I realise that I have talked a lot about Evergrey throughout my blogs and on other social media platforms. I gave their third album ‘In Search Of Truth’ the accolade of being my favourite album of all time, a sentiment I still wholeheartedly stick to.
In the last couple of days, the last remaining founding member, Tom England announced that a new album was in the pipeline for 2014. To celebrate this exciting announcement, I thought it was the perfect time to dig a bit deeper and explain what it is that makes Evergrey one of my very favourite bands, if not the favourite.
My love-affair with Evergrey began around the turn of the millennium, just as I was completing my university degree. At this time, the Internet was still finding its feet. Broadband was merely a concept and so at University and at home, I had to rely on the inconsistency and snail-speed of dial-up. Nevertheless, the Internet was a great new tool to enable me to discover as much new music as I could. In the past, I had relied solely on magazines and on the catalogues produced by the record labels that interested me.
The only problem with the Internet at this time was that the websites were relatively basic and legal streams of tracks were rare. Tired of buying blind and trusting my instincts, all I wanted to do was hear the odd track by a band to see if it was going to be something I liked. In the end, I succumbed to a torrent site and began to download the odd song here and there. I used it primarily as a research tool; if I liked what I heard, I bought the album, simple as that. I was never interested in downloading entire albums because I always wanted the full package as the band intended.
Anyway, on one occasion, I decided to check out a melodic death metal band I’d heard a little about, Everfall. However, unbeknown to me at the time, I had clicked on the wrong track and instead ended up downloading ‘Different Worlds’ by Evergrey. The rest, as they say, is history.
From the moment I pressed play, I knew that I had hit upon something special. The atmosphere, the emotion, the sense of darkness and despair, the beautiful melodies and that crushing crescendo at the end. It was a recipe that led to love at first listen.
The following day, I contacted my favourite mail order company by telephone and ordered the entire Evergrey back catalogue to that point. A few days later, a package was delivered containing ‘The Dark Discovery’, ‘Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy’ and ‘In Search Of Truth’. That was a good day, I can tell you.
Whilst I loved the rawness and relative naivety of the first couple of albums, it was ‘In Search Of Truth’ that made the biggest immediate impact upon me. It was everything that I had hoped for and more besides. This is not an album review (I might consider doing one for this album one day), so I’m not going to delve into great detail. However, what I loved most was the fact that the music offered me technicality but that it was married together with some wonderful hooks, melodies and big, sing-along choruses, not to mention a dark, emotional and often suffocating atmosphere. ‘Different Worlds’ will always hold a special place in my heart but the likes of ‘The Masterplan’ and ‘Mark Of The Triangle’ still give me goosebumps and enthral me nearly 13 years later. They remain two of my all-time favourite songs.
Looking back now, I realise that one of the reasons why Evergrey remain so special to me is because they were my first stepping stone into the glorious world of progressive metal. The Swedes are not and never have been the most technical band on the planet, but they have managed to incorporate clever time signatures, complex riffs and interesting song structures into more of a melodic metal framework. The result is an immediately enjoyable listen but one that maintains longevity and keeps giving year after year. Some bands I get bored with after a while; not so with Evergrey.
I realise that, at this point, I have yet to mention one of the most important ingredients in the Evergrey sound. Let me remedy this now. I am of course referring to the vocals. It seems utterly unbelievable to think that Tom Englund was never supposed to be the voice of Evergrey because it is his voice that, for me, helps to give the band that ‘X’ factor.
Tom’s delivery is one of those unique and instantly recognisable voices that forces people to listen immediately whether they wanted to or not. The delivery is powerful and relatively aggressive and yet remains soulful and very emotional. It never strays into ‘growly’ territory but there is a demonstrable gruffness around the edges which adds a level of sincerity and honesty to his performances. Put simply, if Tom sings, I listen.
In total, Evergrey have released eight studio albums and there’s not a bad one to be found. Admittedly, I am less of a fan of the stripped-down, more straight-forward approach of ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’ but even here, the music remains powerful, punchy and chock-full of memorable melodies and choruses.
Aside from the magnificent ‘In Search of Truth’, I particularly adore 2003’s ‘Recreation Day’ and ‘The Inner Circle’ released the following year. The former offers that great blend of melody and technicality but with a stronger production than previous efforts, whilst the latter ups the heaviness to match the equally heavy concept story which centres on the murky world of religious cults.
Coming to the band when I did, Evergrey to me, began as the quintet of Englund, Rikard Zander (keyboards), Patrik Carlsson (drums), Henrik Danhage (guitars) and Michael Hakansson (bass). However, over Evergrey’s 18-year history, there have been no less than 16 musicians involved in the core of the band.
The other reason why Evergrey inhabit a special place in my heart is because they are inextricably linked to some of my favourite music-related experiences.
Heading off to Gothenburg to be in the crowd for the DVD-recorded ‘A Night To Remember’ is a particular highlight. Draped in the Union Jack and St George’s Cross flags, a friend of mine and I found ourselves at the very front of the stage for this fabulous live show. The fact that my giant sideburns and random hand-shaking is immortalised on the DVD is the icing on the cake to a fantastic weekend.
Yes, that’s me at 1:37 and the ‘handshake’ is at 2:39!
Meeting the band for the first time at Bloodstock 2004 was also a special moment. The photos from this meeting are proudly displayed in my kitchen, a lasting memory and one that my little daughter apparently finds highly amusing. She can’t talk yet, but I’m assuming she’s thinking ‘look at Daddy with the men with funny hair’.
And then, over the past year or two, I have had the pleasure and the privilege of getting to know the band on a more personal level. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to join the band on tour in the UK for a couple of days, sharing their tour bus, dressing room and restaurant meal-tables.
Based on my own personal experiences, I have to say that the current line-up of Englund, Rikard Zander, Marcus Jidell (guitars), Johan Niemann (bass) and Hannes Van Dahl (drums) is not only one of the nicest groups of people I’ve met, but they are also technically brilliant musicians as any of their blistering live shows will confirm.
So, in short, when you combine great music, interesting lyrics and a bunch of genuinely great guys, you can’t go far wrong really, can you? Personally, I cannot wait for album number nine and, whatever it brings, I’m sure it will only help to further cement my love and admiration for this very special, yet criminally underrated band.