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Evergrey: A Heartless Portrait-The Orphean Testament

Another year, another stellar new album from Sweden's progressive metal darlings Evergrey, this one titled A Heartless Portrait-The Orphean Testament. Tom S. Englund & Company have this knack for creating highly engaging music year in and year out, and for their 13th studio album, once again we get all the elements that make this band so special; Tom's soaring vocals, plenty of crushing riffs, loads of gothic styled keyboards, pounding drums, and atmosphere galore. Things kick off the with the sing-along anthem "Save Us", moving into the darker, heavier "Midwinter Calls", and then to the emotional headbanger "Ominous". Englund's vocals are just so unique and dripping with passion, which you can hear in all its glory on "Call Out the Dark" and the symphonic "Reawakening". Other highlights here include the rampaging "The Orphean Testament", complete with some killer riffs from Englund and Henrik Danhage, and the epic sounding prog-metal gem "The Great Unwashed", filled with wonderful keys from Rikard Zander and amazing guitar work courtesy of Englund & Danhage. "Heartless" is another standout here, just a great heavy metal track with just enough prog embellishments to enhance things a bit.

It gets harder each year with each new release from Evergrey, to find new words to say about albums that are just so similarly excellent. I'll keep it simple; A Heartless Portrait-The Orphean Testament is another killer album from this amazing Swedish band who show no signs of slowing down, and it comes highly recommended.

Available now on Napalm Records.

Track Listing
1. Save Us (4:46)
2. Midwinter Calls (5:07)
3. Ominous (6:11)
4. Call Out the Dark (4:24)
5. The Orphean Testament (6:31)
6. Reawakening (4:16)
7. The Great Unwashed (6:04)
8. Heartless (5:09)
9. Blindfolded (4:14)
10. Wildfires (3:41)

Added: September 3rd 2022
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 911
Language: english

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Evergrey: A Heartless Portrait-The Orphean Testament
Posted by Brandon Miles, SoT Staff Writer on 2022-09-03 13:34:35
My Score:

Evergrey are a band that fell off of my radar quite a while ago. I was very big into their dark, melancholic, and paranoia-riddled blend of progressive and power metal during the early 2000s. Recreation Day and the Inner Circle were engaging and pretty damn impressive efforts, and In Search of Truth was a personal favorite of mine back in the day. Perhaps it was the band splintering apart around 2010 or a few releases that weren't exactly to my liking led to my ambivalence for the band for a spell. Either way, their newest release "A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)" is like a warm hug from an old friend that you missed but hadn't really thought about much over the years. The warm embrace of something familiar, but with a new sheen and more stories to tell.

"A Heartless Portrait" is still dripping with the two most distinctive elements that I remember from Evergrey of old: Out of this world guitar work and the soulful and immediately distinctive voice of Tom S Englund. The riffs are chunky and massive, carving dark soundscapes with ease and the solos are just simply to die for. Having two guitarists of the caliber of Englund and Danhage in one band is a luxury that very, very few bands can brag about having. It's an embarrassment of riches, really. And vocally, Englund is easily in the highest echelon of singers in the genre. He croons his lines like a progressive metal Dracula; there's a beautiful bleakness to his delivery that can't be denied. The guys in Evergrey have crafted a sound that is uniquely theirs, and it still works after all these years.

If I ever had an issue with Evergrey's sound even back in the day, it was that the band has a tendency to wallow in their own web of despair and fall into a rut of having too many slower or mid-paced tracks in their albums. These guys are all world class musicians, and write thick, proggy, and percussive riffs that actually lend themselves to faster tracks from time to time very well. "The Orphean Testament" certainly falls into this trap at times, but there's enough variation from song to song (and often from minute to minute) to keep things moving. The keyboards and orchestrations are all over the place, blending your traditional melodic metal string sections with the bleeps and bloops that you find all over today's 1980's inspired nostalgia trips. This gives "The Orphean Testament" a bit of a dark space opera feel, which is pretty badass.

While there is plenty of variety to be had here, some tracks stand out more than others. The album as a whole is a bit frontloaded, with the first 5 tracks or so standing above the rest on the whole. It comes out the gate with lead single and strongest track here "Save Us", which absolutely crushes and has chorus melodies to die for. Tracks like "Midwinter Calls" and "Ominous" would fall into the already mentioned trap of falling into the patented Evergrey pit of slow despair, but they are so well written and evoke such a feeling of exploring dark expanses that I can't help but love them. The Title track is a riff-laden progressive metal feast, and probably the song that harkens me back to my past days of fandom of the band the most. Heavy and chunky like a goth Symphony X, it's killer. The rest of the album has highlights ("Heartless" and "Blindfolded" are both great), but it does drop in overall quality at the midway point. Final track "Wildfires" is the ubiquitous heartfelt ballad, but special mention must be made of the fretless bass, for no other reason than it reminds me of the movie Labyrinth.

"The Orphean Testament" is an album that makes me regret that I haven't been giving the guys in Evergrey their due for the past decade or so. It's everything I remember and enjoyed about Evergrey, with little modern touches and sounds that lend it a newer and more futuristic aura. Progressive, Power, and melodic metal fans of all stripes should find plenty to enjoy on this one.

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