Album Review: Jeff Loomis – Plains Of Oblivion [9.5 out of 10]

By Andrew Bansal

Jeff Loomis’ new album has been one of the most anticipated releases of the year, not only among fans of his previous work, but also among guitar enthusiasts in general. This is his first release since parting ways with Nevermore, and his first solo effort since the 2008 release “Zero Order Phase”. Fans have been looking forward to see what Jeff has come up with as a solo artist this time, and how it would compare to his work in Nevermore.

“Mercurial” gives the album a blistering start. There is absolutely no shortage of riffs and solos. Guest guitarist Marty Friedman well and truly leaves his stamp on this one. The combination of Loomis and Friedman is nothing short of a dream come true for fans of guitar-oriented music, and I’m extremely glad that the duo has together created such a killer track. Just as I was about to recover from this opening track, the next track “The Ultimatum” served as a highly intense follow-up. It features Tony MacAlpine as the guest musician, and while “Mercurial” has a thrashy feel to it, this one is more of a neo-classical tune, even though Dirk Verbeuren’s drums ensure that the thrash elements are still intact.

This unrelenting surge of guitar wizardry continues with “Escape Velocity”, but is well aided by the rhythm section, which is probably more prominent on this track than anywhere else in the album. The onslaught of the tune is interlaced with a beautiful, slow interlude which exudes the brilliance of Loomis’ musicianship. Christine Rhoades comes in to contribute vocals on two tracks “Tragedy And Harmony” and “Chosen Time”. Her voice combined with Loomis’ guitar definitely changes things up and these two thoroughly enjoyable tunes add another dimension to this already excellent album.

“Requiem For The Living” is a genuinely guitar-oriented tune, rather laid back in tempo. This one is probably closest to the Nevermore sound, which is not a surprise, because it features Attila Vörös as the guest musician. The next track “Continuum Drift”, featuring Chris Poland, is the one I was most waiting to hear. Upon finally getting a chance to listen to it, I must say it has exceeded my expectations, and the interplay between Loomis and Poland makes this the best track on the album.

As if there wasn’t enough variety in the album already, Ihsahn gives it a little Norwegian extreme metal flavor with his vocals on “Surrender”. “Chosen Time” with Christine Rhoades’ vocals serves as a perfectly contrasting follow-up. The album then moves on to “Rapture”, which can only be described as 2 minutes and 44 seconds of pure delight. “Silbyline Origin” gives the album a strong finish, and ensures that the listener remains engrossed till the end.

Overall, I would say I’m pleasantly surprised by how diverse this album is. Solo albums by guitarists can get a bit one-dimensional, and it happens to the best of them, but thankfully that’s not the case with Jeff Loomis’ “Plains Of Oblivion”. No two songs are similar to each other, but they still somehow manage to seamlessly flow together, making this album a compelling listen from start to finish. The choice of guest musicians is excellent, and Loomis has given each one complete freedom to express himself/herself. The strength and prominence of the rhythm section consisting of drummer Dirk Verbeuren and bassist Shane Lentz also comes across as a pleasant surprise. Usually, a solo guitar album doesn’t give this much importance to the rhythm section, but Loomis’ approach is indeed very refreshing.

Boasting of a set of tunes that transcend genres and showcase some incredible talent, “Plains Of Oblivion” is destined for instant success.

Rating: 9.5/10

Record Label: Century Media
European Release Date: April 9th 2012

US Release Date: April 10th 2012

Track Listing:
1. Mercurial (feat. Marty Friedman)   (05:32)
2. The Ultimatum (feat. Tony MacAlpine)   (04:42)
3. Escape Velocity      (04:31)
4. Tragedy And Harmony (feat. Christine Rhoades)  (05:01)
5. Requiem For The Living (feat. Attila Vörös)   (04:52)
6. Continuum Drift (feat. Chris Poland)   (05:39)
7. Surrender (feat. Ihsahn)     (05:30)
8. Chosen Time (feat. Christine Rhoades)   (04:33)
9. Rapture       (02:44)
10.Sibylline Origin      (04:35)