Released: 2008, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
As the frontman of Nevermore and Sanctuary, Warrel Dane has been engrossing fans with his soaring vocals and high-pitched wails for over twenty years. Finally, Dane has taken a step outside the group dynamic and recorded his first solo album, PRAISES TO THE WAR MACHINE. With help from Soilwork’s Peter Wichers, as well as Matt Wicklund (ex-Himsa), Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork, Scarve) and a few guest spots, this is the perfect example of what a solo album should be. A pair of interesting covers are included but ten original, Dane-penned tracks run the gamut from straight-forward, melodic heavy metal to dark, brooding hard rock and even a Gothic-tinged ballad. Lyrically, Dane heads into deeply personal, introspective territory and his voice is showcased front and centre despite the talented musicians he has enlisted. Obviously, fans of Nevermore will be the target audience here but PRAISES TO THE WAR MACHINE certainly stands firmly on its own, never relying on the singer’s past to accredit the material.
Whether Dane goes down the familiar pathway of metallic heft on album opener “When We Pray” or opts for a more somber approach on “Brother,” his voice is never forced to battle it out with overt technical wizardry as it does in Nevermore. This is a singer/songwriter album through and through. “Messenger” boasts a chunky verse but the clean melodies found in the chorus—and a sizzling guitar solo from Dane’s bandmate in Nevermore, Jeff Loomis—make this track a major highlight. “The Day The Rats Went To War” locks into a groovy riff and the James Murphy (Testament/Death/Obituary) solo provides a wicked edginess to the proceedings. The subtle piano nestled behind “Let You Down” really accentuates Dane’s vocals but it’s on “This Old Man” and “Brother” that Dane’s deep pensive vocals in the verses are offset with his soaring range during the chorus to show just what a magnificent singer he truly is. Metal fans might be most surprised by Dane’s choice of two wildly divergent covers—The Sisters of Mercy’s “Lucretia My Reflection” and Paul Simon’s “Patterns.” Dane channels Andrew Eldritch’s glorious baritone on the former while completely transforming Simon’s 1965 peacenik-folk cut into a blazing slab of heavy metal.
PRAISES TO THE WAR MACHINE is a wonderful surprise. Unsure exactly of what to expect prior to sliding the promo CD into my car, I was hoping Dane wouldn’t replicate a Nevermore album but at the same time, going too far away stylistically might be disastrous, as well. Nestled right in the mid-tempo, melodic range for the most part, PRAISES TO THE WAR MACHINE succeeds in its main goal—showcasing Warrel Dane’s stellar vocal talents. But to fully succeed, the music must also be appealing, as a voice can only carry things so far but the record hits the mark there, too. Jeff Loomis’ solo album, ZERO ORDER PHASE, hits shelves this month, so it will be curious to hear what these two bandmates have to offer outside their more familiar stomping grounds in Nevermore, but if PRAISES TO THE WAR MACHINE is any indication, people won’t be eagerly checking their calendars for a new band release just yet.
KILLER KUTS: “When We Pray,” “Messenger,” “Let You Down,” “The Day The Rats Went To War,” “Brother,” “This Old Man”