Released: 2006, Inside Out
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
In my review of Evergrey’s last album, THE INNER CIRCLE, I wrote, “Can this band get any better?”. Well, two years have passed and the band has delivered the next chapter in their stunning career, MONDAY MORNING APOCALYPSE, and while they come up a bit short, they have still managed to construct a spectacular album. The evolution of Evergrey’s sound has been subtle but marked with each release. This time, the band has taken a dramatic turn from the complex song structures of IN SEARCH OF TRUTH and SOLITUDE.DOMINANCE.TRAGEDY and they have done away with the concepts of RECREATION DAY and THE INNER CIRCLE for what can only be called a straight-forward metal album. Fans looking for the progressive keyboard passages and lengthy tracks will be disappointed because Evergrey has tightened things up, undoubtedly thanks to the production team of Stefan Glaumann and Sanken Sandquist (Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Rammstein) behind the board. MONDAY MORNING APOCALYPSE is really polished-sounding and that certainly affects the usual mood of Evergrey’s music—dark, brooding and, well, “grey.” Things are still introspective and gloomy but the melodic choruses regularly pull things out of the doldrums, sacrificing some of the atmosphere that was an integral part of Evergrey’s sound. Rikard Zander’s keyboards have been pushed way back in the mix and are barely audible except for a few tracks. In their place, Tom S. Englund’s vocals are right in your face and being one of metal’s most underrated and brilliant singers, this is a good thing. Also, the guitars of Englund and Henrik Danhage really sizzle with electrifying riffs and solos, something that was forsaken on some of the more ballad-centric moments on the last release. MONDAY MORNING APOCALYPSE could turn out to be Evergrey’s version of THE BLACK ALBUM, REROUTE TO REMAIN or TRAIN OF THOUGHT, in that, the clean production and commercially-accessible song structures will drive a wedge between the band’s fans for the stylistic change but those with an open mind will revel in witnessing the next phase of Evergrey’s career.
The chunky riff that kicks off the title track is the first sign that Evergrey has changed things up. It definitely has a “modern” feel to it and the chorus is one of the most unforgettable the band has ever penned. Many of the songs here are filled with catchy hooks and polished melodies in their choruses and the fact that only one track exceeds the five-minute mark will have many die-hards crying foul. The tweedly solo also kicks off a nice trend that snakes through the album. Along with the title track, “Lost” could easily be a crossover hit for the band. Englund’s voice is enriched with a melody that is unforgettable and will remain in your head for days and at just over three minutes, it couldn’t be more radio-friendly. “Obedience” contains some of the best guitarwork on the album, as Englund and Danhage duel it out on a call-and-answer solo that follows a beautiful piano interlude. “In Remembrance” boasts a rapid-fire vocal delivery, a lush string section and the multi-tracked Gregorian-like chants in the chorus are reminiscent of some of the conceptual pieces from RECREATION DAY and THE INNER CIRCLE. The amazing guitarwork continues through “At Loss For Words,” whose riffing is unmatched and is easily one of the heaviest tracks here. Englund’s wife, Carina, whose vocals are a fundamental part of Evergrey’s sound, gets her moment in the spotlight on “Still In The Water,” which is not unlike the duet she and Englund did with THE DARK DISCOVERY’s “For Every Tear That Falls.” The sad and depressing lyrics of “Still In The Water,” “The Dark I Walk You Through” and “I Should” are among Englund’s most mournful ever. His voice perfectly matched with Evergrey’s sound, these three tracks showcase the magic that Englund brings to this band. Likewise, the pure-vocal-and-piano simplicity of “Closure” put the final stamp on Englund’s status as one of metal’s most distinctive and talented voices, his buttery-smooth emotive style allowed to resonate freely.
MONDAY MORNING APOCALYPSE is a clear attempt by Evergrey to shake things up a little and break out from the narrow confines of the prog metal world. Stripped down and clean, this is the sound of a band hoping to take their career to the next level and the songs on MONDAY MORNING APOCALYPSE have all the ingredients to make that happen. Some may cry “sell-out” but Evergrey has clearly not forgotten its core roots and while things may be simplified, there is no denying the fact that this batch of songs is well-played, well-written and maintain the basic sound of the band. A leaner, meaner Evergrey has emerged and while they may lose a lot of staunch prog fans who are unable to see beyond the intricacies of that genre, the rest of us can kick back and safely watch their career take off.
KILLER KUTS: “Monday Morning Apocalypse,” “Lost,” “Obedience,” “In Remembrance,” “At Loss For Words,” “Still In The Water,” “The Dark I Walk You Through,” “I Should”