Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Album Review: Evergrey - The Storm Within

Evergrey. I almost don't need to say anything more than that. By this point, after twenty years, they've established themselves as a workhorse with a unique identity, a band that does what they do, and keeps doing it again and again. I would argue them being labeled 'progressive metal', since I can't see anything about them that I would call progressive anymore. That's not important, but I think we have a duty to be accurate, and the talk around Evergrey is not always that. Myself, I have very little history with the band. I've heard them here and there for the years, but the only album of theirs I can claim to have enjoyed is one of their black sheep, "Torn". If you hate that album, relax, because this is nothing like that.

Evergrey has a very singular sound. Between their ability to make metal sound heart-wrenchingly sad, and Ton Englund's baritone, no one else sounds anything like them. But, they take that so much to heart that they continually rehash the exact same sound, to the point where even to a casual listener like me, the albums have all blended together into one giant song.

I was worried when "Distance" was released, the first taste of this record being a slow, plodding, joyless song that is the soundtrack to a pity party. There's nothing wrong with that kind of song, but to put that out as the selling point for the album is a decision I will never understand. Perhaps they thought is was lush and emotive, but all it did was make me check to see if the sun had dropped out of the sky.

It's especially troubling, since the very next song, "Passing Through", is a phenomenal bit of melodic metal that is heavy, dramatic, and bursting with energy and melody. It's a powerhouse of a song, and is the sort of track that would actually get someone interested in hearing Evergrey. Unfortunately, it a rare exception on this album. Over these eleven tracks, we get one amazing number, one three minute interlude that is a complete waste of time, and nine more tracks that all take five minutes to repeat the same phrasings and feelings. There is nothing approaching diversity on this record, and after a few tracks, it becomes hard to sit through so much music that wallows in its own misery.

I'm not saying music has to be joyous to be good, but the catharsis in this record never comes. Unlike Katatonia's fantastic "The Fall Of Hearts", Evergrey is a painting of darkness atop darkness, without the melodic beauty to balance the pain. Tom Englund reaches for hooks here, and he has the voice to deliver them, but his writing is so bare-bones that he thinks his voice is all that's needed to make a song great. Listen to the choruses of songs like "Distance" and "Disconnect" and tell me different. He throws out two or three notes, drags them out, and relies on his charisma as a singer to do the heavy lifting. That's not enough.

Evergrey has their niche, and I'm not going to change any minds about them. I don't intend to. All I'm doing here is giving my opinion. And this one man's opinion is that Evergrey is a band that say they have a creative fire burning inside them, but it sounds like it burns cold. Evergrey can do great things, but this is not one of them. "The Storm Within" is an album that is harmless, but it's so bland it will feel even more disappointing than if it actually was bad.

That's quite a feat.

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