The profile of Evergrey seems to be increasing exponentially these days with the magnificent album, The Atlantic, winning rave reviews and being as good as anything that the band has ever put out and Tom S. Englund becoming the seeming ‘go to’ vocalist for anyone wanting a singer who can bring something special to an album or project.
Evergrey has always had a reputation for being a little on the darker side of progressive metal and this has always given the band that special quality that makes them stand apart from the crowd. I suppose being a Swedish band from Gothenburg has emphasised the darker element and that special melancholy that makes them unique and gives their sound that dark, brooding and portentous touch that is so delicious. I’ve always considered them to be in the same camp as bands like Opeth and Pain Of Salvation rather than, say, Threshold, as there is and always has been an air of mystery about them.
The band dates back to 1995 with Englund now being the sole original member but this is not an issue as his voice is the key to the Evergrey sound and he alone gives the band that unique and most individualistic edge that marks them out as something special. They have consistently released strong and most valuable albums and are currently on a real creative roll with albums like Hymns For The Broken, The Storm Within and The Atlantic (released 2014, 2016 and 2019 respectively) being absolutely essential progressive metal flag bearers and each has brought something new so that Evergrey is a band in continual development and never content to rest on its laurels. Englund may be the sole remaining original member but the rest of the guys have been in the band for a number of years now and this familiarity has made them stronger as a unit and there seems to be a real bond between the team as they ever push each other towards creative peaks of majesty. Englund plays guitar as well as being the voice of Evergrey with Henrik Danhage being absolutely magnificent on guitar and more than ably supported by Rikard Zander on keyboards, Jonas Ekdahl on drum and Johan Niemann on bass and what an intense and all encompassing sound they produce too.
The new album sees the band in full blown progressive metal mode with a new set of enticingly dark songs but the journey into more mainstream prog metal is continued as this is most certainly a less dark and sombre album although everything that we have ever loved about the band remains and it is the thought provoking lyrics and intense and emotional delivery that makes this such a special team. Anthemic and epic are words often used in metal reviews but these words especially apply to Evergrey as everything that the band does seems to be on a much bigger scale that other bands as there is so much depth to the musical and they manage to make technical, complex and profound metal yet imbue it with a commerciality and melodic sense of purpose to make them full accessible to just about any rock fan, they are indeed all things to all men!
Work began on Escape Of The Phoenix in pre-lockdown days and the band states that the long period of inactivity that the epidemic has brought to us all has helped to make the new album what it is which, according to Englund, is “a more metal version of Atlantic” with songs that are “more direct” and he is right in that this is a more mainstream progressive metal record than some of their other albums have been but it is unmistakably Evergrey and retains that darkness at its core that hints at something just a little dangerous. So, the album remains anthemic with Englund again spinning his glorious tales and the guys around him are simply awesome with Henrik Danhage playing some of the best guitar he has ever done and just listen and revel in the amazing You From You on which Englund bares his soul and Danhage plays a stunning and emotionally charged David Gilmour type solo, totally out of this world! The brooding and emotionally charged track, The Beholder, will also prove very popular as it is a duet between Englund and Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie on which both singers combine to thrilling effect and they sound so good together that this is a combination that surely must be repeated. There is not a weak moment on the album with each track being an emotional masterpiece that ensures Escape Of The Phoenix will become an album to savour for eternity. In The Absence Of Sun is another slow, burning and emotional balladic type song which starts with gentle piano that reminds a little of the recent Silent Skies project between Englund and the classic pianist Vikram Shankar with the song slowly building up the tension until it explodes with an infusion of power into an anthemic and epic rocker that almost takes your breath away. The title track is also an incredible intense and hard hitting song on which Englund shows why he is in so much demand as a singer as the band take their levels of playing ever higher and another exquisite guitar break further emphasises just how good this new album is.
If you thought The Atlantic was anthemic then prepare to be amazed with this technically brilliant album crammed with exceptional songs and an intensity that draws you into the world of Evergrey and once in then I’m afraid that you will never leave! Evergrey have released a new benchmark for progressive metal and if we hear a better album this year then we are going to be very lucky indeed. Escape Of The Phoenix is yet another absolutely essential purchase from the Swedish progressive masters and is an album you will want to play again and again
Escape Of The Phoenix track list
- Forever Outsider (4:09)
- Where August Mourns (5:31)
- Stories (6:40)
- A Dandelion Cipher (4:34)
- The Beholder (feat. James LaBrie) (5:49)
- In The Absence Of Sun (6:07)
- Eternal Nocturnal (4:34)
- Escape Of The Phoenix (4:11)
- You From You (5:18)
- You From You (5:18)
- Run (5:51)