Tales from a Metalhead: Chapter 29: Inside Four Walls

Tales from a Metalhead logo

This chapter is part of a book called Tales from a Metalhead written by Metal Express Radio’s President Stig G. Nordahl. The chapters will be posted one at the time and you can find them all here.

Picture of Nevermore
Warrel Dane! We’ll get back to the worms…

Some bands were so good that it is unbelievable they didn’t get bigger. That definitely goes for the band Nevermore. The Seattle quartet (sometimes quintet) was far from a commercial act of course. Maybe they were too technical? Too aggressive? Too progressive? Too dark? All of the above? Bassist Jim Sheppard said in one of our interviews that the band’s style fell between more than two chairs and that they hoped to gain interest among fans of several different genres in the end. Their melting pot of styles was obviously not the recipe for commercial success. Yes, the band is hard to categorize, but that usually makes the listener’s experience more interesting. You never get bored listening to Nevermore! It’s hard to compare Nevermore to other bands from the ’90s. They had a unique style and had deserved to become a bigger name among Metal fans. They had, and still have a name for sure.

A Wake-up Call For The 90s
A Wake-up Call For The ’90s cover art

My path to becoming a Nevermore fan came by the way of an album sampler in 1990 called A Wake-up Call For The ’90s released by CBS Records. It had some bigger names like Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper, along with some well-known but smaller bands like Killer Dwarfs and Fifth Angel. A band that was new to me was Sanctuary, which was featured with the track “Future Tense”. The song builds up with a slow bass riff and volume-controlled guitar playing before it suddenly explodes in a powerful and catchy riff. When Warrel Dane entered with his eccentric voice I was blown away to say the least.

SANCTUARY - Into the Mirror Black (30th Anniversary Edition)
SANCTUARY – Into the Mirror Black cover art

The fast part at the end of the song is the icing on the cake. I had to get the album, Into the Mirror Black (1990), as soon as could and it turned out to be a killer. I also learned that Sanctuary had released their debut album, Refuge Denied, in 1988. It would have been a lot easier to gain that knowledge sooner if the internet had been publicly available at that time. The album was actually produced by Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, though that doesn’t mean the album is well produced. I never got into that album as I did with Into the Mirror Black (1990).

The label and some band members wanted the band to move in a different direction musically so they parted ways. Guitarist Jeff Loomis had just become a member of the band, so when Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard decided to start a new band he was a natural pick for the guitar spot. Loomis had actually become the band’s main songwriter at this point. When Nevermore’s self-titled debut album was released in 1995 I cannot recall listening to it much. I don’t even remember if I had it back then. I got a promotional copy when the sophomore album The Politics of Ecstasy was released in 1996. That was another killer album. The opening track is just so dark, heavy, and technical that it feels like a punch in the solar plexus. It sets the standard for the rest of the album. It was darn good, but yet there was even better material to come.

The successor Dreaming Neon Black (1999) was not as fast and angry as The Politics of Ecstasy. We already got a hint about a slight musical change on the EP In Memory. The tracks on the new album had a more emotional feel, but the Nevermore footprint is of course all over it. It’s another brilliant album! When the album was released I was asked to do a phone interview with Warrel Dane for my radio show. We had a nice chat about the album and the band in general.

Their next album turned out to be my all-time Nevermore favorite; Dead Heart In A Dead World. I just love the music and the production on that one. They are even covering Simon and Garfunkel in a thrashy rendition of “The Sound of Silence.” They really made the song their own, and as far as the music goes they only kept the intro melody from the original, while the lyrics are the same.

Jeff Loomis making magic on 7 strings

It’s far from the best track on the album though. I believe “Inside Four Walls” and “The River Dragon Has Come” are my favorites, but the whole album is rock solid. The latter track  I played so loud several times in the control room at the TV station I was working at that my ears almost bled. Genelec loudspeakers can move some air! This is the album I have been listening to the most by Nevermore, and the one I recommend to people who are unfamiliar with the band.

When it was announced that Nevermore would play in Norway on their tour promoting Enemies of Reality in 2003, I was excited to see the band live for the first time and to see if anyone besides myself would show up. I asked to do another interview with Warrel Dane, this time face-to-face. I was backstage waiting for him, but he was nowhere to be found. The label asked if I would do an interview with Jim Sheppard instead (the bass player who also played with Sanctuary). I really wanted to talk to Warrel so I told them no. Warrel was the one who wrote all the lyrics after all. Jeff Loomis would have been a good substitute but he wasn’t around either.

Picture of Arch Enemy
Michael Amott of Arch Enemy posing backstage in Oslo

The support act that night was Arch Enemy and I was hanging out with them and a reporter from Norwegian Metal Mag. Arch Enemy had played the Wacken Open Air festival that year and their vocalist Angela Gossow had just had someone translate the Norwegian Metal Mag review of their show from Norwegian to English. She was furious that someone from the magazine had given them a really bad review when it was obvious he didn’t care about their music in the first place. We have heard that before, haven’t we…? My poor friend from the mag had to calm her down and asked for a photoshoot with the band because he was such a big fan, which I can attest to! I took a couple of pics myself as well. I never cared much for the vocals in Arch Enemy, but I was really impressed seeing them live for the first time. Musically they are excellent, but to hear such a guttural voice coming out of a sweet woman like Angela is something that never sat well with me. As much as I respect the talent, I guess it’s just not my cup of tea. That goes for their new vocalist as well. The funny thing is that Jeff Loomis is now a member of Arch Enemy. They obviously hit it off.

As it got closer to showtime I had to say okay to do the interview with Jim Sheppard. It felt a bit awkward because he knew that I had turned down the interview with him earlier. Anyway, he was a really nice guy and the interview turned out well. It was interesting to hear how the labels turned their backs on the band after their best-selling record and actually wanted them to resign! …and that they still hoped they could quit their day jobs soon to become full time musicians in Nevermore.

Worm tasting with Warrel Dane

Right after Jim and I had finished the interview Warrel turned up. It was too late to do the interview, but he asked if I wanted to check out his worms! I had no idea what he was talking about, but I couldn’t say no of course. So he went into his dressing room to fetch a box. He came back and opened it, and it was crawling… with worms. I asked if he was planning to go fishing in the Norwegian lakes the day after, but he said it was props for the show. We had some fun with it where we both were pretending to eat the worms. I had completely forgotten about the worms when the show started.

Luckily they drew a decent amount of people to Rockefeller Music Hall that night and the show was brilliant. During one of Loomis’ guitar solos, Warrel went behind the drum kit and came back with the worms. He put them in his hand, showed them to the audience and… ate them! We were joking about eating the worms before the show, but I guess he wanted to save that part for the show, ha ha. I am not sure if all the members of the audience could actually see what was in his hand. Maybe it was just me who had seen them close up, but I cannot believe he actually ate them all! I probably missed the interview because Warrel was out shopping worms! The connection to the worms comes from the cover art for Enemies of Reality, which depicts a face with worms in its mouth, and in the title track Warrel sings “Open wide and eat the worms of the enemy”. I was a bit embarrassed I didn’t catch that backstage.

Jim Sheppard and Steve Smyth before going on stage with Nevermore

As far as I know, this was the only time Nevermore played in Oslo. Sanctuary will actually be back here soon, but sadly without Warrel Dane.

The band released two more very good albums; This Godless Endeavor and The Obsidian Conspiracy. It was 5 years between the albums and both Warrel Dane and Jeff Loomis released solo albums in the interim. After The Obsidian Conspiracy Loomis left the band and everything was put on hold. Jim Sheppard and Warrel Dane made a comeback with Sanctuary and released The Year The Sun Died in 2014. Warrel also started working on another solo album in 2017, which was released posthumously in 2018, entitled Shadow Work. He had also stated the possibility for another Nevermore record, but alas it would not come to be. It was sad to hear the news that Warrel Dane died from a heart attack in December 2017.

Thank you for the great music, Warrel Dane. RIP!

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  • Stig G. Nordahl

    Stig is the founder and the president of Metal Express Radio, based out of Oslo, Norway. He has been around doing Metal radio since the mid-eighties. In fact, running Metal Express Radio takes almost all of his time. Is it worth it...? "Most times, yes," Stig says. "My philosophy is to try to give all Metal releases a fair chance to get promoted in one way or another. As you can imagine, it can be an arduous task to listen through about 20 albums every week! Still, I know we have the best METAL dedicated radio on this planet, and that is a reward in and of itself. I hope one day the whole Metal community can and will make listening to Metal Express Radio part of their daily rituals! Yeah, right..."

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