As I start this disc for the third time I still find myself a little surprised at the pummeling opening track "Born." I guess I'm just used to the way Dream Theater CDs tend to build up before dropping into the heavy riffs. Not so with This Godless Endeavor, which opens with pounding drums, grinding guitars, and a low, growling (yet still coherent) vocal line. Five or six repeats later I've finally started to sort out the song, as the structure incorporates the grinding intro riff, thrash riffs, breakdowns, majestic choruses, and some wild shredding solos. And that's all in five minutes.
The bio text on this CD sleeve describes This Godless Endeavor as "a grand overture where musical tapestries are fascinatingly complex while entirely accessible." I guess in this case accessible depends on what you're used to--for instance, if you're used to 3-chord punk, your head will be spinning as you sort out the time changes and polyrhythms. Relative to the progressive nature though, it's accessible as long as you take it in chunks, catch a little bit of it this listen, catch a little more the next listen, and so on.
As a guitarist, I usually find myself judging music primarily on the guitar work, but on this disc it's the drumming that steals the show. "Anybody" can go crazy on the kit, but drummer Van Williams treads the line between staying in the pocket to hold the band together and exploring more creative rhythmic territory. That's not to say the guitar work is shoddy--the riffs are strong, the acoustic guitar work on songs such as "A Future Uncertain" is interesting, and the solos and harmonies are well-composed--but the more I listen to it, the more I find myself sticking one ear on the guitars and one on the drums.
Bassist Jim Sheppard spends a lot of his time in the pocket--I read once something like nobody notices a good bassist, but everybody notices a bad one. He takes a step forward however on the instrumental track "The Holocaust of Thought," which also features on guitar James Murphy of Obituary, Death, and Testament fame. The vocals here are somewhat operatic and somewhat over-the-top, stylistically similar to Dream Theater's James LaBrie but in a lower range--again, not for everybody, but not horrendous.
Overall, the more I hear of this CD, the more I like it. The first time through I was a little confused and didn't really know how I felt about it, but the more times I listened to it, the more I was able to hear what was actually going on with the music. It's certainly not for everyone, but if you like excellent musicianship and don't mind a bit of a challenge listening to your music, this should be right up your alley.
Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor