Evergrey – Escape of the Phoenix

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Evergrey - Escape of the PhoenixReviewed:  April 2021
Released:  February 2021, AFM Records
Rating:  5/5
Reviewer:  Buddy H

There have been countless quotes about the impact music has on our lives. Dick Clark, famous host of American television’s American Bandstandand New Year’s Rocking Eve, coined perhaps the most famous phrase, “Music is the soundtrack of your life.” I gravitate to a quote from 1800’s English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton: “Music, once committed to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.”  With their latest offering, ESCAPE OF THE PHOENIX, Evergrey will no doubt become a permanent soundtrack to someone’s life and adhere the majestic music contained therein permanently to many souls.

This album has touched me in a way that few ever have.  There is a human authenticity to this work that is almost beyond explanation.  Atmospheric and haunting, melodic and heavy, intense and emotional – each song takes you on a different journey that evokes all of these in infinite combinations.  Tom Englund’s tortured soulful voice is front and center.  Like John Bush from Armored Saint, Tom seems to be tapping into a bottomless fountain of youth. His vocals still have the same power and intensity as they did twenty years ago.  The guitars of Englund and Henrik Danhage are pure perfection in terms of tone and phrasing.  The rhythms are heavy and crystal clear while the solos showcase the maturity of each musician and are placed at just the right time within each song. Rikard Zander’s keys are prominent throughout.  They either set the mood and tone for the songs, or act as the ideal support for the aforementioned flawlessly executed guitars.  Last, and certainly not least, Johann Niemann and Jonas Ekdahl provide an iron like substructure on which to build these vast soundscapes.

With an album packed full of emotional and intensely personal song experiences, it is nearly impossible to pick out favorites.  As I stated before, this album will touch everyone differently.  For this humble reviewer, “Where August Mourn”, “Stories”, “Dandelion Cipher”, “The Beholder” (with James LaBrie on guest vocals) and “Eternal Nocturnal” rank as some of the best tunes Evergrey have ever penned.  Each of those embody what this collection is all about and had a profound impact on me.

Evergrey are a band that needs no backstory explanation.  Listeners of metal know who they are and what they are capable of.  If, by some chance, you do not know Evergrey, ESCAPE OF THE PHOENIX is an incredible place to start.   This is a remarkably consistent band, with very few missteps in their expansive catalogue.  With this latest release, Evergrey have delivered their most personal and emotional album yet.  ESCAPE OF THE PHOENIX will be hard to top for my album of the year 2021.

Yes, it’s that good.

Track Listing:

1.    Forever Outsider
2.     Where August Mourn
3.     Stories
4.     Dandelion Cipher
5.     The Beholder
6.     In Absence Of Sun
7.     Eternal Nocturnal
8.     Escape Of The Phoenix
9.     You From You
10.   Leaden Saint
11.  Run

Line Up:

Tom Englund – Lead Vocals, Lead and Rhythm Guitar
Henrik Danhage – Lead and Rhythm Guitar
Rikard Zander – Keys
Johann Niemann – Bass Guitar
Jonas Ekdahl – Drums