The Big Apple got ROCKED big-time by Swedish Progressive Metal juggernaut Evergrey on Thursday June 1, 2017. The band has been my favorite ever since Dream Theater got wishy-washy and Evergrey released album after album of memorable , brilliantly written heavy progressive metal that’s more heavy than progressive (Dream Theater has become the opposite).
This was a special night for me because I had only one opportunity before this night to see the band Live (I believe 2003 of 2004 at L’Amour in Brooklyn). Both this time and the last, I was attending the concert as a journalist. But unfortunately the first time, because of a lack of communication between record label and the venue, I didn’t get allowed in until the band’s last song. I did get to spend some time talking with Tom Englund after that show out in front of that historic venue.
This time I had a somewhat similar situation as I was supposed to be put down for tickets for myself plus guest. But when we got there I was told I was only listed for one. After a call to the record label publicist and trying desperately to get ahold of the band’s tour manager, the club manager finally got confirmation from the tour manager and I was allowed to attend the show with my friend.
Speaking of my friend, Mike Porciello wasn’t there as fan of the band. He had only heard a song or two I’d played for him many years before. So he was hearing them without an opinion either way. I said to Mike before seeing the show that I’d be surprised if he didn’t like the band after seeing/hearing them play.
Evergrey opened the show with “Leave It Behind Us” off their excellent Glorious Collision album. What was apparent right from the get-go. was how the band’s incredible heavy duty guitar riffs had most of the crowd banging their head in syncopation. After only a few minutes Mike yelled to me that Evergrey was in his words, “Fucking Phenomenal!”
“The Fire” from Hymns from the Broken was next. It continued to show the band’s tremendous ability to balance heaviness with melody.
The lyrics are so creatively written in “Passing Through” from The Storm Within, it was just awesome to see Tom S. Englund perform the song. I also love the bluesy, deep feel of the dual guitar harmonies (Maidenesque is the best way to describe it). I’d call this approach just pure Evergrey. Heavy duty hard-charging guitars with Jonas Ekdahl’s pounding drums and Rikard Zander’s beautiful keyboards.
The beginning of “Distance” allowed the audience to take a tiny breather before the onslaught of the monster guitar sound of the band. This is something the band before Evergrey didn’t do, which is to give the music an ebb and flow so that it had both peaks and valleys. It’s not a good idea to blast at 100 mph the entire time because there is no contrast and kind of takes away from the feeling due to the lack of musical contrast. Because of this, there was no comparison between bands. Evergrey was far superior, especially when it came to the song writing and musical structure.
‘A New Dawn” has cool tugging guitar rhythm that pumped the audience up. The chorus in particular is instantly appealing and had most of us singing along with.
My friend Mike as totally hooked by “My Allied Ocean.” The sixth track off The Storm Within is heavy, tuneful and just damn cool. The guitar interplay between Henrik Danhage and Tom Englund is explosive and expressive. This tune literally whipped the audience into a heavy metal frenzy.
“Monday Morning Apocalypse” is tightly wound piece of heavy progressive wonder. What the band does in just over three-minutes isn’t accomplished by most bands of the same ilk. I gotta say it was one of the biggest surprise inclusions of the night, as I think that album of the same title is one of their most underrated gems. In fact, I wrote a nice national published article about that album before it was released for the defunct Starlog/Fangoria cousin publication Shockwave Magazine.
“Black Undertow” from Hymns is a real moody tune that still rocks and has huge sing along structure that had the audience trying to match Englund’s emotion-fueled voice. This is one of those amazing tunes that you’d think by the title would be dark and negative, but not in the talented hands of Evergrey. Instead it’s a life affirming song to uplift your spirits and energize you more than ever towards positivity.
Something really interesting an unexpected happened before the next song “Orbit.” As Tom S. Englund was talking about how his co-vocalist (Floor Jansen) wouldn’t be available to sing along with him, he looked right down at me standing not far away right in the middle of the crowd and said to me, “You know what I’m talking about right?” I swear the entire audience looked right at me. I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy the moment. Then the band did a spot on rendition of the song that had all of us joining the chorus and rocking along to.
Evergrey cranked it up another notch for “Broken Wings” from their Torn album. If the radio actually played heavy metal (and I’m not talking about ballads) this would be a massive hit song. It’s got ripping guitars by Danhage and Englund, chugging bass and infectious drums. Tom’s voice and lyrics will snare you hook, line and sinker. I totally enjoyed jamming along with this awesome tune.
Then came the song that took the entire audience into a collective euphoric state of heavy progressive bliss, “The Grand Collapse.” This battering ram travels from Rikard Zander’s sensitive soft keyboard work that underlines Tom Englund’s thoughtful lyrics to the explosion of Henrik Danhage & Englund’s massive megaton guitar riffs. Their guitars struck like lightning & roaring thunder, which were perfectly coordinated with flashing dramatic strobe lights that were unlike anything I’d ever experienced. What’s so awesome about these hefty licks is how they build and change to reach maximum force. Johan Niemann’s bass and Jonas Ekdahl’s weighty drums gave the song an unbreakable concrete thick bottom that made all of us go into 8 minutes of uncontrolled excitement. I don’t think there was a single soul not banging their head and aggressively moving their body to this absolute masterpiece. One of my favorite tracks ever and a delightful experience I will not soon forget.
For their encore, the band was very smart to come out with someone tune to ease back a bit after the crushing song before it. So “Words Mean Nothing” from their second album Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy.
“Recreation Day” the title track from the band’s fourth album, was a wonderful trip into the band’s past. The guitars, drums and bass all rip-roared through, while Rikard Zander’s keys created an almost celestial ceiling. Danhage and Englund’s lead guitar section was wondrous and impactful.
Next Guitarist Henrik Danhage took over to play an amazing Guitar Solo that highlighted his technical prowess and expert skill on the instrument. But what’s more important and impressive was how his playing could reach deep emotional depth. He was not just to impress, but to take us to a higher place we could all experience through his passionate expression. Click on the link above to get a snidbit of his solo.
“A Touch of Blessing” from The Inner Circle, begins with the soft guitar and atmospheric keys and then slammed all of us into a rapture of heavy metal. We were all banging and thrashing all while singing along to the religious themed song that made the experience close to spiritual. Click above link to see a small clip of the very beginning to attest to my words.
Evergrey could not have chosen a better song than “King of Errors” to wrap the eventful evening. I say that because if you’ve been following the band as long as I have, you know that this tune proudly carried the band’s flag from the album that brought the nucleus of the band back together, after a single album lineup change (Danhage and Ekdahl were not part of). If any soul was not fan of Evergrey before this show (like my friend) this sealed them forever into becoming enthusiastic supporter devoted to the band forevermore.
I’d best describe seeing Evergrey live as going 12 rounds in a fight and doing 200 weighted squats. Their music makes you react in such a physical way that it’s an athletic and uplifting completely. Sweat poured from my body and I couldn’t stop myself from buzzing from the enlightened event since.
Do yourself a massive favor and check out Evergrey’s music on their website, YouTube, ITunes or any other musical portal. The fact is Evergrey is one of the best heavy metal bands in the world and you are sorely missing out if you don’t know or have ever listened to their music.
After the show, my friend Mike Porciello and I were elated to meet all the band members who were all humble and passionate about spending some time with their fans. Mike said was blown away by Evergrey because they were tight, made no mistakes, played a high musicality with compositions that just pummelled him and lyrics that made him feel great. Like my prediction before the show, he’s now a fan of the band because Evergrey won him over.