Sweden has been on fire (figuratively speaking) for the last year or so, with killer releases from DYNAZTY and KATATONIA last spring, to PARALYDIUM in the summer, to AMARANTHE, DRACONIAN, ELEINE, and DARK TRANQUILLITY in the autumn, to MAJESTICA and SOILWORK in December all the way to SOEN and LAKE OF TEARS earlier this year. Time to add another masterpiece to the Swedish pile of greatness as EVERGREY’s new album, “Escape of the Phoenix,” is top-notch progressive melodic metal delight from its glorious start to its epic finish. The band’s twelfth studio effort is out on February 26, 2021, via AFM Records.
The band has been going through a revival of sorts since 2014’s “Hymns for the Broken” and “Escape of the Phoenix” sees a re-energized EVERGREY spreading their wings, ready to take flight and soar. I honestly thought the band couldn’t possibly get any better than their latest couple of releases (especially 2019’s stunning “The Atlantic”), yet here we are with this absolutely superb piece of art on our hands. If the first single released, “Forever Outsider,” is more in line with their consecrated sound, the following singles, “Where August Mourn” and especially “Eternal Nocturnal,” paint a more vivid picture of the band’s intent to reach new heights. Furthermore, EVERGREY is in fantastic shape on this album, reigning supreme as the best there is in the niche of progressive melodic metal.
Charismatic vocalist and lyricist Tom Englund has dug even deeper into his soul, as the range of emotions coming from him are as colorful as a rainbow, with many different shades and moods flowing through the music. Still, the general outtake is that this is quite an optimistic and uplifting album about accepting situations and people as they are. On top of this, the instrumental section is less restrained, as the guitars are wailing at will, the drums are big and loud, the bass is roaring like crazy, and the keyboards are adding a layer of lush melodies, thus making “Escape of the Phoenix” a very dynamic and engaging sonic experience with a great sense of pace and flow to it. Tom Englund and Henrik Danhage’s solos on this album are magnificent, to say the least, and fit the mood of the songs perfectly while the riffs and lead pieces are meaty and robust. Such cuts as “A Dandelion Cipher,” “Eternal Nocturnal,” “Leaden Saints,” or “Run” are not just some of the heaviest tracks on the album but also its high points, showcasing once again EVERGREY’s knack for balancing aggression and beauty while still pulling at one’s heartstrings. And speaking of the heart, “Stories” and “You from You” are some of the most beautiful power ballads to come from EVERGREY, despite their dark and gloomy lyrical undertones… or maybe because of that, as the band has never shied away from such introspective topics.
Elsewhere on the album, guest singer James LaBrie (DREAM THEATER) is the voice of reason and clarity, comforting a lost and troubled Tom Englund while imparting some words of wisdom on the ways of the world during the exceptional duet, “The Beholder.” Rikard Zander’s keys add texture and depth to the track, while the bass and drums enhance this feeling of lost hope that permeates through the lyrics. Semi-ballad “In the Absence of Sun” benefits from a melodic piano hook, soulful vocals, and an increase in intensity that climaxes in a masterfully delivered pair of solos, the first from Tom Englund and the second from Henrik Danhage. The title track is another bombastic and epic cut, adorned with gritty guitars, solid drumming, wicked bass lines, powerful vocals, and melodic keys that pierce through the layers of aggression. It is fair to say that Tom Englund took his vocal delivery to a whole new level on this album, as I don’t think I have ever heard such a nuanced approach to his vocals while still being as emotional and soulful as ever. Actually, the whole band’s playing and songwriting are tighter than ever before; the band is at the top of their game.
The majestic phoenix has indeed escaped and there is no putting it back in the cage, as EVERGREY is set to unleash an emotional and heavy, yet melodious selection of songs of the highest caliber possible. The band has injected a healthy dose of energy and intensity into their brand of melancholic Swedish music, which in turn has broadened their sound and given much more weight and richness to their songs. A worthy addition to an already impressive back catalog, mighty “Escape of the Phoenix” displays all the best qualities that have made EVERGREY such a beloved household name in the metal scene. Definitely a strong contender for Album of the Year and/or any other type of end-of-the-year lists.
Written by Andrea Crow
- Forever Outsider
- Where August Mourn
- A Dandelion Cipher
- The Beholder (ft. James LaBrie)
- In The Absence Of Sun
- Eternal Nocturnal
- Escape Of The Phoenix
- You From You
- Leaden Saints
Tom Englund – vocals, guitar
Henrik Danhage – guitars
Rikard Zander – keyboards
Johan Niemann – bass
Jonas Ekdahl – drums
GALLERY: 22.05.2022 Gwendydd, Marianas Rest, Ensiferum, & Dark Tranquillity @ Vanha Ylioppilastalo, Helsinki
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