"Dreaming Neon Black" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, Seattle based metal act Nevermore. The album was released through Century Media Records in January 1999. "Dreaming Neon Black" is a concept album based on lead vocalist Warrel Dane´s personal experience of losing a girlfriend to a religious cult and never hearing from her again. I remember reading an interview from that time, where Dane told that he had nightmares where he saw her drown, and that inspired him to write the lyrics for "Dreaming Neon Black". The concept of the album is only losely based on Dane´s experiences though and in reality tells a story of a man slowly going insane after losing his loved one. The lyrics are spiced up with social, religious, and political issues (which is not unusual for Nevermore), but they´re not dominant themes on this particular release.
Since the release of "The Politics of Ecstasy (1996)" guitarist Pat O'Brien left to join Cannibal Corpse and the band enlisted Curran Murphy (Shatter Messiah) as a touring guitarist for the tour supporting "The Politics of Ecstasy (1996)". Before the recording of "Dreaming Neon Black" guitarist Tim Calvert (Forbidden) joined on a permanent basis, making Nevermore a five-piece again. His tenure would be brief though as he departed again after the tour supporting the album.
Musically Nevermore took a gigant step in a heavier and more technically challenging US power/thrash direction with "The Politics of Ecstasy (1996)" and to some extent that tendency is continued on "Dreaming Neon Black", which in many ways is an even darker and heavier release than it´s predecessor. It´s a more varied release than the predecessor though also featuring more clean/acoustic guitar sections, more melody, and of course the lyrical concept which runs through the entire album.
Tracks like "The Death of Passion", "The Fault of the Flesh" and "Poison Godmachine" are absolutely scorching, featuring extremely fast riffs, and technically challenging drumming, but as mentioned the material is varied and you´ll find tracks like the semi-progressive epic power ballad type title track, the heavy mid-paced "Deconstruction", and the dark and atmospheric "All Play Dead" and "Cenotaph" on the album too. The variation is predominantly a strength and it keeps the 13 track, 66:05 minutes long album interesting throughout. To my ears some tracks are however a bit sub par to the best material on the album and in that respect "Dreaming Neon Black" isn´t a 100% perfect release. Especially "Deconstruction", which is a bit too long, and songwriting wise not especially adventurous, and "The Lotus Eaters", which has never left much of an impression on me, fit into that catagory. The two closing tracks, "No More Will", which features a messy structure, and the stripped down ballad "Forever", are also quality wise in that catagory. The high quality of the rest of the material (and it´s not like the above mentioned tracks aren´t of great quality, they are just not as great as the rest) make up for it though and there are both enough jaw dropping moments and stunning melodies on the album to warrant calling this a high quality release.
The musicianship are as always an asset on "Dreaming Neon Black". Nevermore are all highly skilled musicians and especially lead vocalist Warrel Dane and guitarist Jeff Loomis stand out for their brilliant performances on this album. It´s one of Warrel Dane´s most varied and memorable vocal performances (although he always delivers high quality performances) and Jeff Loomis as always just stands above the rest when it comes to guitarists. He is positively on fire on this album, shredding, bending, playing fast, playing melodic, distorted/acoustic and everything in between. I´d especially mention his performance on "I Am the Dog" as very original sounding. The rest of the band are very well playing too and deserve a mention too. Van Williams is both a powerful and adventurous drummer, who is able to drive the music forward in an aggressive manner, yet play more subtle when that is called for (his percussive playing on "Cenotaph" is an example of the latter). Jim Sheppard´s bass is pretty high in the mix, and it´s great that the listener is allowed to hear what a great player he is. Tim Calvert mostly plays rhythm guitars on the album, but judging from what is being played, he is a very capable guitarist.
The Neil Kernon sound production is detailed, powerful, dark and heavy. As mentioned the bass is placed pretty high in the mix, and as a result "Dreaming Neon Black" is probably Nevermore´s heaviest sounding album. So almost everything works really well on the album from production, to skilled musicians playing at the top of their game, to predominantly brilliant songwriting and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.