Power of Metal.dk Review

Hymns for the Broken
Style: Dark, Melodic Metal
Release date: 26 September, 2014
Playing time: 60:49

Preparing 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.

Evergrey 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 spectacular.

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.

Overall, then, "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.

01. The Awakening
02. King of Errors
03. A New Dawn
04. Wake a Change
05. Archaic Rage
06. Barricades
07. Black Undertow
08. The Fire
09. Hymns for the Broken
10. Missing You
11. A Grand Collapse
12. The Aftermath
Label: AFM Records
Distribution: Target (Denmark)
Artwork rating: 80/100
Reviewed by: Jason Spencer
Date: 21 September, 2014
Website: www.evergrey.net