Album Review: Jeff Loomis – Plains of Oblivion
Posted by Reggie
Plains of Oblivion is the latest album by guitar virtuoso Jeff Loomis. Although Jeff has released other self-titled guitar-driven albums, this is the first one since the (kind of) disbanding of Nevermore. The new album is 10 high-octane tracks covering about 47-minutes. My experience listening to Jeff Loomis’ solo albums is minimal, but it didn’t take me long into Plains of Oblivion to hear where the brunt of influence in Nevermore came from. That’s not to say Plains of Oblivion is sounds like Nevermore without vocals, but that Jeff’s style is rather unique and prominent in his old band; it’s easily recognizable. Ok, maybe it does sound a little like you are listening to Nevermore, but is that really a bad thing?
The wonderful thing about a prominent guitarist making a solo album is that you are going to hear lots of guitar solos. That’s awesome for riff-loving guitar fans like me. Jeff Loomis is no exception to that rule. Mercurial is your introduction to the album and begins with a suspenseful horror movie-like intro. The song then blasts into a Thrash metal rhythm quickly followed up with exquisite speed-driven riffs and solos. A guest appearance by none other than Marty Friedman takes place at about the 3:09 mark for about one glorious minute. There isn’t much of a difference in tone during the minute-long Friedman solo, but you can tell the transition when Marty steps in…for the most part. You do have to be listening for it or you won’t know when it happens.
Three other songs have appearances by guest musicians. Tony MacAlpine, an instrumental solo guitarist, appears courtesy of SunDog records and plays on the second track, The Ultimatum. In my opinion it is one of the heavier and more vibrant songs on the album. His entrance is at about 2:50 mark and much more noticeable that Friedman’s solo. Chris Poland, formerly of Megadeth, plays two solos during Continuum Drift which is the longest track at 5:39. I think Jeff Loomis likes (former) Megadeth guitarists. Poland’s solos are both obvious when they appear and are melodic instead of just sheer speed. Guitarist Attila Voros appears on Requiem for the Living. He joins the foray at 3:32 for about half a minute.
There are a few songs with guest vocals. Christine Rhoades’ pristine singing voice joins the metal madness on Tragedy and Harmony and Chosen Time. I believe she may have done some vocal work with Nevermore on Dreaming Neon Black. It’s actually hard to find some info on that, but I think my sources are correct. Ihsahn, who played in a Norwegian Black metal band Emperor, is credited with writing and performing vocals on Surrender. The entrance of vocal tracks breaks the riff-driven chaos and keeps the album from being too monotonous. In my opinion, it’s a wise choice for guitarists to utilize vocalists for at least a few songs, otherwise an entire album of lengthy guitar solos and killer riffs can start to meld together too much and be too repetitive.
In short, Jeff Loomis is one hell of a talented guitarist. His artistic ability is showcased all over this album. He brought in some high-profile guitarists for guest spots which are a real treat for guitar lovers; a bonus on an album already loaded with stellar guitar brilliance. The overall length is perfect for this style of album. Plains of Oblivion is mostly a Thrash album through and through with an occasional toned-down song (Chosen Time & Rapture) to mix up the tempo a little bit. Mostly, Plains of Oblivion is quite headbanging! The album is still a bit reminiscent of Nevermore, so that’s another unique bonus in that Nevermore does live on.
Are you a guitar player? The liner notes for Plains of Oblivion are included. If you get the digital version it’s about a 66-page PDF file of everything you need to know to shred like Jeff Loomis. It is a great package deal if you play and want to learn these songs. If you don’t play, like me, the album is a 47-minute eruption of riff-tastic guitar work and technically proficient solos; excellent!