A small venue in the middle of a small European town; is always the perfect atmosphere for metal gigs, especially now that we are all slowly returning to our beloved routine of seeing underground gems and big tickets alike. My coverage this time was in the peaceful, calm town of Leiden in The Netherlands for a long-running and well-known (albeit still kind of underground) band, Evergrey, touring Europe for the first time since the start of Covid-19 and welcoming special guests Virtual Symmetry and Fractal Universe.
Due to logistic reasons and some personal delays, I, unfortunately, couldn’t arrive in time for both opener bands, Swiss prog act Virtual Symmetry and France’s prog/tech death band Fractal Universe, but having seen both bands live before I can safely say that they are fitting choices to warm up for Evergrey and killer shows individually, so this leg of the tour provides a good bang for the buck and three good shows in one.
With an almost 1:40 set, Evergrey hit the stage to reignite fans’ hearts with selected classic favorites and mainly divulge their latest full-length ‘A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)’, released earlier this year. While the album has an introspective nature and provides a more depressive, gloomy aura (because come on, it’s Evergrey), Tom S. Englund (guitar, vocals) and longtime members Henrik Danhage (guitar), Rikard Zander (keyboards), Jonas Ekdahl (drums) and Johan Niemann (bass) managed to put high doses of energy into the bleak aura and actually do something that many bands aren’t able to do, which is to break the 4th barrier and acknowledge that you don’t need to keep appearances 100% of the time and can just have fun on stage even if you sing about loss, darkness, and fears.
Opener “Save Us”, “Midwinter Calls”, “Call Out the Dark” and “Blindfolded” were the choices to represent the Swedes’ latest entry and, aside from “Blindfolded” which is kind of bland and uninspired live as well – and could have been replaced by a more explosive track like “Heartless” – all songs sound amazing live and could find their way in future setlists easily, especially the awesome “Call Out the Dark” that has an amazing singalong chorus. Tracks from ‘Escape the Phoenix’ and ‘The Atlantic’ were also present and were key to maintaining the aura of despair so characteristic of Evergrey’s current songwriting approach. “Where August Mourn”, “In the Absence of Sun”, “Eternal Nocturnal”, “Weightless” and “A Silent Arc” were all executed to perfection.
Englund’s stage presence is something special, as he’s able to emanate a cool, quiet style while being able to energize and explode the audience with a simple gesture, and his vocal performances still sound almost like in the studio after all these years of active. While Zander and Niemann prefer to keep a low profile and keep out of the spotlight for most of the show, both are extremely important in terms of executing the often times theatrical style of Evergrey’s music, but the best individual moments lie with Danhage and Ekdahl, both which blast their way into the crowd with thunderous, energetic performances that keep the spirits high even during dark moments of the gig like “Distance” and “My Allied Ocean”.
As I said above, while Evergrey is currently mainly advertising their newer material, true classics (and easily the best songs of the night, in my opinion) couldn’t be left out, so “A Touch of Blessing” and “Recreation Day”, the ever-present golden days’ bangers, brought old fans closer to the band once again and fittingly paved the way to the final performance of the night in “King of Errors”, ending the gig on a high note.
Evergrey performs and sounds like they haven’t stopped doing shows during the pandemic and ‘A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)’ songs sound great live. This tour is a statement that Englund and company show no signs of slowing down in the future and, as I said before, a great choice to see a prog/power titan live and two other really good acts to top it off. Get your ticket and have fun, it’s worth checking this tour out.