2014’s “Hymns For The Broken” was a very important release for Evergrey. They nearly called it quits, but managed to find the inspiration and desire to carry on…and then delivered what was probably their best and most complete album to date. It really was an excellent album, but having upped the ante so much it ironically makes “The Storm Within” even more important. Now the band have re-discovered what truly works for them and with a renewed passion for their music, could they maintain it? Come on, this is Evergrey – of course they could!
It’s like the shackles came off somehow, self-imposed barriers were lifted on “Hymns…” and it has freed the band (Mr. Englund in particular), to really explore all influences with the utter self belief that whatever they do, if they do it with conviction and in their own inimitable, undeniable sound, it will still be Evergrey. And it is. For instance, there are choruses on this album that you are convinced are commercial and massively melodic, but when delivered by Tom Englund with that typically heavier-than-heavy Evergrey backing they are…just SO utterly Evergrey!
Others try, some come close, but this brand of dark progressive powerful heavy metal is Evergrey’s. They invented it, they honed it and now, having established it, they have the confidence to push it further, to explore it’s boundaries, knowing that their many fans – myself included – will be in awe once again that they have managed to take yet another step, to keep it fresh and yet still cement what they have already built. To review an Evergrey release for me feels like I’m kind of spoiling it if I go into too much detail, such are the twists and surprises that wait around every musical turn so… tell you what, let’s just start with the opening track. It has a somber, simple piano intro…which suddenly seems to vanish without trace under a swathe of classic Evergrey heaviness – but it hasn’t! Just listen…yes, there it is, still integral to the song, being used along with the bass line. Right – and that’s the first 30 seconds spoiled for you, so I’m not detailing any more!
There’s some things I feel I can share – like the fact that the concept for this album is actually in many ways a love story…but being Evergrey it’s got a twist and is fair brimming with tragedy and loss. Another snippet is that there’s a rather fabulous guest vocal from none other than ex-After Forever, current Revamp/Nightwish powerhouse Floor Jansen, elevating the already excellent ‘In Orbit’ into…well…orbit! On the female vocal front I must mention the “ballad” (it seems such a weak term for Evergrey!) ‘The Paradox Of The Flame’ that has a wonderful vocal contribution once more from Carina (the Missus) Englund within a truly stunning, heartfelt monster of a track that tips the emotion over the edge with a magnificent violin solo to close out the track.
And at this point I realize that I haven’t even mentioned the rest of the band. That’s because they are as exemplary as always, a group of ultra-talented, faultless, energetic, committed musicians that you almost take for granted… they are everything you could hope for in the band. And the production is of course HUGE. This is another album that fans of the band will love and anyone wishing to discover the band for the first time can’t go wrong at all with this one. Evergrey have only gone and done it again – well done chaps, rather glad you persevered eh?
(9/10 Andy Barker)