What the raven said

With the success of Megadeth and Metallica came a signing flurry that ended in an onslaught of mediocre releases and rapid band breakups. Sanctuary, however, fronted by future Nevermore vocalist Warrel Dane, was helped along through some production help from Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and, at least, garnered some great overseas press and kudos followed. Unfortunately, metalheads in North America, the band’s home continent, didn’t jump onboard and sales were less than stellar. Sanctuary’s talented frontman needed refuge fast. End result: Nevermore.

Some bands hit their stride after they’ve got a few albums under the belt. Such is the case of Seattle’s Nevermore, which just blew through Sacramento on its national tour with Savatage. Dead Heart in a Dead World, Nevermore’s latest album on the Century Media label, is to power-metal culture—fans of Helloween, Forbidden and Lefay—what Nirvana’s Nevermind was for an earlier generation. After a few under-acknowledged releases, Dane and present company have hit the mark in a big way.

The outdoor stage at the Roadhouse, on Bell Avenue in Robla, south of what used to be McClellan AFB, is rarely used for shows. It was the perfect setting for the evening’s metal undertaking. With a small lighting truss and little more than night sky as a backdrop, Nevermore played to the 150-plus attendees as if they were at a large outdoor festival in front of thousands.

Warrel’s voice, as evidenced on “Narcosynthesis” and “Inside Four Walls,” was in fine form, not unlike that of Forbidden’s Russ Anderson. Van Williams played like a human metronome on such standout tracks as “The Heart Collector” and “Dead Heart in a Dead World,” the title track. Jim Sheppard looked maniacal as ever, standing in front of the huge blower fans; his bass provided a nice foundation for Jeff Loomis’ guitar antics. On this night the band was sporting a second guitarist whose name escapes me, adding a nice foundation and extra boost of power to its hour-long set.

Perhaps the most startling revelation of the night was Loomis’ background vocals—sung while playing the most intricate fretboard workouts—which enveloped Dane’s vocals in the most delightful rapture of sounds. Loomis can sing and steps up to the mic with passion and gusto; Dane made it all look too easy as he held long notes that could make middle-aged men go deaf.

The night’s turnout, although small, didn’t seem to hamper anyone’s experience. Fans were pleased with the night’s two-band line-up and felt their $20 was well spent—sans having to walk through square dancing inside the club to get to the outdoor venue. It pleases this writer that there are still a few promoters out there willing to take chances on package tours. With crowd numbers such as tonight, it’s not likely Nevermore will play Sacramento again. My advice to metalheads in the Sacramento Valley: Get off your asses and support these shows before we lose another venue.