I must admit that it took me some years to really get Evergrey. Fact is, when the band debuted with The Dark Discovery in 1998, I thought that they were a death or black metal band and since I’m not a big fan of neither, I never bothered to check them out then. I still haven’t heard that record, or the follow-ups Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy (1999) and In Search Of Truth (2001). My first run-in with the band was when I heard their version of Dilba’s (a Swedish female pop singer) mega hit “I’m Sorry”, a ballad so I figured that this lot just might not be a black or death metal band after all. Around the same time a friend of mine gave me a burnt copy of their then latest album Recreation Day (2003) because “I just HAD to listen to that band”, he stated. And he was right – the album was brilliant and since then, I have followed Evergrey with every album, but unfortunately, I have only seen them live one time – at Sweden Rock Festival last year, a very good gig. But even though I have liked all their albums since then – some more, some less – it would take them a while to make an album that held the same high quality as Recreation Day. The two follow-ups The Inner Circle (2004) and Monday Morning Apocalypse (2006) were both good, but they still left me somewhat disappointed because many of the songs were too uneven and lacked the really high tops. It was with Torn (2008) that, in my opinion Evergrey started to find their way back up again. Without being a masterpiece, the album at least held the same quality as Recreation Day. Due to internal issues that made three members leaving the band, it would take Evergrey three years to finally give us a new album, but Glorious Collision (2011) was sure worth the wait and it became their best album to date. However, the line-up changes continued so another three years went by until Evergrey’s finest hour to date, Hymns For The Broken (2014) was released and again, it was sure worth the wait. This is an album that knocked me for six and it remains in my iPhone to this day. Now the line-up seems to be stable and their brand new album has the same members as the last album – Tom S Englund on lead vocals and guitar, Henrik Danhage – guitar, Johan Niemann (ex- Therion) on bass, Jonas Ekdahl on drums and Richard Zander on keyboards. That means that we didn’t have to wait three years for a new Evergrey album this time, but my biggest concern was: How on earth were they gonna top their last album? If The Storm Within is at least equally as good, I will be content with that.
Opener “Distance” is the album’s first single and was released some time before this album and to be honest, when I first saw the video, it didn’t connect with me at all. Good, yes, but I had expected more. But in my head phones, it’s a different matter. The song starts with a soft piano intro, but turns directly into a heavy and dark metal groover and the chorus that at first listen fell flat is now both memorable and catchy and my mind changed 180 degrees – it’s a killer tune. “Passing Through” is even better – it’s harder and faster but the main melody and the chorus is almost “hitty”. It sounds like Evergrey all the way, but in all their melancholy, this one’s almost uplifting – how brilliant. The catchiness continues with “Someday”, a slower paced tune that contains some really catchy riffing and a chorus that actually borders to pop. Now, Evergrey will never be pop and neither is this song, but the melody really sticks. “Astray” is a big, uptempo half-ballad with a dark and sad but also very striking melody that sticks right off the bat. It contains a solo break that breaks into blues territory and after a soft break, the tune goes metal again – very dynamic and a fantastic song. “The Impossible” breaks the mold big time as the song is a ballad with only piano, strings (real strings!) and Englund’s lead vocals – very emotional, atmospheric and poignant. A brave move that totally works. “My Allied Ocean” is a full-blown metal track and the hardest and roughest song on the album. Pumping bass, pounding drums and fat and furious guitars that kicks ass on a full blast – a great headbanger!
“In Orbit” is a real pearl and something that goes out of the Evergrey box. Sure, the song runs in a faster pace, but the whole arrangement breathes a structure that moves towards pop-metal – a memorable bridge that goes right into the slightly ‘commercial’ chorus – I smell a hit here. The song also contains guest vocals by Floor Jansen (Nightwish, ex- After Forever) who duets with Englund. It still sounds like Evergrey all the way, but I love the fact that the band dares to take a step out their comfort zone. It’s one of my favorite tunes on the record – pure brilliance! And much to my happiness, the band stays on path they went on for “In Orbit” with “The Lonely Monarch”. The song is an upbeat hard rocker with a very melodic and almost poppy melody, but the difference between the two songs is that this one is a bit more melancholic in the classic Evergrey vein we all know and love. It also sports a groove that is almost danceable – in a hard rock way, of course – another bold and brave move that totally works. “The Paradox Of The Flame” is a grandiose, soulful and heartfelt ballad with a slightly symphonic arrangement – the strings are back here – and the dynamics grows when the violin gets a more upfront place in the sound scape. Tom is guested by his wife Carina Englund – a woman with an amazingly powerful and emotional voice – which gives the song a real spark. Fantastic! Floor Jansen is back for “Disconnect”, but on this track she’s not as upfront as on “In Orbit” and moves more in the background, but she’s loud enough to bring the tune lots of atmosphere. It’s a hard and heavy song with huge sonic boom, but also contains softer parts and a great chorus right in there with all the aggression – a real killer. The album ends with the title track and it sure is a piece of majestic grandeur. It’s a powerful, epic track with an atmosphere that is stunning – I don’t think I have ever heard Englund sing with so much intensity and emotion. The song is a wall of sound, a sonic dream and a perfect way to end an amazing album like this.
Because this truly is an amazing album, an album where everything falls into place and it is without a doubt the best album Evergrey has ever released. Melody wise, this record might be somewhat more accessible (the word “commercial” would be dead wrong here) and more easy listening than their earlier records and it is something that might be under discussion between the die-hard fans whether it’s the right way to go – they actually started going there on their last album – but I can’t be more satisfied about that. If that is intentional by the band or not is anyone’s guess, but it clearly shows that the band refuses to make the same album twice. Also, to make things clear – the album sounds like classic Evergrey all the way, it’s not like the band has gone Bon Jovi on us, thank God – it’s far, far away from any of that. Usually, on even the best albums there are things that I have opinions of, things I would have prefered done differently, but I can’t find anything like that on this album. All the songs are either really good, great or brilliant, all the musicians has performed faultlessly and the production, signed Jacob Hansen, is absolutely killer – it works just as well at home from your CD player, in your car stereo or through your mp3 player /phone. The sonic land scape is big, fat, heavy and hard but still very clear with all the instruments right in front of you. Plain and simple, there is nothing wrong with this album at all. Evergrey has topped Hymns For The Broken, something I had a hard time believing they would and the album grows with every listen. What they have here is a front row contender for the Album Of The Year! Hell, even the cover art-work is a masterpiece!
Earlier Evergrey reviews:
2. Passing Through
5. The Impossible
6. My Allied Ocean
7. In Orbit (featuring Floor Jansen)
8. The Lonely Monarch
9. The Paradox Of The Flame (featuring Carina Englund)
10. Disconnect (featuring Floor Jansen)
11. The Storm Within