REVIEW: EVERGREY – “The Storm Within”
Let me start this review by saying that I’ve been following Evergrey since its first full length album, ‘The Dark Discovery’. I was especially lured into the band in the ‘In Search of Truth’and ‘Recreation Day’ era, which showed a magnificent capability to write music by Tom Englund. After that, though, I was left with an eternal emptiness in my “fanboyism” caused by bland and uninspired albums such as ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’, ‘Torn’and ‘Glorious Collision’. So, would ‘The Storm Within’follow the path of the pop music masquerading as heavy metal through the shape of “intelligence” and “progressivism” seen in the previous endeavors or would we be graced with a dark, layered and deeply competent prog/power metal as executed so many years ago by the same act? Well, I hated this album, so you can have an idea which path Englund and friends chose to walk.
But I digress. My personal taste in heavy metal music cannot have an impact on a review, even more so when, despite having basically the same issues of the past 10 years, ‘The Storm Within’ has a decent amount of quality. The 10th full length by the Swedish quintet will come out via AFM Records on September 9th and mixes things up a little bit in the song department, mainly in the form of chugging riffs and faster songs – allied to a couple of dense bits -, elements that were missing from the creation process for a while now. “Distance” opens the album with a melancholic piano intro and then bursts into a groovy and lead-driven atmosphere. This marks right from the start one of the best tunes in the album, and achieves what many other songs featured here can’t: to create a sad and dark aura with its chorus (rather forced emotionally, but good nevertheless). “Passing Through” quickly drops the ball and falls into that sad “pop music” vibe, and shows absolutely no power or effectiveness, but an attempt to a catchy song driven by a melodic chorus, which turns around and bites you in the ass by becoming rather annoying, mainly because of the vocal lines that have very little to do with heavy metal and the weird keyboard arrangements.
“Someday” picks up the pieces of the previous train-wreck and actually manages to deliver what Tom Englund was definitely desperate to do: a haunting and depressive chorus inside a riff-filled track, which has meaning and profoundness – even if so little, but I don’t expect much anyway – in the lyrics. “Astray” follows the same vibe, while “The Impossible” slows down the pace and, even for brief moments, reminds me of great songs like “The Shocking Truth” and “Trilogy of the Damned”, two of the best ballads by the band. Immediately after that comes “My Allied Ocean”, best song Evergrey made in a long, long time. This track illustrates very well the two best assets of the band and the responsible ones for keeping it from falling apart: Jonas Ekdahl and Henrik Danhage. The pounding double-pedal drumming by Ekdahl and the virtuous and soulful guitar lines by Danhage bring great energy to this track and to Evergrey as a whole. It’s a shame that this is the only song they seemed to have some sort of freedom to execute their craftsmanship.
From here on, the album gradually loses steam and we end up with a bunch of mediocre tracks that don’t quite have anything to offer. There’s a decent duet between Englund and Floor Jansen in “In Orbit” and another one of the “special appearances” by Englund’s wife Carina Englund in “The Paradox of the Flame”, but nothing worthwhile mentioning with emphasis. “The Lonely Monarch” “Disconnect” and “The Storm Within” use the same patterns as “Passing Through”: the lyrics force an emotional atmosphere that just isn’t there, and while the execution is spot-on, they all lack inspiration and heart, feeling too mechanical and sometimes even fake. Evergrey always tries too hard to write compelling music but often ends up delivering efforts that – as a result of trying too hard and almost always being pretentious – sound too much like mindless commercialism and too little like well-thought, straight-from-the-heart heavy metal.
I find this kind of approach to heavy metal unappealing and of no use to the scene, not to mention kind of wimpy. Nevertheless, as I said before, a review can’t be personal, and the album has its qualities, such as crystal-clear production, competent execution and a couple of good anthems. If you enjoy this “unique” sort of approach to the prog/power metal sub-genre that Evergrey is playing for a while now, then by all means buy this album, because it’s in the same neighborhood as all their works since ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’. But if you are, like myself, a little more sceptic and prefer something less commercial, there are better releases of prog/power metal out there this year, like Septerra’s ‘Freedom of the Dark One’, Myrath’s‘Legacy’ and Sunburst’s ‘Fragments of Creation’.