Evergrey
The Inner Circle


4.0
excellent

Review

by Cain USER (26 Reviews)
November 12th, 2005 | 34 replies


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist


Evergrey are:
Tom S. Englund - vocals, guitar
Henrik Danhage - guitar
Michael Hakansson - bass
Rikard Zander - keyboards
Jonas Ekdahl - drums

Well, now, this isn't bad at all. Evergrey have made a tiny bit of headway into the American music scene, appearing on Headbanger's Ball a few times in the early '00s, but on the whole they are not considered the chieftains of greatness by any stretch. In fact, owing to the fact that this is the first review of the band on this site, which is ordinarily quite thorough with regard to European metal, I'd be willing to speculate that not all that many people (in the U.S. at least) are actually familiar with them. I suspect that there's a reason for that, which I will go into later, but on the whole I'd say this band is the musical equivalent of a movie "sleeper:" the surprise purchase you get on a whim, lacking in hype from either fans or the industry, and you discover that they are, in fact, quite fantastic.

This album is the Swedish quintet's fourth, I believe. By now, only one original member of the group--Englund--seems to remain, but that hasn't dampened the results. The basic tenet of Evergrey's sound is a very dark, almost blue-sounding progressive metal style. The musical result is reminscient of many things and styles: it's progressive in the sense that Queenscryche were, and it's heavy and wintery like much of their more extreme Swedish contemporaries in the adjoining death and black metal scenes. Their guitar sound is fantastic: it's incredibly crunchy but not over-the-top, and it hits you right in the gut. It's very organic and sounds great. The keyboards are also a wonderful touch for the group, solidifying their proggy tendencies while enhancing the cold feel of the music: very rarely does Zander choose questionable key tones the way one Jordan Rudess is apt to do in Dream Theater. And Englund is a fine vocalist, singing with an almost gospel/blues power over the driving forces of the metal band behind him. His voice is warm, moderately accented, and expressive. His note choice can sound sometimes cheesy, as he seems to be firmly based in the clean, bluesy vocal form rather than the typical metal styles, but on the whole the results are quite effective. Evergrey, in addition, are huge fans of the concept album, and this one, "The Inner Circle," is no exception, dealing with a person lured into a religious cult and who is eventually unwillingly turned into an ideological automaton that destroys his self-respect and leaves him alone again. A theme in some Scandanavian metal is a criticism of religion or at least the fanatical breeds of followers it creates, and this follows that in a manner that Operation: Mindcrime fans should love.

Here's the album track-by-track:

1.) A Touch of Blessing
Opening with a fade-in of an ominous guitar line, Englund digs into the concept immediately by imploring the central character to "join the world of greater learning," and then to "become its servant." The keyboards begin playing a nimble figure over this in a way that builds it to a perfect prog-metal crescendo, as the wonderfully warm and crunchy guitars slam in. There is a post-chorus guitar solo, of the nice expressive type we enjoy in the slower prog: Englund handles the solos quite nicely. The outro is a fantastically emotional section, containing a neat key change and another expressive solo, which resolves to the main figure of the song and goes to a very melodic and biting close.

2.) Ambassador
Opening with a disembodied voice saying "Obey my voice and I will be your God," this song is meant to represent the introduction of the main character to the cult's head. Very dark, groaning vocals say "Let me be your hand of guidance: no more solitude, no more incontinence." The riffing in this song is very cool, and the guitarists have a perfect vibrato for their single-note lines. The keyboards continue to add a ton of dimension, never getting in the way of the composition. That's another element of Evergrey that's well-showcased in this song: they can play, but their songs never sound clinical or clipped. Organic composition is the name of the game here. Another cool solo and a double-kick interlude are highlights, as are the frequent half-time/double-time tempo shifts.

3.) In the Wake of the Weary
Opening with the aggressive, melodic minor-key riffing we're used to so far, Englund takes a great, expressive tack here. The verse vocals in particular are very emotional, with nice high-pitched harmonies from female guest vocalists that make the gospel and blues influence VERY pronounced, even though the underlying music remains the wintery prog-metal that is their mainstay. Personally, I think this vocal style fits the music much better than the typical faux-operatic style we've come to expect from prog-metal vocalists. This song is another great example of how these guys clearly display their chops in subservience to the composition, which sounds incredibly organic, so much so that the complexities that are here almost go by with absolutely no notice. A highlight is the symphonic section in the middle. Great tasteful use of the keyboards there.

4.) Harmless Wishes
The major standout in this song is the stellar verse break. When the heavy riffing gives way to the verses, the drums play a smashing, catchy beat over a VERY subdued acoustic guitar that's so drenched in chorus and reverb you can't even hear it and the thickened textures of the bass and keyboards, as Englund continues on his typically expressive course. The symphonic elements at the end of the choruses are great as well. Englund continues to cultivate different vocal tones to represent his various characters, going very throaty for the cult leader and members and very expressive and helpless for his main character. This stuff is just great.

5.) Waking up Blind
Opening as an almost smooth-pop ballad, Englund is at a very expressive note here, although there is the risk of a cheesy factor. Dealing with the main character's dissatisfaction with the cult leader's false truths, this song seems a general criticism of religion in general, with lines like "So foolish to believe in your hyprocrisies." There is a lot of melodic activity, but it's oddly dark and murky, which benefits it. It's quite different from the rest of the album though: this qualifies as a dark pop song.

6.) More than Ever
We are quickly brought out of that particular reverie with a ton of aggression here, as Englund bellows with incredible dynamic control over the always-fantastic melodic riffing of the two players. The keyboards continue to serve an ambient and background role, enhancing everything and thickening the mix out. Still more solos fill this up, more shreddy than before but still very impressive and tight and most importantly organic.

7.) The Essence of Conviction
We get a little more proggy here with neat stop-start dynamics in the intro and chugging riffing leading into the melodic body of the piece. The only real problem that's becoming apparent with the music so far is the general sameness in tone and sound. It can get problematic to listen to this type of thing all the way through, and it's also this quality which prevents many particular spots sticking in listener's ears, even though the music is very high-quality. Englund continues being very expressive and controlling over the band dynamics, rising and falling. The preacher voice makes a return in this song, an effective touch. The bridge section in addition has a wonderfully nice ambient keyboard part. The solo is not much different from the ones we've heard before: taking place over a slow beat, it's pretty emotional and reverbed, but it's also not much different in tone from the other ones we've heard.

8.) Where All Good Sleep
Great synths open this up, with a great drumbeat. The band's deceptive heaviness hits us once again after. The main character of the concept is excorcising the demons implanted by the cult in this song. The band's unusual layering styles come through again in the middle solo: another thing that's deceptive about this band is the amount of harmonic and instrumental activity happening at any one time. There are usually two or three riff harmonies going on at one time, and during the solos there tends to be a lot of guitar tracks playing various figures, creating a lot of good ambience. There's a pretty nice drum workout here, although I'm wondering why the guy doesn't play a little more.

9.) Faith Restored
The chorused acoustic guitar is back, and it's cool. We get another really nice ballad here as Englund continues on his very expressive course. I really like his vocal style. The guitars are handled nicely, with almost no other instrumental embellishments to speak of until near the end, as the preacher's voice heralds the entry of very effective volume-swelled guitar leads and a wonderfully beautiful symphonic string section, where the song closes.

10.) When the Walls Go Down
The main character finally begs for help from God over a wonderfully ominous piano line, having no where else to turn as his struggles with the cult leave him helpless. The monologues over the symphonics and pianos are incredibly emotional, with fantastic voice-acting. The music is very beautiful in this song, which builds very orgasmically and awesomely. The band picks up and begins getting heavy at around the midway mark as the monologues continue. Zander really shines here, as his keyboard arrangements are fantastically beautiful and well-constructed. The emotion here in this song, which is entirely instrumental except for the monologues, is very palpable and moving. The song builds with an intensity largely unmatched throughout the rest of the album and as such is a great closer. Awesome stuff.

This album gets a four, or an eight on the ten-point scale. It's a very deceptive, deep album, that was at first challenging for me to get into. There's very little pretention about this stuff, and despite the many, many guitar solos there's very little assertions of instrumental prowess or muscle--so little, in fact, that no riff on the album, for a while, stuck in my head as awesome or bone-crushing or whatever the way, say, Nevermore's guitar riffs do so frequently. This was a concept album in a very true sense, and the music was built around the telling of the tale. If it doesn't grab you immediately, that's to be expected: there's more going on beneath the surface than is at first apparent. These guys make great, VERY accessible prog-metal with a dark atmosphere and a huge attention to detail, which makes this album quite a good pick-up. Englund's voice is also really excellent, and a unique style for this kind of music that works very well. I doubt it'll be anyone's favorite, or a classic, or anything like that, but you can't go wrong for some thoroughly competent music of the prog-metal genre.

4/5



Recent reviews by this author
Acoustic Alchemy Positive ThinkingAlter Bridge Blackbird
Rhapsody of Fire Triumph or AgonyDark Tranquillity Haven
Jeff Beck You Had It ComingCreed My Own Prison
user ratings (140)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Ace_of_Bass2112
November 12th 2005


257 Comments


ive heard some of the stuff on the 'MetaL" channel i get, and they are a cut above the average metal band. good review too

ocelot-05
November 12th 2005


807 Comments


What is it about Scandanavians and flowery guitar solos?

asheroth
November 12th 2005


130 Comments


Wow. Just streamed 'In the Wake of the Weary' and tis well awesome. Great review too.

Confessed2005
February 5th 2006


4518 Comments


This is a very good review. I have recently become infatuated with progressive metal bands - these guys sound as if they could be an interesting addition to the bands I already listen to and adore.

Shattered_Future
February 5th 2006


1560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Excellent review Cain.



As I said before, Evergrey are an absolutely superb band, and this review confirms it. Barring their vocalist's weird accent at times, this album is near perfect. Superb riffs, great songs, and an interesting concept make for a terrific album.

halfdeadhippo
April 1st 2006


52 Comments


Evergrey are great, but all I've heard is [i]Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy[i]. If everything goes according to plan, I'll be seeing them in May with Nevermore and In Flames.

pleetf
June 8th 2007


4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Everygrey is a real solid act, and this album is no different.. Although when playing Inner circle, i find it hard to differentiate between tracks.. the tracks sound very similar!



Waking up blind was a refreshing change to what was a smashing start to the album.. the keyboard riffs in a touch of blessing made created a superb effect on the ears.. and was imprinted in my mind for a good amount of time..



I especially liked essence of conviction.. i think that is surely worth a listen to.. maybe its because its the most old-school of all the tracks.. and any depressed individual will be able to link with when the walls go down.. this album surely pwns MMA.. which was really rather dispppointing



BallsToTheWall
October 11th 2007


49138 Comments


A touch of blessing is a great song. I might buy this.

Digging: We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It - Bostin' Steve Austin

Zoo
October 11th 2007


3759 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This was decent. Recreation Day and In Search of Truth were much better though.

BallsToTheWall
October 11th 2007


49138 Comments


Dont have any of their cds. Would you reccomend Recreation or In Search of truth?

Shattered_Future
October 11th 2007


1560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

In Search Of Truth. That's probably one of my most favorite albums ever. Recreation Day is alright, but there's way too much filler. ISOT has none.

pjquinones747
August 30th 2011


2746 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I personally extremely enjoy this album, and pos'd for a well-done review. But I haven't yet listened to their other albums and fear my phobia of one-album-wonder bands whose other material lacks. Are their other albums as good/better or any extreme difference in style? I appreciate this particular album for being so unique so i'd hope the style isn't all that different if at all. Suggestions please?

Digging: Travis Scott - Astroworld

KjSwantko
January 1st 2012


10774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

In Search Of Truth, Solitude Dominance Tragedy, and Recreation Day are all much better than this album.

macadoolahicky
February 20th 2012


1835 Comments


^ agreed

macadoolahicky
February 20th 2012


1835 Comments


;)

TheNotrap
April 20th 2012


9416 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Very interesting album.

Digging: Obliteration - Cenotaph Obscure

KjSwantko
April 20th 2012


10774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album kicks ass. I thought it was mediocre at first, then it started growing on me hard

macadoolahicky
April 20th 2012


1835 Comments


The songs are a lot better when they perform them live. Still a good album. Might up the rating a slight bit, but for now it remains the same.

TheNotrap
April 20th 2012


9416 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

The first three songs and More than Ever struck me immediately.

KjSwantko
April 20th 2012


10774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah definitely, A Touch of Blessing is a hell of a jam. I really like Essence Of Conviction later in the album too.



Trap have you checked out Recreation Day and In Search of Truth yet?



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy