Originally written by Sasha Horn
Evergrey: When they don’t sound like a Foreigner for the jet set, they make like a Nevermore trying to get into your pants, and god bless ’em for the perversion. I noticed these worlds start to fully collide back in 2006 when they released the criminally addictive Monday Morning Apocalypse. They took the kind of left turn there that I’m sure had Evergrey purists with head in hands and tears falling upon leather pants. The introduction then of a new “pop” feel to their songwriting meant me having to learn how to fight the urge to sing aloud, and then me having to learn how to lose. It took time, but it was undiluted, it was honest, and I can’t say that I was ever as excited over any album in Evergrey’s catalog, except maybe for Recreation Day (IMO, their finest hour amidst the other dire affairs tailor made for sonic wankery, AKA pretentious; devoid of any genuine feeling, AKA 2004’s The Inner Circle). So if selling out means learning how to write actual songs, as opposed to giving a synthesizer a hand-job, then call me missionary. If you take Recreation‘s disciplined musicianship and the focused restraint of its songwriting, and then pair that with the maturity and flooding melodicism of Monday Morning, assuming you’ve stuck around long enough to hear what happens next, then you are in the right place.
Points for passion. Singer Tom S. Englund seriously has one of the best voices out there today. He transcends genre tags. Three things I love about Tom: 1. He plays the album out like an epic tale: He’ll go from invigorated, to beaten, to strength regained, to glorious return. 2. He sounds like a less chain-smoked-charred version of Chris Cornell (Soundgarden): His annunciation and attack sound scarily American for someone who is not from there. 3. There’s an impressive bit of Rhythm & Blues inside of this guy’s voicebox (this white boy’s got soul !): It adds a swagger to the rigid chug-chugging of some of these verses, which is a huge part of the Evergrey equation, and is also what I believe they’re going for, so congrats to them. A large portion of their back-catalog is dedicated to the mid-tempo 4/4 verse, guitar strings choked (palm-muted) with occasional sailing off, blanketed with that trademarked vocal. The biggest difference here, as well as on Monday…, is their use of major chords instead of relying on the dank minors, and gives songs like “Soaked”, “Fail”, and “Numb” a new pulse. Not only are the actual notes moving a half-step up from the set ways of years passed, but Tom’s and Henrik’s picking hands are getting lighter and going for the open-chord “strum”, letting the notes ring out. This results in these songs having room to breathe, and dare I say that it makes them feel of “stadium” stature. Accessible, yeah. Compromised, no. Venomous and seductive.
Trading tricks for treats. This has got to be harder to pull off than it sounds. How do you hold back from becoming excessively progressive when your guitarmy is one of the best front lines in the biz?!? Granted, much of what’s being handed out here is ear-candy, bordering on guilty pleasures, but be reassured that Torn is not all about going for the jugular with a scarf instead of a knife. Songs like “Fail” and “Still Walk Alone” are drop-tuned twisted bliss. Put it this way, if you’re in a band that strives to achieve At The Gates-ness, or you just plain hold Jeff Loomis (guitarist; Nevermore) to the heights of idol worship (like I do), then Evergrey just filled these two tracks with riffs that you would pay dearly for. Dearly. On “Still Walk Alone”, fingers make like bombs on the fretboard and drop no fewer than nineteen menacing notes in one measure. No boggling time-signatures. Just an advanced Gothen-thrash styled allegiance to their soil. The perfect juxtapose to the otherwise anthemic event that this is.
As for the overall sound, it’s just as you’d expect: super-pro. Their guitar tones are sick, sick, sick; big razors (again, “Still Walk Alone”) and giant walls (pretty much every chorus on here). The keys are now in the balance, and no longer make songs into circuses, due largely in part to them just not being played as much (thank you). All of the above heavy-petting should lay testament to the care that the vocals were given = mission accomplished. Subtle nuances and all. The rhythm section sounds appropriate in that it lays the foundation. Nothing new. Solid, yes, but I am stricken with the drummer’s syndrome of always wanting to hear more drums! I’m obviously out for blemishes with a magnifying glass at this point. I’ll stop. All in all, Torn is a well laid plan.
For those of you still not used to Evergrey 2.0, you kinda have to earn your way through this, just like you had to with Monday Morning Apocalypse. For some of us it’s a labor of love, for others I suppose it’s just a chore. I’ll put the work in. The payback is proving priceless.