Review Summary: Mature and adventurous, Evergrey's best record yet!
Evergrey’s career has been one of ups and downs. Never really getting the appreciation they deserve, they have always been one of those bands who couldn’t quite get on the power-metal hype train that contemporaries Kamelot and Sonata Arctica started in the early-to-mid 2000’s. Their music has always been a little more serious and a little more mature, their emphasis leaning more to the progressive side of the spectrum and less on the ‘silly’ or ‘cheesy’ aspects of the genre.
In a lot of ways, Evergrey’s discography is eerily similar to that of Soilwork. They both started their career with a couple of very strong and promising records, before falling from grace with multiple very mediocre ones. Yet recently both bands found renewed vigor and released their best material to date. For Evergrey, this came with 2014’s Hymns for the Broken. It was a concept record full of fresh ideas and a more mature vision to their songwriting. They then showed that this was not a one-time resurrection with 2016’s ‘The Storm Within’. It seems to me that this is where the similarities between Evergrey’s and Soilwork’s careers end though, because where Soilwork just released a record that, though consistent, was a slight letdown in comparison to their most recent outings, Evergrey releases their best music to date!
The Atlantic is, once again, a concept record. ‘Hymns for the Broken’ was the start of the story, focusing on uprising, anger and fire. ‘The Storm Within’, subsequently, was all about the storm and it will come as no surprise that ‘The Atlantic’ is all about the water. It’s a concept that is felt throughout the entirety of its 54 minute run-time. The best example of this is the bridge of ‘Weightless’. As the guitars slow down and the drums slowly start building, you can almost see the storm coming right towards you in your ship. It builds and gets more intense with every beat until the storm starts hitting, but you’re not quite there yet. The wind is there and rain starts pouring, but your ship is still steady. A dissonant guitar solo then gives way to the climax where you get pummeled by wave after wave, accentuated with deep drum hits and guitar riffing that is almost Slipknot like in its delivery.
Evergrey have at times been struggling with the amount of ‘metal’ they wanted to incorporate into their music. Although they’ve always clearly been a metal band, some albums are definitely more heavy than others. On ‘The Atlantic’, Evergrey have made it no secret which side of the coin is opted for and every sign points to this being the right choice. ‘A Silent Arc’ kicks out of the gate with the heaviest intro Evergrey has ever put on display. The almost desperate voice of Tom Englund carries the song before it gives way to a more melodic pre-chorus and chorus. Its subdued singing gives it a melodramatic vibe that complements the heaviness very well. It’s a juxtaposition that is implemented in a lot, if not most, of the songs on ‘The Atlantic’.
The instrumentation of Englund & Co. has always been airtight, focusing more on the bigger picture and giving every member small moments to shine, instead of putting their skills on a silver platter for all to taste. This has not changed, and though every member is pulling its weight, none of it is ‘in your face’. The drums are interesting and inventive when there’s room for it, but very functional most of the time. The rhythm section is tight and layered enough to keep it interesting and prevent the music from becoming just another riff-heavy metal band. The keys are there for the atmosphere mostly, but even it gets it time to shine when called for. The guitar solos are gorgeous and emotional and reflect the music very well. A special shout out is needed to Tom Englund’s singing though. He has always had a very distinctive voice that is a little bit love or hate, and can definitely get tedious after a while, yet on ‘The Atlantic’ he is more versatile then ever. He uses his entire register more and to better effect than on previous outings, giving depth and emotion the upper hand. It gives the impression that he feels that he has nothing to prove to anyone, and it makes the deliverance that much more self-assured.
Though the first half of the album has some of the best songs in Evergrey’s discography (A Silent Arc, Weightless and A Secret Atlantis are all top 10 Evergrey songs material), the second half loses a little bit of its focus. ‘End of Silence’, ‘Currents’ and ‘The Beacon’ are just a slight cut below the other songs on here. Luckily these three are broken up by the fantastic semi-balad ‘Departure’. The album also ends on a very high note with ‘This Ocean’. Where the heaviness of the first songs feel like the angst of the unknown future, the heaviness of the album closer is the pummeling of self-confidence and battle readiness. It’s the ‘FREEDOM’ or ‘LEEROOOYY’ of facing the waves head on and it makes the entire album a true journey to enjoy, rather than a collection of songs.
With ‘The Atlantic’, Evergrey show that they are more alive than ever. They have created a journey that is mature, very well thought-through and has everything fans could want. Will it bring them the praise they deserve？ Who knows？ I surely hope it will, god knows they deserve it.