Another album just a year after “Escape Of The Phoenix”? Isn’t this a very short time? Will it be at least as good? These and many other things were on my mind when the Swedish masters announced that they would release the thirteenth album in their history (earlier in the year they released their second live CD/DVD “Live: Before The Aftermath”). And all this disappeared at once when the first single came out, since Evergrey hardly disappoints.
The prog/power metallers are known (thankfully) to take different approaches in each of their releases. Without altering their characteristic sound, each time they focus on something else and build on it. And here, the melody and the melancholy seem more intense than usual. Also, they have left their prog side quite a bit and focused on making compositions that are relatively more direct, “easier” to the listener’s ear, but this does not mean that they lack in technical brilliance or that they fall into the trap of putting out generic songs without interest. On the contrary.
The album is so good that after many times I listened to it, I can say that is probably the best one they released after the amazing “Hymns For The Broken” of 2014. Yes, it has so many wonderful things here for the band’s fan. The catchy “Save Us” with the awesome refrain, the choir of “Midwinter Calls”, the incredible melody of “Call Out The Dark” which is one of the best they have ever written, the heartbreaking guitar in “The Orphean Testament”, Englund’s amazing performance in “Heartless”, the sweet closing with “Wildfires” and so much more. And even if I didn’t like at all the useless electronic effect of some vocals in “Ominous”, it has little importance in such an overall great result.
I have written this before, but once more does not hurt. The Evergrey is a terribly underrated band. They have released fantastic works, they have a sound that is purely their own that does not copy anyone and one of the most expressive and special voices out there. I do not know if “A Heartless Portrait: The Orphean Testament”, which is their first with Napalm, will give them the position they deserve in the metal scene, but I wish it will. On my personal list it is the best release of the year so far.