April 2021 Feature Release – The Infinite Edition
So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.
This month’s feature release for The Infinite has been nominated by saxy. It's the brand new "Escape Of The Phoenix" album from Swedish progressive metallers Evergrey.
I did my review, here's its summary:
It was around 2014, at the time when Hymns for the Broken came out, that I first started listening to Evergrey. What sets them from other bands apart is the unique progressive power metal sound with slight doom elements, filled with melody and drama. It might not be for everybody, but I kinda selectively like some songs and albums, some of which have more emotion than their prog-power metal roots. From beginning to end, most of the songs show the band picking up the dark aggression and heavy energy from The Atlantic, including the down-tuned guitar. There might be slower songs to come in better pace than the half-boring half-incredible The Storm Within, but not as perfect as The Atlantic. The balance between heavy songs and ballads works so well, though a couple ballads in the middle mark a niche weak side of the album. Is there any other band that can greatly balance powerful songs and ballads? Probably not. Escape of the Phoenix might not be perfect but it made a great impact for metal this year!
Escape of the Phoenix was actually an album I reviewed early on in the year, since I did the same for The Atlantic two years ago.
Evergrey have definitely found the niche that they want to play at this point in their career, and while it's not as particularly exciting as their older, more progressive material, it's far from bad. There are a few good songs in here, and a few forgettable ones. I think the lack of a cohesive theme compared to The Atlantic is what made me much less enthusiastic about it and even though I listened to this one quite a bit in order to write a review, I don't feel the need to go back to it apart from occasionally turning on "Leaden Saints" or "Eternal Nocturnal".
The best thing this album did though? It gave me a James LaBrie feature that didn't make me wince in agony since modern Dream Theater is a bit of a tough sell for me personally. I count that as a win.
So this one has really surprised me in a very positive way. With all of the talk about “progressive power metal” that seems to float around Evergrey, I was definitely expecting something a little different to what I got as there’s absolutely no power metal to be found here. “Escape Of The Phoenix” isn’t particularly technical for a progressive metal record either but the aesthetics, attention to detail & production values certainly tie it to the subgenre. What you get here is chunky (& at times djenty) riffage that reminds me of some of the heavier Dream Theater material while the outstanding melodic vocals of Tom S. Englund place Evergrey alongside contemporaries like Leprous & Katatonia. I absolutely love this guy’s tone & when he hits on a great hook I’m immediately transported to melodic metal heaven. The guitar solos of are also outstanding as they offer the perfect balance of melody & technical proficiency. You’re never left feeling that they’re overly showy as they seem to be equally influenced by Dream Theater’s John Petrucci & Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour & are beautifully crafted to accentuate & complement the song-writing.
“Escape Of The Phoenix” gets off to an amazing start with the opening two cuts competing with the absolute elite of the progressive metal subgenre & by half way through the album I was left feeling that I may be being treated to a genuine underground classic. Unfortunately a couple of tracks in the second half of the album pull the overall quality back a bit & I’m left falling just short of the higher ratings. In truth, it really does come down to one disappointing track as the obviously more commercially focused tambourine-driven chorus of “Eternal Nocturnal” sees it falling well short of the heights of the rest of the album. The closer “Run” is also a little weaker than the rest of the material but is still pretty enjoyable. When it comes down to it though, that chorus of “Eternal Nocturnal” has cost Evergrey a 4.5 star ratings from me here because there are easily enough highlights to warrant it & there's easily enough runtime to have cut that track altogether. Still… this is a very high quality progressive metal record that should appeal to anyone interested in the subgenre.
For fans of Dream Theater, Leprous & Katatonia.
Ben, you should definitely check this one out.
Very surprising for sure Daniel, you'll be happy to know Evergrey have been doing the same sort of thing since 2014's Hymns for the Broken, they're an extremely consistent band if nothing else. So you've got a lot more material to go through at the risk of it getting too samey. I'm torn on whether you'll like The Atlantic more than this one or not, you might find it a bit too cheesy since it has a bit more electronic melody elements to it. I like the riffs and choruses of that one more than this one at the end of the day though.