Evergrey - Hymns for the Broken (AFM Records)

Classy, high grade metal from Tom Englund's band of misanthropes.
Release Date: 
26 Sep 2014 (All day)

Tom Englund and company are back, and guess what? They ain’t best pleased. Whaddya mean you isn’t surprised? I know, I know, there’s no one quite as good at the ol’ twisted ANGST as mistah Englund, and on Hymns for the Broken he’s at his absolute woe-is-me-best.

Opening track King of Errors is probably the only track you need to hear if you ain’t that enamoured of Evergrey’s earlier work, as it basically reprazents everything these metal misanthropes stand for in five and a bit easily digestible minutes; impassioned vocalisin’, heavy riffage and an ANTHEMIC chorus fair set to have even the most reluctant fist punching the air, it might well be the quintessential latterday Evergrey track. And even if it ain’t it’s a mighty fine way to open up a record.

A New Dawn is a bit more modern, with chunky metalcore riffing a plenty and electronic blips and belches scattered all over the song’s opening half. But this is Evergrey we’re talkin’ about, and the band reverts to type with a stately, refined chorus that goes right back to the CLASSIC metal source for inspiration. 

Wake a Change slows things down and goes for the heart of your music memory banks with a naggingly familiar chorus refrain. Englund pulls out one of his best performances here, but that big key change halfway through is all a bit EUROVISION if ya’s askin’ my opinion… 

Much better is Archaic Rage,  an epic, aching power ballad built on a spare piano figure and some MASSIVE powerchords courtesy of Englund and returning axe partner Henrik Denhage. As the song builds through six and a half minutes the drama and tension is built up superbly, blossoming first in a short instrumental passage before finally climaxing amidst some worrying spoken word mullarky placed just low enough in the mix to be unsettling. Or maybe I just wasn’t concentrating properly. Whatever it’s a nice alternative twist to the orgy of soloing that usually end songs like …Rage – I like it!

Barricades is more straightforward Evergrey, heavy on the keyboard washes that underpin the riffage (that once again is quite ‘modern’ sounding – Denhage’s influence on the sound perhaps?); There’s a certain air of Queensrÿche hanging around this track, from the days when Geoff Tate wasn’t mad, a sort of epic otherness that really INFILTRATES the music in a strange way. Once again this slight quirkiness gives the song life when it might have died a death as being too ‘ordinary’ – but it’s saved by this metal x-factor from mundanity, Have I explained that properly? No? best have a listen yourself then!

Next track Black Undertow is as heavy sonically (and lyrically) as its title suggests, the mid pace lumber of the track serving as a fitting backdrop to one of Englund’s most desperate-sounding vocals of the album. I really don’t think there’s anyone doing the rounds in modern metal who articulates MISERY quite as well as Englund, who’s dignified, soulful howl is the crowning glory on every track here. He’s one of today’s best vocal stylists, of that much I’m sure.

The pace ups a bit with the Euro metal blast of The Fire, the song powered by a bristling performance from drummer Jonas Ekdahl;  A straightforward slab of unassuming POWER metal, it’s probably the most mundane thing on Hymn… though not a bad track in itself. 

The title track is heralded by a superb opening fanfare of harmony guitars and comes equipped with the second best chorus on the album after King of Errors. This is Evergrey at their best; EPIC, pompous, bombastic, dramatic – the song is all these things and more and it has no trouble at all in getting the hairs on the back of the neck to stand to respectful attention as it goes about it’s business in masterful, world-dominating fashion. 

Whilst there’s been plenty of balladic material thus far on Hymns… the band goes the whole hog on the BEAUTIFUL Missing You; Though sadly not a cover of the classic John Waite track of the same name, it’s still pretty gorgeous; A simple, yet deliciously emotive piano backing from Rikard Zander paves the way for yet another aching, underplayed vocal from the master Englund. Truly spine tingling, it just shows that, shorn of all the bells and whistles, here is a band confident enough in its ability to tell stories to do just that. And how.

But don’t fear, metalheads; The Grand Collapse is crushingly heavy, almost (wait for it…) collapsing under the weight of it’s own RIFFERAMA; However what it gains in wattage is lost in the interest department, with the song dragging a little towards the end of it’s nearly-eight minute duration. Again, though, this is a minor complaint in the scheme of things. However, Hymns for the Broken is rounded out by another epic, The Aftermath,  which does kinda make the album tail off a little towards it’s end, fading away rather than burning out. Again, The Aftermath is a superb song, TITANIC even, but it’s slow, sparsely arranged and sombre. This of course is entirely consistent with what’s gone before, but my excitement-loving ears would have liked a slightly more bombastic send off. 

All that said, Hymns for the Broken is a truly MASTERFUL record, choc full on emotion, rammed to the gunwhales with soul, oozing with class and dripping with conviction. And I gotta say I love it!