When the SPV label signed Sweden’s Evergrey earlier this year, part of the deal was that they also got the band’s entire back catalogue. On the plus side Evergrey, since their formation in 1998, had built an excellent reputation in the field of progressive metal. On the downside Evergrey’s last album, Monday Morning Apocalypse, saw a change of direction that seemed to misfire. A new label, a new start, and a new album, Torn, will hopefully see the band move back on track once again.
The mixed bag of reviews following Monday Morning Apocalypse may have convinced the band to abandon its flirtation with a more ‘mainstream’ style. As a result Torn sees them returning to what they do best. Prior to Torn Gothenburg's Evergrey had already released six studio albums and one live set. All of them took the band into the top twenty album chart in Sweden. Torn should achieve the same level of sales particularly owing to the near u-turn in direction.
Evergrey are renowned for their progressive metal, dark lyrics, and conceptual themes. For example religious cults got the Evergrey treatment on 2004’s The Inner Circle. Alien abduction was the theme of 2001’s In Search Of Truth. Lead singer Tom Englund describes the basis for Torn as ‘a modern day mix of In Search Of Truth and Recreation Day’.
With Torn Evergrey have come up with an album that is as near to safety as progressive metal can get. But in doing so they have gone some way to re-establishing their reputation within that world with some characteristically impressive songwriting.
“Broken Wings” moves us swiftly into the album with a sense of purpose and intent. Torn’s highlights include the relatively mellow and impressive “When Kingdoms Fall” and the title track “Torn”. Meanwhile the real standout has to be the powerful drama of “Still Walk Alone” which comes complete with dramatic chorus and some driving metal for good measure. “In Confidence”, “Numb”, “Nothing Is Erased”, and “Fail” are all Evergrey getting back to familiar ground. The latter has a superb vocal performance by Tom Englund.
The addition of ex-Stratovarius bassist Jari Kainulainen and the return to their classic style of old are two important elements. The fact that the band produced the album themselves is also somewhat significant and sees them keeping an eye on their own legacy.
It is powerful, soaring, swooping, and at times melodic. There is a good mix of light and dark, the latter often basking in huge swathes of atmosphere. Tom Englund’s vocals draw every possible emotion from the lyrics and stamps his authority on proceedings with an all round powerful performance.
Evergrey fans who struggled to accept the trimmed down, mainstream elements of the three minute tracks contained on Monday Morning Apocolypse will like Torn. Sure it is not quite up there with their best but it is most definitely a step back towards their strengths.
The release of Torn will, I’m sure, signal a series of re-releases of Evergrey’s earlier albums as SPV have the entire back catalogue. So there is a lot to look forward to for fans of good progressive metal. Torn is a solid addition to that legacy. It should also get those who were somewhat uncertain of the last album back with the band. On the evidence of this Evergrey still have something to offer.