to write a review for an Evergrey album is something of a ritual for me. I mean,
this is EVERGREY, for Pete's sake. This is one of the first bands that I ever
truly loved. Indeed, I am a fan for life. So, after waiting for what seemed like
a decade for the band to release another album after "Glorious Collision", I am
thrilled to be able to review "Hymns for the Broken", especially since Evergrey,
one of my all-time favorite bands, was almost dead a few years ago.
has always been a band of emotion, darkness, and relation to their listeners.
Though dark, there is always hope. Though emotional, they are always profound.
Relating to their listeners, then, is immensely important to them, and they have
certainly done it again.
"Hymns for the
Broken" is an ode to all those fallen, imperfect humans out there that are
tossed to and fro by the waves of insecurity, sorrow, and fear. Yet, we are
never alone, are we? We all experience the pain of not being who we want to be,
but we can be strong knowing that we are not alone. Evergrey had definitely made
an album with a positive arc lyrically.
Evergrey has a
strange fan base. Though labelled as "dark, melodic metal", the band enjoys
support not only from the metal crowd, but also from the progressive community,
mainly due to some of their older work. I've often heard some reviewers pining
for them to return to those more progressive days, and so I find it interesting
that "Hymns for the Broken" is basically right in the middle of the two genres.
It's far more progressive than their last few albums, especially on the tracks
"Black Undertow", "The Grand Collapse", and "The Aftermath", but the focus on
melody and metal is still there, too. This is really smart, and the results are
Of note here
is the fact that the core group of Tom Englund on vocals/guitars, Rikard Zander
on keys, and Johan Nieman on bass have been rejoined by Evergrey-alumni Henrik
Danhage on guitars and Jonas Ekdahl on drums. What this means, then, is that the
band has regained some of their older sound, especially with Henrik's signature
solos and Jonas' strangely technical-but-not style of playing drums. Ultimately,
though, the band sounds amazing. They've regained a fervour that I didn't think
possible again, and they've tried some new things, even though the foundation of
this album is certainly the Evergrey I love so well. Indeed, there are plenty of
Evergrey-isms, especially in Tom's vocal melodies, but there are definitely some
new ideas at play. Speaking of Tom, there's a reason he's one of my favorite
vocalists. He really outdoes himself here with immense range, even the amazing
lows of "Black Undertow". His signature emotional style is intact, and he simply
sounds great. I'm seriously impressed.
Being a big
keyboard fan and also being a fan of Rikard's atmospheric style, I quickly
noticed that "Hymns for the Broken" has a great deal more keys on it. Either
that, or the mix is just way better. The mix is certainly way more professional
and crisper than their last couple albums, but I think that Rickard has really
gone out on a limb here with wild keys on such tracks as "Barricades" and "A New
Dawn", and he is simply more present from beginning to end.
Yet, the dual
guitars sound as great as ever. Tom and Henrik lay down some incredibly heavy
riffs on a few tracks, such as "A New Age", "Black Undertow", and especially the
middle of "The Fire". All the riffs are really, really clean, and Jonas'
drumming around them is sensational. Johan's bass, too, is utilized in new,
atmospheric ways, and I also noticed an electronic element showing itself now
and then. Overall, the Evergrey sound is here for sure, but there are some new
variations that keep it completely fresh.
So, what more
can be said about this album? It's Evergrey at their best, really. Although I
still like "The Inner Circle" better (and also "Recreation Day"), I think "Hymns
for the Broken" could be in the top three best they've made. It certainly does
remind me of "The Inner Circle" at points with some of the choirs bits, the
barren atmospheres, and the heavy guitars fronting a crystal clear background of
keys. Yet, it's very much a different album than anything they've done.
Honestly, I only have one complaint: no Carina on the album. I always look
forward to hearing Tom and Carina sing together, but it wasn't to be here, and
I'm sure there's a good reason.
"Hymns for the Broken" has something for Evergrey fans of every stripe. Whether
it's the melodic metal of "King of Errors", the addictive nature of "A New Dawn"
(second best track), the dark yet hopeful "Black Undertow", the emotional ballad
"Missing You", the incredible instrumentals of "The Grand Collapse" (my favorite),
or the funky sound of "The Aftermath", Evergrey hasn't missed a beat or made a
bad track on this album. I'm sure glad they are back. This is already one of my
most played albums of the year, and I don't see that changing any time soon.