Evergrey + One Machine + Awake by Design
@ The Underworld, London
20th June 2015
Review & videos by Oliver M.
Photography by Carina Martins
Three years after a sold out show in London, Evergrey went back to the capital on Saturday 20th of June 2015 to promote their last critically acclaimed album “Hymns for the Broken”. This time, there were still some tickets available on the door and unfortunately, the gig didn’t sell out in the end although the attendance was very good.
The Swedes really deserved better as their ninth opus (released by AFM Records last year) is an absolute masterpiece that confirms the great return of the band to the international metal scene.
After finishing the tours that followed the release of “Glorious Collision” in 2011, their founding member Tom Englund put Evergrey on hiatus for a very short period as he nearly gave up everything. Finally, he decided to continue his music career within the band and worked very hard with his mates to make another outstanding opus. “Hymns for the Broken” marks also the beginning of their collaboration with the big German label AFM Records (primarily specialised in melodic heavy/speed/power metal music).
This London concert was their only date in the UK, which is a shame. But it wasn’t surprising for me as progressive metal has never been a popular genre there whereas this country used to be the cradle of progressive rock in the seventies. That’s a paradox but sometimes, there are things that we can’t explain really!
Evergrey were supported by two acts that didn’t have anything in common with them. The first one, Awake by Design (3/5), comes right from the UK and was formed in 2007. They have released two self-produced albums so far (“Sentiment” & “Carve the Sun”) and are still looking for a label. They play a kind of melodic gothic metal with some hard rock influences. Musically speaking, I have to say it is very well done. The riffs are powerful, the guitar solos are well performed whereas some nice layers of synths bring an intimate atmosphere to their compositions.
They clearly know their subject, there’s no doubt about it. In general, the songs are interesting but they could have been far better if the band had the right vocalist for this style of music. Indeed, Adrian Powell’s voice has ruined a bit Awake by Design’s performance and that’s a pity. I’m not saying he’s a bad singer. I think his type of singing would fit with a pop/rock band for example but definitely not with a gothic metal act. Maybe that’s the reason why they’re still struggling in finding a label. His vocals are for sure the only weak point of their music but let’s hope he will improve in the future.
Then, One Machine (3.5/5) came on stage to bring some rage and harshness to the venue. This international thrash metal act was formed by well-known guitarist Steve Smyth (former member of Testament, Nevermore, Vicious Rumors, Forbidden and Dragonlord) in 2008.
Based in London, they released their first album “The Distortion of Lies and the Overdriven Truth” last year through the excellent Italian label Scarlet Records. They have recently done a successful tour in the UK and I discovered them last year when they announced one date at the Asylum in Chelmsford (Essex), which is the only punk/metal venue of my hometown.
As I was attending HammerFall’s gig in London on the same night, I couldn’t make it. So, it was a new opportunity for me to see them playing for the first time. Their live performance was very good, mainly thanks to Steve who has nothing to prove to anyone.
He also knows to surround himself with experienced musicians. Indeed, Chris Hawkins is a charismatic vocalist who has succeeded in conquering an audience that isn’t originally keen on their style of music. In spite of adding a very slight progressive touch and some groove elements, it is difficult to find some interesting melodies in their compositions, except for only one track which looks like a ballad.
The band prefers to concentrate their efforts on musicianship and write fast thrash metal songs. I think it would be better for Steve to focus on his excellent side-project Dragonlord (symphonic black/thrash metal from San Francisco) even though I know this would automatically require the involvement of Eric Peterson who is currently too busy with Testament.
Their two assaults “Rapture” and “Black Wings of Destiny” received great reviews in the past and nothing has been done from their side for ten years now. Anyway, One Machine are promising and on the right path to spread their name.
The spotlights were terrible throughout the sets of both support acts but everything changed as the dark intro “The Awakening” started to invade the Underworld. Since the beginning, everybody was waiting for Evergrey (4.5/5) of course. This time, the spotlights and atmosphere were brilliant, especially during their first track “King of Errors” which reminded its nice video clip filmed in black-and-white.
Their show was simply amazing as always. They’re all very talented, experienced and have never disappointed their fans throughout their 20 year career. The Swedish played 18 fantastic songs in total, including 7 tracks taken from “Hymns for the Broken” (“King of Errors”, “The Fire”, “Black Undertow”, “Wake a Change”, “A New Dawn”, “Missing You”, “The Grand Collapse”).
In my opinion, it was a bit too much to promote their last jewel and as a consequence, they didn’t have enough time to perform at least one song from their first and darkest masterpiece “The Dark Discovery”. It was a pity. Apart from this one, all albums have been covered throughout their astonishing set.
In general, the sound was almost perfect, crystal clear but we still couldn’t hear very well some layers of keyboards on some occasions (particularly on “Blinded”). Indeed, the guitars, bass and drums were so highlighted that they crushed the synths on some parts, which was a bit frustrating.
Before the guys went on stage, I was worried about the physical state of their leader Tom Englund. While we were interviewing him at their bus prior to the concert, he appeared completely destroyed and exhausted by their current European tour.
In the end, he did really well (it could have been better) and didn’t hesitate in showing his tiredness to the crowd by saying “Aaarfff” several times. For the rest, there was nothing to complain about to be honest. The band performed most of their classics to perfection (such as “A Touch of Blessing”, “Recreation Day”, “Blinded”, “Monday Morning Apocalypse”, “Broken Wings”, “The Masterplan”) and to our great satisfaction.
After the show, all members had the great idea to go straight to the merchandising area in order to sign the CDs and vinyls of their fans. It was a kind of “Meet & Greet” for free! That was really nice from them, especially coming from a big band. Thanks a lot to Evergrey for offering us an unforgettable night!
Intro: The Awakening
1) King of Errors
2) Leave It Behind Us
3) The Fire
4) Monday Morning Apocalypse
5) Black Undertow
7) The Masterplan
8) Mark of the Triangle
9) Solitude Within
10) Wake a Change
11) A New Dawn
12) I’m Sorry
13) Missing You
14) When the Walls Go Down
15) Recreation Day
16) Broken Wings
17) A Touch of Blessing
18) The Grand Collapse