If I hadn’t more or less stumbled over Evilyn Strange’s debut album, Morning Phoebe at a mutual reviewer’s site, my friend Mike Ladano’s site mikeladano.com, there’s a good chance that I had never known about this band at all. Somehow Mike had been asked by Evilyn Strange’s band leader Philip Strange to review that album and since Mike mostly review older records and this was a new release, I got interested. Also, he gave it a good rating and since we have, in many ways, a similar taste in music, I had to see what the band was all about. Mike got me in touch with Philip who sent me a copy – yes a physical CD!! – to review. Needless to say, I was hooked on that album immediately. Evilyn Strange played melodic hard rock with the roots in 80’s hard rock but also sported some more alternative influences and the album had a feel of how melodic hard rock sounded in 1992 – 1994, just when melodic hard rock started to transfer into a more grungy feel, very fresh and alive and I really can’t think of any newer bands with that sound. They followed that album up with a mini album called Evilution in 2016, an album that showed a band taking a heavier route where pure heavy metal had taken over more. It was a good album but I missed their refined brand of melodic hard rock/grunge/metal that they so brilliantly had given us on the debut. So here we are in the middle of summer of 2017 and Evilyn Strange have just given us their second full CD – and I was looking forward to hear which road the band had chosen to take this time.
The album opens up with “Break The Chains”, a classic rock monster with a Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitar thing that bursts into a double bass drum metal kicker. The tune comes with a very strong melody and a catchy, but not cheesy, chorus which fits perfectly over the faster paced rhythm. A killer opener that bodes well for the rest of the album. “So Far Away” follows with a dark and heavy sound and an alternative twist over the whole thing. There’s a metal vibe to the tune but also a melody and arrangement that says melodic rock and the two styles marries like a charm – very good, indeed. “Father Time” takes us back to the more melodic rock days, an uptempo, catchy stomper with a classic rock sound. The melodies, both verses and chorus is extremely memorable and stays put in my head long after the album is done playing – awesome tune! The melancholic ballad “Better Days” could very well be one of the best songs this band have ever written. It’s by no means a cheesy power ballad, more a powerful ballad filled with heart, soul and emotion. In my world, this is a hit and even though it’s not exactly radio-friendly, it sure could be one.
“Down” takes yet another turn, this time with a bluesier and funkier sound with a huge rock groove. It’s raunchier in sound with a lot of gritty guitars, slamming and kicking and it rocks like crazy. I love it. “Thrown” is a kick-ass, rhythmic hard rocker with shitloads of attitude. It takes a darker twist but it also sports a memorable and catchy melody throughout the song and the chorus is almost ‘hitty’ without being the least radio-friendly. “My Revenge” is a blazing heavy metal tune that riffs away with an arrangement that even has me thinking of melodic – very melodic – black metal. Not that this is a black metal tune in any ways but in my head I hear an influence. Still, the melody is very distinct and I quite like it. “One” is the first track on this album that passes me by unnoticed. It’s a straight forward rocker with an almost dancey beat but I can’t make it stick. “Come Alive” slows things down with a Black Sabbath heavy and doomy pace and a dark twist. It soon bursts into a fast metal rocker, all guns blazing, before it goes back to the heavier gloom as it started. So awesome!
“Rise” is a kick-ass, straight forward classic hard rock with a big groove and a beat impossible to stand still to. It has an 80’s style but with the timeless classic rock vibes. This is a tune that will fit the stage like glove – great! “Waterfall” is a soft acoustic guitar based ballad, a bit folky, stripped and mellow with a melancholic atmosphere. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt track – a big contrast to the rest of the songs. A brilliant track! The closing track is called “Messed It Up” and is an uptempo, party rocker with a big chunk of metal thrown in. The song is a bit of contrast in itself as I can’t get the hang of the verses, they seem to go in one ear and out the other but the stellar chorus is masterful, very catchy and striking. So I guess I love half the song…
As a whole, this is a great album full of kicking rockers, big ballads and there’s a lot of influences here – everything from rock, pop, metal, blues and even danceable beats, without going sound wise schizophrenic – everything sounds like Evilyn Strange here. Quality wise, this album is better than the E.P. but not quite up there with their debut album, an album I still hold close to a masterpiece. The difference isn’t so much the quality of the songs as I feel the style had on that record is a bit more “out there”, a sound that I really don’t hear on melodic hard rock album these days. That said, Evilyn Strange aren’t just another hard rock band, they do have their own style and identity – it’s easy to identify them no matter if it’s a metal or a pop-rocker you hear. Hopefully people will give them a shot this time around because this lot deserves to get more well-known in rock circles. Highly recommended!
More Evilyn Strange reviews:
1. Break The Chains
2. So Far Away
3. Father Time
4. Better Days
7. My Revenge
9. Come Alive
12. Messed It Up