Gearing up for the release of their highly anticipated twelfth album, Swedish progressive metal band Evergrey is at a point in their career that many of their peers can only dream about. Since the release of Hymns For The Broken in 2014, Evergrey has enjoyed increased notoriety and success with The Storm Within (2016) and The Atlantic (2019) – ironically, a conceptual trilogy – which is highly unusual for a veteran act, and something frontman/founder Tom S. Englund considers an honour and a privilege. They mean to continue this tradition on February 26th, 2021 with Escape Of The Phoenix, another heavy, melancholic and thought-provoking journey as only Evergrey can create.
Written and recorded during the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, Escape Of The Phoenix came to life according to plans that had been laid out in 2019. Englund and drummer Jonas Ekdahl began composing the songs in January, creating a foundation for the album before Evergrey gathered together and arranged the songs as a group. Unlike a typical creative process, which is often interrupted by appointments, travelling and one-off shows, lockdown requirements gave the band much needed time to work unhindered. The result is eleven songs that embody everything Evergrey fans have to expect, albeit “a more metal version of The Atlantic“, with songs that are “more direct”, according to Englund and producer Jacob Hansen.
Escape Of The Phoenix continues to showcase Englund as a powerful lyricist as he once again digs deep into himself, only this time he wasn’t restricted by the story developed and told over the previous three albums. With this new freedom he was able to write about whatever came to mind, with subjects ranging from intensely personal, his view of the world, mankind, and personal relationships.
“I write lyrics for myself, to get things out of my system,” says Englund. “This has been my therapy, really, for the last twenty five years. I’m very certain that if we didn’t do this, I would be a much more miserable person. I’ve got to thank music for everything, especially having the outlet to write lyrics. There’s a theory that writing things to yourself is therapeutic, and I think that’s very true. The composing of the lyrics is extremely important to me; just as important as writing the music. Even more, sometimes. For me it’s like painting a picture with words. I see really clearly what it’s about; it’s a world for me.”
One of several high points on Escape Of The Phoenix, both lyrically and musically, is The Beholder featuring Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie singing a duet with Englund. As a fan of the band, and crediting LaBrie as playing a key role in his development as a musician, Englund felt the song would benefit from the addition of LaBrie’s performance. It was a
sentiment shared by all of Evergrey’s members, and the collaboration came together with a simple e-mail.
Englund: “I just wrote to James and told him about the idea for the song, and that it would be great to have him on it. He really liked the song and agreed to do it. I think the song came out perfectly. There’s a keyboard break in the song, and everyone in the band said ‘We need James LaBrie for this part.’ He sounds amazing on the track, and we sound great together.”
As for calling the new album Escape Of The Phoenix, it wasn’t a title dreamed up out of desperation to find something that sounds cool. As with everything Englund does, he had a very clear concept in mind.
“When you talk about the resurrection of the phoenix, that started a mind game for me,” Englund reveals. “What if the bird doesn’t want to be resurrected? What if it doesn’t want to come back? That sort of resembles things in life; sometimes you get tired of standing up and being strong. I guess that was the main idea. It came to me after we’d finished writing the music.”