Evergrey - Glorious Collision
Everyone who knows me probably knows how big of an event the release of Evergrey’s 8th album, “Glorious Collision” has been for me. It’s no secret that I really didn’t care for their 2006 release, “Monday Morning Apocalypse”, and though I thought 2008’s “Torn” was a big step back in the right direction, it still fell considerably shy of their better work. Thusly, I admit that my expectations were not sky high for this record, until May of last year, when it was announced that 3/5 of Evergrey’s lineup was departing. Longtime guitarist Henrik Danhage, in place since 2001’s In Search of Truth was the most intriguing departure to me, though drummer Jonas Ekdahl and bassist Jari Kainulainen (ex Stratovarius) also left the fold of the group. Replacing them are guitarist Marcus Jidell (of Royal Hunt), bassist Johann Niemann (ex Therion), and young drummer Hannes Van Dahl. With all these new faces involved, the new era of Evergrey would have a lot to prove. But more than anything else, this shifted focus and pressure onto main-man Tom S. Englund, who undertook writing most of this record himself, with only keyboarder Rikard Zander alongside him. This record was going to be “do or die”. If the new lineup couldn’t bring the excitement and freshness back to this band, I feared that one of my favorite bands would forever enter the realm of mediocrity.
I want to say straight away that this record is NOT a return to form. If you’re one of those people who will only accept “In Search of Truth Part 2” from Evergrey, you might as well stop reading right now. This is not a return to form, but what it is is the history of this band manifested in one single album. Every strength of each era of Evergrey is represented somewhere on this album. Think of it as a “best of” represented in original songs. It’s one of their most diverse albums, and in a sense, finally brings their newer style to fruition. With that all in mind, let’s get into the album itself.
Opening cuts have almost always been a strong suite of this band, and “Leave it Behind Us” is no exception whatsoever. After a brief choir introduction, we’re thrown right into the fray. Within the first minute or two, one thing is quite apparent: This is an Evergrey album. Thanks to Tom S. Englund’s voice, the identity of this band is always assured. The chorus sees a nice little piano line serving as a harbinger for the rest of the album: This is by far the most keyboards on an Evergrey album since 2004’s “The Inner Circle”. All in all, the opening cut sets an excellent overall tone for the 12 tunes that will follow it. The tone of this album is actually one of hope, which is a bit of a change of pace for this band. Many of the lyrics reference change, and leaving the past behind in order to come into something new, which is exactly what this band has done with this track. Note the absolutely killer solo section – the first of many to follow.
“You” brings the tempo down a bit but the heavy riff quotient up considerably. That being said, it also showcases something different about this album. The riffs on this album are so much more than de-tuned chugga-chugga riffs flogging the same note to death, but don’t sacrifice any heaviness. This song boasts some of my favorite lyrics on the disc and one of the more memorable choruses. Also this track is the longest of the batch, clocking in over 6 minutes. As a whole the songs on this disc are longer than the past 2, especially Monday Morning Apocalypse – with more focus on instrumental sections that are allowed to develop appropriately, not just soloing on cue. That being said, third track of the bunch, “Wrong” is among the more concise, dare I say “Commercialized” tracks here. The chorus is very enjoyable, and will probably grow with repeated listens, but in the end this track fits more into the “good but not great” category. An excellent vocal performance by Mr. Englund is the highlight.
“Frozen” has grown to be one of my favorite tracks here, and it starts with probably the most aggressive riff assault present on the disc. That aggression gives way to a really melodic verse that absolutely hooks me in every time. When it picks up it’s an absolute knock-out mix of heaviness and melody – in other words, one of my favorite things about Evergrey. The chorus is probably a tad commercial, but completely works for the song, and is sure to have you singing along regardless of whether or not you want to. There’s also an excellent guitar/keyboard unison/harmony after the second chorus. All in all, this is a home run of a song.
“Restoring the Loss” is a bit of a straight-forward number with some nice hooks and tasty soloing. Nothing more, nothing less. “To Fit the Mold” definitely introduces a new vibe not seen in the 5 tracks which precede it. There’s very noticeable dynamics with some excellent acoustic guitars and orchestration as the song progresses. That being said, the riffs definitely have a nice, heavy crunch and Tom S. Englund gives one of his more memorable performances of the album here, both vocally and musically. The track progresses fantastically, constantly building on itself before eventually returning to an acoustic end. Another favorite, for sure. “Out of Reach” sort of comes and goes somewhat unnoticed, which I’m guessing is as good as it is bad. This is just a relatively short and unmemorable track, but there’s nothing wrong with it, but it does have a pretty cool groove and some nice keyboards. The riffs are also a bit more subtle than some of the in-your-face attacks present on the disc. This track has been steadily growing for me as well, so maybe time will only serve it better.
We now are about half-way through the disc, and we reach one of its obvious highlights for myself. “The Phantom Letters” begins with a vibe rarely seen from this band – simply acoustic guitars alongside Tom’s heartfelt vocals. The mood set by the first section is absolutely superb. So superb, in fact that I feared the remainder of the song wouldn’t measure up. However, when the build-up finally reaches the breaking point, and Tom sings the line “When the ashes fall from heaven – they fall as my confession”, I get goosebumps every single time. The melody and the emotion is just the perfect storm, and from there the track gets quite heavier but loses no emotion or melody. If no other track here does so, this one alone proves the musical maturity and evolution this band has endured over the last couple of albums. With a few amazing solos in place as well, it is apparent: they are finally ready to create masterpieces again.
“The Disease…” starts with a really tasty keyboard pattern and showcases one of Tom’s best vocal performances on the disc. A fairly short and straight-forward song, much like “Out of Reach”, this one will probably take more listens than others to completely appreciate and come into its own, but is every bit as rewarding as the best stuff on the disc. I had mentioned near the beginning of this review that in some ways, this is like a tour through Evergrey’s entire career, and nowhere is this more evident than in the next track, “It Comes From Within”, which harkens back to the blazing fretwork of tracks like “Nosferatu” and “Watching the Skies”. It is with this track as my backing that stake my claim that this is by far Evergrey’s most interesting guitar-record in many years now. I’m not necessarily saying Marcus Jidell is superior to Henrik Danhage, but having someone new in the fold has certainly brought a really fresh, interesting drive to the guitar-end of the proceedings. Both Tom and Marcus play their asses off on the whole record, but this track in particular stands out. This is about as uptempo as Evergrey has ever sounded, and the track fires on all cylinders. This is a definite home-run as well.
I also mentioned earlier in the review that this is one of Evergrey’s most diverse records, and this feeling could not be driven home any more so than it is by following “It Comes From Within” with “Free”. The track never really moves out of “mellow” territory, but does still manage to pack quite a punch. As usual Tom delivers his vocals with conviction and as much power and passion as you could ask for, and the acoustic guitars really shine through. This is a track where it becomes apparent that Rikard Zander had a greater hand in the creative process than usual, as there’s a lot of keyboard textures in this song. There’s actually a lot of depth here in general, and the vibe is reminiscent of something that could’ve appeared on Evergrey’s debut record, “The Dark Discovery”. It may leave some feeling as though it builds to a climax that never occurs, but it is possible that that fact is what makes the track work in the first place.
“I’m Drowning Alone” has a vibe that I can best describe as recalling “The Inner Circle” with a bit of the vibe the band has had on the past two records. There’s some really crunchy riffs, but they never bury the melody in what is, again, an amazing vocal performance from main-man Tom S. Englund. This track also features a guest appearance from the 3rd Englund to ever appear on an Evergrey record – that’s right, Tom’s daughter, Salina Englund, whose 4 lines before the final chorus add an almost ethereal dimension to the track. This is yet another song that might take several listens to appreciate, but it’s worth the effort. That being said, it pales in comparison to what follows it.
One thing is certain, the band chose the best possible way to end this album. Something Evergrey fans have come to love and almost expect from this band is appearances by Carina Englund, wife of Tom. And she delivers another excellent performance here, in what is easily one of the best and most haunting tunes on the disc. “…And the Distance” shows these two singing alongside eachother in a fashion that only they can pull off. They are without a doubt the best and most under-appreciate male-female voice combination in metal. The track builds and builds, eventually exploding with some amazing lines, both vocally and musically. The final line on the album is “Resist the will that pushes under”, which seems almost eerie, as the change prior to this album meant that it was sink or swim for this band, and if they hadn’t delivered the goods here, they indeed probably would’ve been buried by the current of the music world.
So with that in mind, I suppose as a hardcore Evergrey fan I feel blessed. Mastermind Tom S. Englund has managed to find hope and persevere through one of the biggest changes in the band’s career. And not only has the band survived, but have actually created an album that in time will most likely hold its own against the band’s better works. It won’t top them, but it will be a welcome addition to the Evergrey catalog. The band now seems to be the strongest it’s been in years, with plans of their first ever US headlining tour on the horizon. From hell and back, they’ve created a hell of an album. Glorious, indeed.