Approaching a review for a new Evergrey album is something of a sacred task for me. This is the band that really introduced me to progressive metal. This is the band that was one of the first to introduce me to such a depth of emotion in music. This is still the band that I find myself choosing when I want to hear something heavy and deep. Evergrey will always be one of my favorite bands, and, even if this album was crap, that wouldn’t change their status in my eyes or ears. The good news, though, is that “The Storm Within” is a fantastic album for a host of reasons.
You may have deduced that, yes, I am a fanboy. Obviously, I’m going to be a little biased, though I can definitely admit the flaws in a few of Evergrey’s albums. One of the primary marketing strategies this time around has been to present “The Storm Within” as the 20th anniversary album of the band, even claiming that it is their best album ever. I’m not sure about that, only time will tell since many of their albums have a nostalgic quality to them for me. However, I can definitely confirm that this album is a wonderful celebration of who they are and where they’ve been. Indeed, much of the album plays like a trip through the majority of their albums, found in little details like the odd intro that sounds like “In Search of Truth” here or the chorus that is reminiscent of “Monday Morning Apocalypse” there. There definitely seems to be a bit from each album in this new offering.
When Evergrey came surging back with “Hymns for the Broken”, the classic line-up also returned, and that is the case here, too. The band consists again of Tom Englund on vocals and guitar, Henrik Danhage on guitar, Rikard Zander on keyboard, Jonas Ekdahl on drums, and Johan Niemann on bass. Additionally, Floor Jansen makes an appearance on two tracks, and Carina Englund (Tom’s wife) appears on one track. Honestly, I was a little bummed when “Hymns” had no substantial Carina on it, as one of my favorite aspects of Evergrey has always been the relationship and chemistry between Carina and Tom, and so it’s awesome to hear her on this album.
What has changed? Like I said before, this album is like a tour de force of the band’s catalog. What that means is that “The Storm Within” is not only the most progressive album from the band since probably “The Inner Circle”, but it is also their most accessible and catchiest album, too. What I mean is that the album is full of sublime time signature changes and awesome progressions in melody, not to mention great instrumentals, but it also has some of the catchiest and possibly most repetitive choruses they’ve ever produced. When I say “repetitive”, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all, as the composition is so tight and surges forward so incessantly that the repetition becomes a good thing, like a touchstone in a river of emotions and hefty riffs. The choruses to “Passing Through” and “Someday” are perfect examples here. The former rips forward on and on, and the chorus really gives you something to grasp in the beautiful storm.
Speaking of riffs, this album is chock full of incredible riffs, like any Evergrey album. Some riffs feel almost like they are being played backwards, which is always a cool feeling, but the most noticeable characteristic of the riff composition in this album is their placement. The way they hit right on the perfect vocal note or the way they come and go through the songs: All of it makes for a very groovy album that also feels crushing, in the good way. Songs like “Astray” and “Distance” display these characteristics brilliantly. The latter always gets me in the very middle when the dark riff gets extended on and on with a surreal atmosphere that gets stronger and stronger. Everygrey definitely knows how to grab hold of me.
As far as performances go, the band is playing at the top of their game. Tom and Henrik’s guitars are heavy and dark with great solos, while Rikard’s keys are somehow more present and sublime than ever. Johan and Jonas do really well with the rhythm section, especially Jonas with some very complicated beats and fills. Tom’s vocals are literally chilling at times, especially on the slower track “The Impossible”. He’s always been one of my favorite vocalists, and he just seems to be getting better and more soulful with each album.
The general structure of the album is also pretty interesting. The first half of the album is literally one of the best “first halves” I’ve ever heard, and it blows by in a blur of riffs and emotion. The second half slows down to feature duets with Floor Jansen and Carina Englund. It definitely reminds me of “Glorious Collision” in the melodies and vocals. The album ends off on more of a softer note as opposed to the gigantic “The Grand Collapse” on the previous album. I think this has to do with the overall theme behind the lyrics; this idea of a search for identity when you feel empty. Obviously, the storm is going to rage and then taper off as the calm approaches. The album makes sense, then. I do have to say that the lyrics have affected me greatly, more than any of their albums since “MMA”. I think that is why Evergrey is one of my favorites, as their music usually reaches my heart and head simultaneously, always seeming to touch on issues I’m experiencing at that particular time. This album is no different.
“The Storm Within” may very well be Evergrey’s best album. Time will tell. It is a wonderful combination of everything from their progressive roots to their catchier days to the dark melodic metal that they have embraced more recently. Even more, the band’s newfound cinematic abilities enhance all of this. It’s the complete Evergrey package in more ways than one, and it’s a welcome addition to an already stellar discography. My favorite tracks include “Distance, “Passing Through”, “The Impossible”, and “The Paradox of Flame”, but my absolute favorite is the progressive brilliance of “Astray”. Regardless, every song on this album will make Evergrey fans proud to be fans of this long standing group. Preorder your hearts out! Me? I’m getting a vinyl copy.