The wait had been interminable. As an early Christmas present from my incredible girlfriend, the Miss Of Much Metal, I was presented with tickets to the first Evergrey gig in some time, to be hosted in the southern Swedish town of Malmö. Finally however, the 28th February arrived and began with a trip to the airport. Aside from a plethora of people wearing face masks to make themselves feel safe against the apparent onslaught of Covid 19, this part of the journey was smooth and unremarkable.
After touchdown in Denmark and walking what felt like five miles through Copenhagen Airport, we eventually emerged into the daylight and jumped into a taxi. With no knowledge whatsoever of the exchange rate, we were blissfully unaware that the short trip across the border was going to cost us more than around six times the expense of the train. But hey, we got to ride over the Copenhagen Bridge which was a pretty impressive experience. Just perhaps not worth £150. Ouch!
To add insult to injury, the taxi driver was new and the journey included a couple of unnecessary detours, including one that meant we returned to the airport soon after leaving. But, being in high spirits, we didn’t care about the rather random and haphazard arrival to our hotel and were soon checked in and freshened up, ready for the evening ahead.
Having kept in touch during the day, we headed down to the hotel lobby to meet my Norwegian friends, Lene and Kim, who had travelled from Stavanger in Norway for tonight’s show. After the warm greeting and introductions to Gemma, the Miss of Much Metal, we headed out into the brisk Malmö evening in search of food and high class entertainment.
The Italian restaurant had a nice atmosphere but average food, so we all hoped the rest of the evening might rise above ‘average’.
And it did, but none of us were expecting it to reach the heights that it did. Starting with the venue, the Kulturbolaget was just lovely; two bars, friendly staff and a relaxed atmosphere meant that we were in the ideal setting for a night of great music. A quick trip to the merch stand where I bought just about everything on sale and, with drinks in hand, soon we were ready for the first band of the night. And it wasn’t just any old tin pot local band either.
When I found out that Sorcerer were going to be the support for Evergrey at this gig, I nearly fainted with joy. The Swede’s latest album, ‘Crowning Of The Fire King’ was easily one of my very favourite albums of 2018 so to have the chance to hear the music in a live setting was too good to be true. And they did not let me or the audience down one bit.
Blessed with a really great sound from the very beginning, the quintet impressed me from start to finish. Kicking off with one of their most powerful tracks from their latest, incredible record, ‘Crowning Of The Fire King’, they grabbed my attention immediately. They also captured the imagination of the Miss Of Much Metal, who has since added the band to her running playlist as she trains for the upcoming London Marathon.
In the live setting, vocalist Anders Engberg is brilliant, even better for my money than he is on record. His presence is surprisingly imposing but more importantly, he nails every note and sings with a passion and enthusiasm that seems to drive the rest of the band onwards. Not that the other four musicians needed a second invitation, with each of them combining to bring the epic, melodic doom of Sorcerer to life. In particular, credit has to go to the guitarists Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren who traded crushing riffs and effervescent solos to great effect, albeit supported expertly by a muscular rhythm section, courtesy of drummer Richard Evansand and bassist Justin Biggs.
And, whilst I am only familiar with their latest record, the earlier material such as ‘The Dark Tower Of The Sorcerer’ and ‘Exorcise The Demon’ really impressed me, ensuring that I will most certainly be checking out the back catalogue when time in my hectic life allows. I said before the show that I had three songs that I wanted to hear during the night, one in particular from Sorcerer. And they didn’t fail, as the utterly glorious ‘Crowning Of The Fire King’ began to a great roar from me and several others. My drink was taken from me under instruction to enjoy myself and I did just that, throwing my head back and signing along with the infectious, anthemic chorus that rightfully became one of the songs of the year when it was released.
Sorcerer were even better than I had dared to hope and had it not been for the fact that Evergrey were up next, I’d have been extremely disappointed at the all-too-soon arrival of their departure.
A couple of drinks later and the blinking torch from on-stage signalled what I fervently hoped would be another magical performance from my all-time favourite band. Evergrey have never delivered a sub-par show that I have witnessed, so I had incredibly high expectations for this show too. Admittedly I had a few nerves as this would be the first live performance from the Swedes in some time, but I always have faith where Evergrey are concerned.
The faith was well-placed and the nerves, as it turned out, were unnecessary as my boys came onto the stage like the legends that they are as the familiar sonar sounds emanated from the speakers. Naturally, first up was the gargantuan ‘A Silent Arc’, the opening track from their latest masterpiece ‘The Atlantic’. Earlier in the evening, I had been treated to a copy of the limited edition Mediabook version of the album and, having clutched hold of it for dear life from most of the evening, it was taken from me along with my drink under more stern instructions to ‘enjoy yourself’. I don’t argue with the Miss Of Much Metal, so enjoy myself, I duly did.
If I’m honest, the sound initially was a little muddy and significantly louder than the support but it improved as the song progressed and by the time ‘Weightless’ and then ‘Distance’, the opener from ‘The Storm Within’ were unleashed, the clarity was much improved. It meant that the crushing riffs from Englund and Danhage, the monstrous bass from Niemann, the pounding drums of Ekdahl, the rich keys from Zander and Englund’s magnificent vocals could all be heard to absolutely devastating effect.
The energy from the stage was impressive too, as if Evergrey were comprised of five animals, tired of being caged and enjoying the freedom of the stage together again. Ekdahl was frequently up off his stool and the six-string duo were on the move whenever possible, allowing each other a place in the spotlight as they traded riffs and solos with utter relish.
For the most part, naturally, Tom addressed the eager, yet respectful and friendly crowd in his native tongue. But then, as the strains of ‘Leave It Behind Us’ disappeared, Englund reverted to English and the stuff of dreams happened. ‘All the way from England, this song is for Matt’, Tom declared, or words to that effect. To be honest, I was stunned and that exact moment remains a bit of a blur. The ensuing rendition of ‘Mark Of The Triangle’ was not though, as I sang, air guitared and generally lost my head throughout my favourite song ever written. This was the first time I’d ever had a song dedicated to me, and the whole experience just blew me away.
Mind you, with ‘The Masterplan’ immediately following, and then the anthemic ‘Black Undertow’, my demeanour didn’t calm down particularly quickly. Alongside ‘Mark Of The Triangle’, the other absolute ‘must hear’ of the evening was ‘All I Have’, a song that has been my anthem of the last twelve months or so. And it duly arrived, to my utter delight, but not to the delight of my already-wrecked vocal cords. That didn’t matter a jot at all though, as I sang my heart out regardless, feeling almost overcome with emotion of the most positive kind. Here I was, in Sweden, with my dear friends, my incredible girlfriend and my favourite band , playing the best song released in 2019. I was elated and in heaven, metaphorically-speaking of course.
The set was impressively lengthy, so we still had time for ‘The Grand Collapse’ as well as a four-song encore that included the magnificent ‘Recreation Day’ and the absolute behemoth that’s ‘King Of Errors’, which fittingly ended the show in imposing style. I will never tire of that beast of a final note.
Sweaty, breathless and overcome with happiness, I clapped and cheered the conquering heroes off the stage and slowly retreated to one of the two bars, happy to discover that it remained open. There was no immediate ushering out of the venue by surly, oppressive security and as such, we were able to grab another drink and wait to see if the band might make an appearance. The UK take note, this is how you do gigs.
To round off a perfect evening, the guys did emerge from backstage – firstly Johan, then Rikard, Jonas and Henrik. Met with warm hugs and, in Rikard’s case ‘Come On You Spurs!’, the greetings were so very warm and genuine from them all. They all chatted, traded stories, asked how I was with genuine sincerity and signed my newly-acquired Mediabook before Tom eventually materialised. Another hug came my way along with some gentle and good-natured football banter, before a few photos were taken and we eventually and reluctantly decided that we ought to let the guys load up and get on the road to Stockholm for the following day’s show.
Due to the unique nature of our host town, we and our Norwegian friends were unable to locate another venue in which to enjoy one last nightcap. So it was, in the freezing and deserted high street at around 1am that we warmly bid our friends goodnight and safe travels, until the next time we would meet for a musical adventure. With the following day dedicated to a relaxing and a smooth, uneventful return journey back to the UK, the last word has to go to Evergrey and Sorcerer, who together gave me an unforgettable night, full of outstanding musicianship and a fair bit of magic. And to the beautiful human being that made it all possible for me, the Miss Of Much Metal – thank you, Gemma, from the bottom of my heart for sharing my passion with me.
Sorcerer setlist: Sirens, Lake Of The Lost Souls, The Dark Tower Of The Sorcerer, Ship Of Doom, Exorcise The Demon, The Crowning Of The Fire King, The Sorcerer
Evergrey setlist: A Silent Arc, Weightless, Distance, Passing Through, The Fire, Leave It Behind Us, Mark Of The Triangle, The Masterplan, Black Undertow, I’m Sorry, My Allied Ocean, All I Have, The Grand Collapse. Encore: When The Walls Go Down, Recreation Day, A Touch Of Blessing, King Of Errors