Released: 2014, AFM Records
The story is well known at this point, Evergrey nearly breaking up in 2011 after the release of GLORIOUS COLLISION. Thus, album number nine for the Gothenburg’s dark progressive sons almost never happened. However, the creative spark and desire to make vital music is too strong in Evergrey to be easily snuffed out. The new album avoids overcorrections but instead embraces and revitalizes the bands many strengths and styles in the face of what can be characterized as an apathetic reaction from fans to the GLORIOUS COLLISION, and the lineup changes that had preceded it. Without question, HYMNS FOR THE BROKEN is a statement album, one that can proudly take its place amongst the hallowed halls of the bands finest releases.
Leader and vocalist Tom Englund credits the return of drummer Jonas Ekdahi and guitarist Henrik Danhage as reasons for the vigor and renewed energy on HFTB. After a brief and disturbing intro, the title track confirms this revived strength, the band rightly making this the signature track, which manages to marry a locking grove with dark brooding. Interspersed through the album are Everygrey’s signature calling cards, namely majestic and dark melodies combined with tasteful guitar solos and Englund’s almost always appropriate vocal lines and lyrics. Gone are any hints of power metal, the band instead focusing on more modern symphonic Goth elements to complement their melodic and progressive elements. Case in point is the down-tuned and modern Gothic “A New Dawn”, which distinguishes itself as one of the weaker tracks on the album save for the worthy chorus.
The album features numerous heavy riffs, like the opening on “The Fire” - a song that also features an awkwardly placed children’s chorus- but much like Opeth’s new PALE COMMUNION, this is Evergrey’s most mellow album to date. “Missing You” is a piano ballad and half of the epics “Grand Collapse” and “The Aftermath" are instrumental. The latter, despite its Floydian nods, is one of the strongest tracks on the album, a shining example of how beautiful HFTB is when Evergrey perfectly blends together the mood, dynamics and melody.
Not to be lost amongst the outstanding musicianship is the nearly perfect production work done by Jacob Hansen, who has not polished and tweaked this to death, giving the album and music a chance to breathe. Understanding all of this, it should come as no surprise that HYMNS FOR THE BROKEN, much like Evergrey themselves, will not have a universal appeal to metal heads. This is thought-provoking, introspective metal not meant for a workout at the gym, but perfectly suited to headphones and contemplation on a dark and rainy day.