Being the second album that Jeff Loomis has released since his departure with metal legends Nevermore, Plains Of Oblivion has some empty spaces to fill. This album fills that gap with the sweet guitar playing we all have come to love along with drummer Dirk Verburen (Soilwork, ex-Aborted) providing the skin beating. Jeff Loomis is one who is more than capable of carving out a successful solo career.
The album’s first track, “Mercurial,” is a complete riff fest between Loomis and guest guitarist Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth). It starts out with a droning intro that throws you into the insane sweep picking and groove combo that is familiar with Loomis’ sound. Verburen provides a nice, clean slate for the guitarists to do their thing by playing at a simple touch and go speed rate. There are some acoustic guitars as well, but when they end, the solo played on the electric guitar is a swanky yet speed metal kind of riff. Random history fact: Loomis was the one who told Friedman to audition for Megadeth, the band he played in from 1990 to 2000.
If you thought that last song sounded insane enough, wait till you get a hold of “The Ultimatum,” which has Tony MacAlpine (Planet X) trading guitar duties. Basically, take the riffs from the previous track and speed them up by ten times. It’s eras worth of excellent guitar experimentation that these two guitarists have incorporated into something entirely new. Everything is played at a breakneck speed, mainly noting the solo a minute and twenty seconds into the song. Twice in the song, the insanity is quelled by a heavy wall of synchronized groove between all of the band members. It’s yet another example of the song structure Loomis is best known for.
This album almost reads like a history book of interconnections between the members. “Requiem For the Living” has one of Nevermore’s live guitarists, Attila Vörös. This particular song is played on higher notes than the previous ones, but still features in-your-face solos. “Continuum Drift” has Chris Poland of OHM doing some guest guitars. It’s easily one of the calmer tracks, but that’s like saying there’s a tame shark.
For those who like female-fronted metal, Christine Rhoades sings on “Tragedy and Harmony” and “Chosen Time.” The first is a lot faster paced than the mellow music of the latter. “Tragedy” matches the rest of the album more because of the similar structure of the other songs. “Chosen Time” is one where there are hardly any solos and they turn the amp down to two. But this really showcases Rhoades’ sultry and inviting voice that needs to be heard.
People are afraid that once someone who is a respected individual in one band goes off and tries making music with another band, that it doesn’t live up to the previous group’s hype. Well, this album certainly does and is easily on par with anything Nevermore has done so far.