EVERGREY – Hymns For The Broken

Evergrey - Hymns For The BrokenWe recently had an election in Sweden. In fact, the election was ongoing when Evergrey did promotion for their new album Hymns For The Broken. The unbelievable and tragic fact that a more or less fascist and racist party (they were actually a Nazi party back in the 90s…) SD (SverigeDemokraterna) – which means the Swedish Democrats or something like that – became the third biggest party in the country didn’t surprise anyone, but left a lot people filled with anger and resentment and many people were willing to stop socializing with people who put their vote on said party. Quite understandable, if you ask me. One guy that was really pissed off by the result was Evergrey lead singer / guitar player / song writer Tom S Englund. When he was out promoting the band’s new album, he spoke to Sweden’s – and Scandinavia’s actually – biggest rock magazine Sweden Rock Magazine, he pointed out that people who voted for SD shouldn’t bother with buying the new album as they don’t want narrow-minded people like that within their fan-base. And I salute you for that statement, Tom. No one can accuse Englund for selling out after that comment, however I can imagine a statement like that is a record company executive’s worst nightmare. Especially when you’re not exactly a platinum selling artist to begin with. But more power to people who stand by their beliefs and are not afraid to speak their minds, no matter how uncomfortable their opinions might be. Now, I really don’t see how this would affect the sales because I have feeling that Evergrey doesn’t have that many prejudice  and insular fans, so Tom’s comment might not be that pernicious anyway. But enough about that. What I’m trying to say is that this is the way Evergrey has always rolled, they do what they do and never let anyone affect their decisions. They even took a huge (as in HUGE!) hit song, “I’m Sorry” by Swedish singer Dilba and made it an uncommercial Evergrey tune – and totally killed the original with it. When it comes to Evergrey, I have been a fan for quite a while and at the same time I wasn’t a fan at all. Whenever I listen to the band’s records, I really love them, but for some reason I seldom find the urge to do just that. However, I believe they have gotten better and better by each album and it was with 2008’s Torn that I truly took the band to my heart. But after that album, no less than three out of five members left the band. Henrik Danhage (guitar), Jari Kainulainen (bass) and Jonas Ekdahl (drums) left the band and was replaced by Marcus Jidell (ex Royal Hunt, guitar), Johan Niemann (ex-Therion, bass) and Hannes Van Dahl (drums). The guys recorded what I believe was their finest effort to date, Glorious Collision.

But it was tough holding the line-up intact. Jidell left the band due to “musical differences” between him and Englund and Jidell released his critically acclaimed  instrumental solo effort Pictures From A Time Traveller (2013) and is now in Leif Edling’s (Candlemass) new outfit Avatarium with his singing wife Jennie Ann Smith and also Dahl left the band when he was asked to join Sabaton. But to many old Evergrey-fans joy, both Danhage and Ekdahl decided to return to the band. Kinda makes you wonder why they split in the first place. After the last killer album, I have gathered some great expectations for this one, so now it was up to the band to prove that they can still deliver the goods – and then some! The album begins with the dark intro “The Awakening” before the album’s first single / video “King Of Errors” picks up. The first time I heard the song was while watching the video and the song blew me away big time. While it still sounds very much like Evergrey, the song has a slightly more accessible touch and some really catchy hooks and this suits them well. In my opinion, one of the best songs Evergrey has ever written. “A New Dawn” comes along with some more catchy melodies, but still heavy with an almost “modern” sound. But fear not, the song is brilliant and very much Evergrey all the way. “Wake A Change” is a dark heavy metal power ballad, grandiose, but still melancholic enough – brilliant stuff. I love “Barricades”, a rockier more riff-happy moment, “Black Undertow” is a saturnine and dark song, mellow but heavy – really great stuff and “The Fire” is an uptempo and aggressive tune, but still melodic and memorable. The title track is really epic stuff, a grand ballad that lies on a foundation of piano, but with an effusive heaviness – very captivating. “Missing You” is an abstemious ballad, stripped down to only piano and vocals – beautiful and affable. “The Grand Collapse” has the key word in its title – grand! I will also add big, epic and monumental to that. I can find traces of both, goth, Savatage and Depeche Mode ensconced in the Evergrey sound. “The Aftermath” that closes the album is another dark and epic slow ballad-like metal tune that in many ways is the epitome that is Evergrey – so awesome!

I’m not sure if the hardcore Evergrey fan will agree with this, I mean this band did seriously stick to me first with their last album and even though I liked earlier albums like Recreation Day (2003, their fourth effort), I have always thought that albums like The Inner Circle (2004) and Monday Morning Apocalypse (2006) have been somewhat forgettable. Tom S Englund said in an interview that this album is their darkest and most contemplating yet and he might be right on that, but he should also have added most direct, catchy, accessible and cocksure without losing any of the pivotal ingredients that are Evergrey – darkness, melancholy, heaviness with an ambience of vigour and clout. In my humble opinion, this is easily the best Evergrey record to date and I truly believe that not only will they preserve the love from old fans, they also have every possibility to gain new ones. What exactly makes this album different to their older records is hard to pin-point, because they do have their sound and they haven’t given up on that, no I believe that this time they have written better melodies with more hooks which takes the front row here. If this is the album that will take the band to the next level is hard to predict, but damn, it really should be.

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)

Tracklist:

01. The Awakening
02. King Of Errors
03. A New Dawn
04. Wake A Change
05. Archaic Rage
06. Barricades
07. Black Undertow
08. The Fire
09. Hymns For The Broken
10. Missing You
11. The Grand Collapse
12. The Aftermath

 

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