Review Summary: 26 years in, and the future is bright
It's odd, a band that has been kicking around for 26 years releasing what is arguably their best music to date. But with their 2019 release The Atlantic and now with Escape of the Phoenix, one could definitely make the claim that these are the two best records this Swedish prog. band has released. The sound is full, thick, and dense. Tom Englund’s vocals soar over the beautiful cacophony of thundering drums, stank face worthy riffs, and solos that would make any guitarist shed a tear. In the world of heavy/progressive metal, these guys are a name that should be shouted from the hilltops.
Escape of the Phoenix is the perfect follow up to The Atlantic. The overall tone of the record is very similar. Jonas Ekdahl’s drumming supports the songs perfectly, laying down the groove and allowing the songs to breath around his playing. Johan Niemann keeps the low end with a beautifully thick bass tone that complements Ekdahl’s grooves seamlessly. Henrik Danhage’s guitarwork is top notch as well, creating hooks that make you want to turn it up to 11. All the members build off each other without overstepping their ground and sounding “show offish”, but with that being said, the two standout performances on this record are Rikard Zander’s keyboards, and Tom Englund’s vocals.
This record is a very intimate and sentimental record. The lyricism is heartfelt and poetic and Englund sings right into your soul. The verses of “In the Absence of Sun” are simply beautiful. Englund’s vocals echo through the chambers of your body and resonate in your soul. This paired with Zander’s keyboards are what make this album as great as it is. They keys are primarily slightly below the surface in the mix, but create the dense and full sound that is instantly recognizable as Evergrey. But on songs such as “Stories”, or in the aforementioned “In the Absence of Sun” the keys take the forefront and truly show the dynamic prowess that this band possesses.
Soaring choruses, powerful vocals, thundering drums, crunchy guitars, dynamic keyboard, this album has it all. The only aspect that you may miss is that this record lacks some of the more "proggy" elements that you may be used to hearing, but the lack of these elements do not retract any quality to the record whatsoever. What we have here is a cohesive, thought out, and sonically robust record that is sure to be a constant in your 2021 album rotation