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Evergrey: The Inner Circle

It's very unusual to see a band who continually achieves remarkable results recording after recording, consistently improving themselves in both songwriting and musicianship. Metallica did it for many years in the 80's, and now Evergrey is on a similar roll. The bands fifth release, The Inner Circle, is a smoldering, dramatic slab of gothic, progressive metal, or whatever you want to call it, as Evergrey really is a hard band to categorize. You want heavy guitar riffs-you got plenty here. You want aggressive & passionate vocals-dig in deep. You like tons of symphonic keyboards-reap the rewards. And if intense lyrics are your bag, then I suggest you explore this metal masterpiece.

The opening two cuts, "A Touch of Blessing", with its infectuous chorus, heavy riffs, and catchy keyboards, and "Ambassador", featuring doomy arrangements and Tom Englund's powerful vocals, are both indicative of all this band is about. Englund has developed one of the most distinctive voices in all of progressive metal-just listen to his gutsy passages on "In the Wake of the Weary", complemented nicely by female vocals and a chugging rhythm section. The twin guitars of Englund and Henrik Danhage are produced marvelously throughout, and their huge wall of sound propels the classically- tinged "Harmless Wishes", a song that perfectly blends metal mania with sophisticated and symphonic prog. Again, the vocals of Englund are a joy to listen to here, especially on the mellow sections of the song where Rikard Zander's gentle piano strains in the background. There's some balls-to-the-walls metal crunchers, like on "More Than Ever" (check out the complex riffery here, and the awesome, melodic hooks) as well as the intense & intricate "The Essence of Conviction."

"Where All Good Sleep" shows another side of the band that perhaps hasn't fully surfaced yet. Here, the backing vocals are multi-layered, almost like Blind Guardian, and the riffs slow and dirge-like(think early Black Sabbath or even Candlemass), making for a very unique sound. Coupled with neat keyboard effects, this is one of the more dramatic songs on the album. "Faith Restored" is a tender ballad, again displaying the talents of Englund, and "When the Walls Go Down" combines eerie atmospherics, bruising power chords, and spoken narration, making for one of the most intense instrumentals I have heard in a while.

With the new video for "A Touch of Blessing" already in rotation on MTV's Headbangers Ball, the time might be right for Evergrey to take over the progressive metal world. That and the opening slot on the Iced Earth tour might soon make Evergrey a household name in the eyes of many metal fans. This is about as perfect as a metal album can get folks.

Track Listing
1) A Touch of Blessing
2) Ambassador
3) In the Wake of the Weary
4) Harmless Wishes
5) Waking Up the Blind
6) More Than Ever
7) The Essence of Conviction
8) Where All Good Sleep
9) Faith Restored
10) When the Walls Go Down

Added: February 5th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Evergrey's Official Website
Hits: 2411
Language: english

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Evergrey: The Inner Circle
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-02-05 11:40:03
My Score:

The common Evergrey characteristics are still predominant on their fifth studio release The Inner Circle: dark vibe, emotional vocal delivery, deeply moving subject theme and mesmerizing artistic aesthetics.

This is a concept album. To quote Tom on it, this is what TIC aims to deal with on a conceptual level: "Throughout the album we will follow a fragile person with low self-esteem who leaves his family for a cult, and who makes drastic changes in his life in order to fully live out 'the inner circles' way of life." Apparently Tom Englund once again focuses on the themes of religion and religious zealots who are so keen on influencing individuals' personal beliefs and shaping them up in the way they believe is so perfect. We had a similar insight on this on the band's In Search of Truth CD where the individual was trying to fight the society in order to get some credibility. Here we're facing a similar approach but different concept. There are plenty of spoken intermissions injected both inbetween and during the tracks where we hear this weak individual who is all devoid of his own beliefs trying to manipulate other human beings. It's sort of like the intro of ISOT's "The Masterplan". It is exactly this misconception that Tom Englund so rightfully objects to and makes it the focus of his artistic messages which he so (painfully) conveys.

To put it frankly, The Inner Circle might have more replay value for me in the future compared to their previous album Recreation Day; however I am undecided at this moment whether it will reach the depth and perfection of their older work such as Solidute Dominance Tragedy or In Seach of Truth, the latter of which was their pinnacle of success in my opinion. That said, Recreation Day was a more complex album writing-wise. On The Inner Circle the most noteworthy change is the new drummer Jonas Ekdahl who replaced Patrick Carlsson who was the only other Evergrey member save Tom Englund who had been in the band since the very beginning. Patrick was much more of a technical drummer and almost invariably made his presence heavily felt while Jonas is more laid-back and likes to keep up with the tempo of the song. This line-up change has given The Inner Circle a thoroughly new vibe and has its appealing factor to fans from both ends of the (progressive) spectrum. I personally like Pat's approach better but Jonas is still doing a nice job cause honestly the compositions on the new album don't really call for more complex drumming.

Like every other Evergrey release, Tom Englund's vocals and expressive delivery is the focal point of each song and since it's Englund's singing that sets this band apart from any other out there that's exactly the way it should be. The initial goal was to get Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen to do the production job but Arjen declined as he feels the Evergrey guys need to be themselves, not an Ayreon variant. Therefore Tom Englund handled the duty himself and much to many fans' surprise he pulled it off very well.

The album has a running time of 48 minutes and Carina adds her own vocal harmonies and leads in various parts of the album and needless to say she does an awesome job, especially on "In the Wake of the Weary". Englund and Danhage's guitar work seems more textural here while they were more riff-oriented on albums like Solitude Dominance Tragedy. The new album however still carries the direct approach of The Dark Discovery and SDT and retains the dark vibe of their earlier work. It also utilizes a more subtle keyboard work that was lacking on Recreation Day maintaining a fitting atmosphere. The band has hired a real string symphony orchestra which is widely prevalent on "Harmless Wishes" and "Faith Restored". Overall this album is quite heavy but the hair on your neck will still raise when you hear "Waking Up Blind" or the repeated chorus of "The Essence of Conviction". They're the kind of Evergrey songs that have the trademark Englund stamp all over them.

Evergrey: The Inner Circle
Posted by Greg Cummins, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-03-24 06:22:39
My Score:

Despite its slow beginning, Evergrey can't fool the listener for a minute as they gradually unleash their brand of fury and mayhem on an audience who have come to expect a quality performance with each new album they release. Most listeners will be pleased to add this one to their pile of favourites.

Chugging guitars accompanied by a backdrop of keyboards play in steady unison while allowing the gravel-rash vocals to penetrate through those songs with a darker theme. Equally well, Tom England's voice seems to improve with every new album as he has developed a very impressive style that enables him to handle the softer ballad-like tracks with aplomb, given the emotional touches required.

The bottom end is well handled with the predictably tight double bass drum pummelling one expects from a band of this calibre while the bass guitar thuds and grinds to perfection and exemplifies how crucial it is to get the timing just right. All the members are extremely competent without anyone standing out from the crowd or making the others contributions seem irrelevant.

Guitars wail and squeal throughout the album while the band rips of chop after chop in an attempt to unseat those with a nervous disposition. Just as quickly as they have led you down one direction, the mystical sound of some strategically placed violin accompaniment, reminds you this band has a foot in just about all doors in the gothic / progressive / metal camp.

Sinister lyrics touch on many subjects without becoming too morose or depressing but keep the listener challenged at every corner. While there are many bands that cover similar territory, Evergrey still manage to keep their name at the top of the list and should continue to do so if they maintain this level of output. This is a quality progressive metal band at its zenith.


Evergrey: The Inner Circle
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-05-12 11:20:32
My Score:

The songwriting on The Inner Circle is the most sophisticated of all of Evergrey's releases. It is progressive, elegant, and with tremendous variations between the heavy passages and the lighter acoustic ballads. On balance the music is not as heavy as on prior releases which has left some diehard metal fans feeling cheated but prog-metal fans will appreciate it. Listen for the subtleties, the slower, more emotional guitar solos, the reduction in riff-dependent song structures, and the increase in keyboards and acoustic sounds. Especially pleasing touches were the liberal use of female vocals provided by Tom's wife Carina, and the seamless blending of music from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.

The standout track is "Waking Up Blind". Englund sings almost a capella with just the softest accompaniment. "Ambassador" is a complete contrast a heavy piece with a double bass assault, which retreats for a time into a keyboard and orchestral segment, then back into the metal set again. Unlike the other tracks, the vocals are kept to a minimum in this piece.

The Inner Circle is a strongly themed piece about the self righteous fanaticism of religious cults. There are also a few references to child molestation, a follow-on from the song "Unforgivable" on their previous album. The tone is darker and more poignant than previous CDs and you're left in no doubt about how strongly Evergrey feels about the subject matter.

To advance the religious-zealot theme the album is punctuated with voice-over snippets, of the rantings of one who sounds like an old world televangelist preaching hellfire-and-brimstone. In the final track "When The Walls Go Down" the same character is losing his way is and prays for restoration of his faith which he finds. This track is an interesting all instrumental piece with the voice-overs being the only vocals there is no singing. The voice-over method is extremely effective and it leaves no doubts about the depth and the desperate emotions being portrayed. But it gets old after many listens.

By comfortably eclipsing In Search Of Truth, this is Evergrey's best album yet.

Duncan Glenday




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