really boring. I really like it when there are different bands on a bill, because it just keeps things interesting, you know?

CoC: You actually toured with Dimmu Borgir in 2001 -- do they get up to any crazy antics on the road?

JL: Oh man, those guys are just so much fun. They really know how to party and they're big fans of older styles of metal, like we all are, and they're really cool guys under all the demon-stuff they put on.

CoC: As heavy as _Enemies of Reality_ is, in the current marketplace one could easily imagine a couple of those songs on radio and Nevermore actually becoming quite a big act commercially. Have you guys ever given thought to touring with any bigger bands?

JL: I guess if the chance ever came up, we'd definitely take it, because it would bring so much more publicity for us, but at the moment we're sort of more attached to the underground bands. We've always been going out with bands from Sweden like Opeth and Soilwork and it usually makes for a really good bill.

CoC: But at the same time a band like Metallica is claiming to go back to the old-school, yet they're taking Linkin Park out on tour with them. Wouldn't it be great if they could actually put their money where their motor mouths are and take a band like Nevermore on the road with them?

JL: That would be amazing, because we'd be playing in front of so many new people and it would bring us so much publicity, and I think we need a break like that. I mean, something similar has happened with Shadows Fall, who are going to be playing at the Ozzfest, so congrats to them. It would really be great to be able to do a high-profile tour like that to get us going. One thing that has been very positive for us is that we're going to be doing a video at the end of July for the title track off the new record and with Headbanger's Ball being back to TV in the States, it could work out really great for us.

CoC: So, any last words for Chronicles of Chaos readers then, Jeff?

JL: Well, I'd like to thank the fans for waiting two and a half years for us to bring out a new album. You know, fans are the most important thing for us and we're really looking forward to coming out on tour very soon, so be there!

(article submitted 13/7/2003)


CHATS
7/11/2005 J Smit Nevermore: A Transcendent Endeavor
8/12/2001 P Schwarz Nevermore: Dead Heat For the Politicians of Ecstasy
1/2/1997 A Bromley Nevermore: Seattle's Sinister Sages
10/1/1995 A Bromley Nevermore: Thrash the Seattle Way?!?
ALBUMS
9/4/2010 A El Naby 8 Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy
7/11/2005 J Smit 10 Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor
7/12/2003 J Smit 10 Nevermore - Enemies of Reality
11/20/2000 M Noll 9.5 Nevermore - Dead Heart in a Dead World
3/14/1999 A Bromley 10 Nevermore - Dreaming Neon Black
11/18/1996 A Bromley 9 Nevermore - The Politics of Ecstasy
GIGS
10/13/2003 P Schwarz Arch Enemy / Nevermore I'm Dreaming of a Neon Black Earth...
5/13/2001 M Noll Dimmu Borgir / In Flames / Nevermore Crimes in the Mourning Palace
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