I suspect (in fact I know) I’m in the minority, but the last three albums that Evergrey have produced, 2014’s Hymns For The Broken, The Storm Within (2016) and their universally-acclaimed The Atlantic from 2019, have seen the band slowly, almost imperceptibly, withering creatively, each album successively more trapped in the prog metal niche that this at-times explosive band has carved so painstakingly for itself over the course of eleven albums and twenty-odd years.
Maybe it was the contempt of familiarity, I don’t know, but the things that used to spark my love for this band seemed to be failing to get the juices flowing. Which is what makes Escape Of The Phoenix such a surprising – and incredibly welcome – success.
In simple terms, to these ears, it’s Evergrey’s best album since 2008’s Torn, choc full of those trademark aching Tom S. Englund melodies, world-weary lyrics and musings on the human condition and, most importantly, some of the band’s most effective heavy metal in over a decade.
Eternal Nocturnal and the startling pop sensibility of You From You are spine-tingling expositions of this band at it’s best, but the record – described by Englund himself as ‘a more direct, metal version of The Atlantic‘ is absolutely bereft of anything even vaguely resembling filler, meaning that your favourite track will vary every time you commit the needle to wax. This album really is that good.
And if the more melodic moments are really where the Phoenix packs it’s most effective parts, the guitar-based crunch is never far behind. Leaden Saint is a massive, staccato-riffed kick to the guts, Englund’s impassioned vocal rising above the desolation, which is all underpinned by some fabulous drumming from Jonas Ekdahl. As noted, a band back to it’s exhilarating heavy metal best…
Run closes the album in emphatic, triumphant style, prog keys fluttering over another adamantine riff extravaganza, but the end will only be temporary as you scramble back to the tart of the album to enjoy it all over again. Welcome back guys – falling in love again was a blast!
Escape of the Phoenix releases on February 26th.