Evergrey – The Storm Within
AFM Records – 2016
The keyboard notes that hit during the intro of “Distance” really set the gravity of The Storm Within, which is all built around the concept of love. When the guitars and drums come in 31 second mark, they tag along with the purposeful rhythm established. Tom S. Englund sings with his heart wide open, as there is a vulnerability to his voice that allows him to sing about the deep feeling of affection. I’ve got to say I believe that this is the best playing I’ve ever heard from guitarists Henrik Danhage and Tom Englund. They feel utterly connected to expressing their emotions through their six-string instruments, not just this song, but the entire album. I adored the real dirty-grimy heavy guitar repeat pattern that runs through the song. It’s brilliantly contrasted against the beautiful keyboard and even children’s choir voices later in the song. You should definitely check out the music video by filmmaker Patrick Uuellas, as it visually matches the meaning of the song.
The band kicks things up a notch on “Passing Through.” Like Evergrey’s instrumentation, Englund is more aggressive with his voice. The harmonized guitars keep the rhythmic likability at a maximum. The backing choir-like voices within the mix also take this tune into metallic celestial realm. The vibrato in the guitar playing is tremendous and I love the way Danhage and Englund hand the guitar soloing baton off to each other. I’m pretty certain that the chorus will stay with you long after you listen to this album a few times.
The ambient beginning of “Someday” sets a melancholy mood before the drums hit like a jackhammer. The chorus is gigantic in this third tune and it’s accomplished with the musical environment instead of just producer’s knobs. This takes real talent from a musical writing perspective. I’m quite fond of when the guitars get muted and soft before the chorus returns. I also like when the instruments drop out of the mix while the vocals sing the chorus. Extremely well done.
I completely love how “Astray” begins with the guitars, Johan Niemann’s bass and drums hitting all at once like strategic metal missiles. I had to turn up the volume on my stereo to crank it. The guitar pattern picked is killer and the soft keyboard layered against it is pure genius. Jonas Ekdahl’s drums are addictive and powerful. The lead guitar work is real bluesy and contains deep felt emotion. I couldn’t stop myself from banging my head to the heavy guitar part 4 minutes in. Awesome to say the least.
Rikard Zander’s keyboard in “The Impossible” is touching and a perfect choice to underline Tom S. Englund’s masterful vocals. The inclusion of orchestral touches (strings) gives this song incredible texture and warmth.
Guitars and drums strike like a bolt lightning in the sixth song “My Allied Ocean.” The apocalyptic lyrics sound perfect with the stampeding drums and supercharged guitars. I’m attached to the little guitar rhythmic pattern changes throughout. Zander’s keyboard features a cool sound. Henrik Danhage absolutely kills it on guitar with Tom S. Englund. I’ve got to repeat this is the best guitar playing I’ve ever heard from Evergrey. The Evergrey guitarists always deliver the goods, but this time they’ve taken their expressive playing to another level. They do this in terms of power, feel and just their ability to communicate themselves on a poignant level through the six-string instrument.
The seventh song “In Orbit” features Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen. But before she does, listen to the keyboard cadence that is guaranteed to hook you. The inclusion of Jansen’s powerful voice boosts the strength of the song even more. Believe it or not the idea of pairing their voices together came from Tom Englund’s wife Carina Englund. Something that I really loved about this song was the guitar rhythm part that sounds like the notes are vibrating from the tremolo bar being hit. Both Danhage and Englund are fantastic playing super heart-rending lead guitar parts. Without question, I hope to see a music video of this.
Jonas Ekdahl sets a real steady drum beat in “The Lonely Monarch.” The guitars are really unique during the beginning of the lead section, when they play a dual harmony at a real high tone. Also cool is the way Danhage and Englund trade-off taking turns the rest of the way. The way the lead guitar echoes out at the end of the solo section and then has the acoustic guitar come in was stunning.
Rikard Zander is amazing with his exquisite keyboard playing in “The Paradox Of The Flame.” The addition of orchestra and slide guitar really makes this song touching and soul deep. Carina Englund sings her heart out with her husband and their duet is, as always a match made in heaven. The solo guitar choices during this track show not only the band’s maturity but willingness to share the musical space (orchestral strings) for the betterment of the song. Filmmaker Patrick Uuellas did a sensational job making the music video for this song.
Tom Englund lets his voice bleed-out completely during “Disconnect.” He proves again why I feel he is absolutely one of the best vocalists in heavy metal. Carina Englund’s backing voice is like an angel floating above the song’s mix. Ekdahl pounds his kit with total conviction. Rikard Zander’s keyboard brings a spiritual calmness to the proceedings. The guitar soloing made the hairs stand straight up on my body because it’s done with such impassioned skill. Danhage and Englund have outdone themselves on this record. I love how the bass comes in and bridges the gap between solo section. The backing female and male voices are simply astounding. What’s so fantastic about the musicality of Evegrey and makes them quite unique, is how they are progressive without being making it feel like they are just trying to impress. Wow, pick me off the floor after I got blown away by this incredible song.
The title track “The Storm Within” wraps the album with devine feel the band is striving for. I believe Evergrey wants the listener to not only visualize their music and lyrics, but to have it seep into your moral core and to affect you on the innermost level.
There’s no way a better album comes out this year than The Storm Within. I found it very telling and interesting when I’ve asked a couple other metal writers what they’ve thought of this album they responded with, “I think Evergrey is my favorite band.” To be honest I’m not surprised Evergrey are making others feel the same way I have felt for many years now.
Terry Wickham: What was the experience like to come together as Evergrey again?
Jonas Ekdahl: At first it was kind of scary. I took everything real slow, because I was afraid that we would end up where we left off. We had a bunch of meetings, almost like therapy sessions, where we cleared the air, so that we could start off fresh again. After that it felt very humble as well as exciting.
TW: What did you do during the time you were away from Evergrey?
JE: Musically – I put my focus on the other band me and Henrik are playing in – called ‘DeathDestruction’. We toured and released two albums during that time. I also wrote a lot of music for myself.
TW: While you were out of the band, did you ever miss being part of Evergrey? Is it true absence makes the heart grow fonder?
JE: Eventually, yes. I started to write music that was in the Evergrey-vein, but I didn’t reflect at it the time. That came later on, when we would actually start writing the ‘Hymns for the broken’ album, and I showed up with 20 song ideas.
But the first time I felt that I missed Evergrey was when we had a bachelor party for our old bass player – Michael Håkansson. We surprised him and threw him in the rehearsal room and jammed for two hours straight and drank beer and whiskey. He hadn’t touched a bass for like, seven years or so. It was very nostalgic and only good vibes.
TW: I absolutely loved Glorious Collision album, but there is something about the collective whole of a band. Look, as good as Dream Theater is with drummer Mike Mangini, it’s not the same as when Mike Portnoy was in the band. There’s a spark missing. In filmmaking, Director John Carpenter could never match the movies he made with cinematographer Dean Cundey (Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China). How do you feel about that in terms of Evergrey?
JE: I know what you mean. It’s a tough question, since Evergrey has had more member changes than a football team. But I don’t think it’s up to me to answer that, feels more like a fan-based question. All I can say is that I’m really enjoying playing in Evergrey again. More than ever, to be honest.
TW: When you guys decided to re-group, was there an impetus in terms of the music or was it just strictly on social, business level?
JE: The intentions were just to make- and play music together again, and have fun. That’s it. It has nothing to do with business at all. And I think that shows pretty clear too.
TW: To be honest with you, the lyrics on the album are really timely on a global level, as there are many of us struggling to get by on a daily basis. I think it makes the album even more relevant than just your band reassembling. Was that something you were aware of when writing the songs?
JE: On some songs Tom wrote the lyrics at the same time as we wrote the music and other lyrics were written after the music was done. And it’s very timely, yes, since the album is dealing with the matter of exhaustion depression. Somehow people seem to be embarrassed discussing this, but I think it’s very relevant and very important to talk about it in the open because it’s getting more and more common that people suffer from things like way too much stress and exhaustion to depression and anxiety. I’ve experienced this too. To reveal yourself as depressed or anxious shouldn’t make you feel ashamed or guilty towards other people. But I know it does, considering how people try to make themselves look in the social medias for example.
TW: Speaking of songwriting, did the band do it anything differently than you had in the past, in terms of how and who wrote the songs?
JE: No not really. The only difference was that we sent files to each other sometimes, which we never did before. It made things more flexible and available I guess.
TW: What’s your favorite song on the album and why?
JE: I really like ‘Black Undertow’. The song really changes mood throughout the song, I like that contrast. And the chorus is really big and has a great hook.
TW: As a drummer, was there something you wanted to accomplishment on this album musically or was it just about the songs?
JE: It’s always about the songs. And I try to play as musical as possible, all the time. If there’s not room for fancy fills and stuff – save them for later. They will have a bigger impact than playing on ten all the time. The only thing I had in mind was to always have a groove, no matter if I played double bass or just a simple back beat.
I recorded a lot of songs together with Johan, which was very cool. I think it gave everything a more lively kind of vibe. He’s an amazing bass player.
TW: The music video for “King of Errors” is pretty amazing piece of filmmaking. How did you find the filmmaker who did it and talk about the shooting of the video.
JE: This idea has been around for ten years, but we didn’t get a permission to get up on that crane until now. We got together with director Patric Ullaeus, who is a great friend that has done every Evergrey video since ‘A touch of blessing‘ in 2004. He recorded our DVD as well. So we go way back. He always gets what we want to do and deliver our visions on video. And he somehow makes us look good on camera. He’s just amazing to work with!
TW: Where was the music video shot? Was it close by where you guys live?
JE: We shot the video in Gothenburg, where we live. The crane is kind of a landmark of the city. The nature shots were done outside Gothenburg, on the country side.
TW: Looking back on the catalog of your Evergrey albums, what would you say about each one that comes to mind now?
The Inner Circle
JE: The first album I ever recorded. We basically lived in the studio for 8 months- writing and recording that album. A lot of fun and a lot of hard work and late hours. But that goes for all of these albums.
A Night to Remember (DVD/CD)
JE: One of the proudest moments of my life. 10 years after it’s release and it still looks and sounds great. The bonus material is awesome as well. The DVD reached #1 on the Swedish DVD chart, and it also got a Swedish Grammy nominee. We lost against ABBA…
Monday Morning Apocalypse
JE: The first time I got to work with a producer. A new, different and a great experience. I recorded the drums in 2 1/2 days. An underrated album in my opinion.
JE: A dark album in many ways. The darkest of all Evergrey albums. The band was kind of…torn, I guess. There was a lot of frustrating and stressful stuff going on while writing and recording this album. Looking back at it, I’m actually impressed that we managed to make the album as great as it is.
JE: So much positive energy and good vibes. A lot of fun, and a lot of playing. Being back together again we discovered that we all had matured since ‘Torn’, and we have another respect for each other now, musically.
TW: Obviously you are aware that I choose Hymns for the Broken as one of the Best Albums of 2014. How has the response been for it been and the band’s reaction to what people are saying?
JE: Yes, thank you very much for that!
The response has been totally overwhelming. The reviews has been better that we ever could expect. Album of the month in so many magazines and webzines, and now ‘Hymn.’ starts to get these ‘Album of the year’ announcements… Unbelievable!
And the reactions from our fans have been insane! People love the album, and me and Henrik has got so much love and compliments for being back it’s almost hard to realize that people care so much for Evergrey, and that we actually matter to people. It makes me so humble, I can’t express that enough.
TW: What is Evergrey planning for 2015 and when can we expect to see Evergrey tour the United States?
JE: We’re doing the shows we feel like doing. We’re not gonna do 200 shows for the sake of it, we rather just do the right shows for us. We have a couple of summer festivals lined up, we some touring plans as well, but nothing I can confirm right now.
TW: Jonas – thank you for getting back together in Evergrey. You are one of my Top-3 Favorite bands and the latest album is another stellar release in the band’s ever-growing list of superior work.
Thank you, that means a lot! Cheers, and thank you for reading