Evergrey – “Hymns For The Broken” (AFM Records)
Not too long ago Evergrey was almost dead. After the splintering of the band in 2010 – which saw Henrik Danhage (guitars), Jonas Ekdahl (drums), and Jari Kainulainen (bass) leave – founder guitarist / vocalist Tom S Englund almost folded this Swedish progressive rock outfit that had been going since the mid 90s. However, as a result of commitment to prior booked festivals an unplanned collaboration, which was meant to be temporary, saw the eventual return of Henrik and Jonas, who I guess ultimately saved the band. Aptly titled, this is an emotionally charged album that only comes from making a personal journey involving significant, often live changing experiences – and no doubt Englund has been there – and it’s reflected in his compositions made up of melancholic darkness but also reborn light, as well as a new found passion and hunger that has taken him back from the brink of total burn out. Still, to be frank, without knowing the background to “Hymns For The Broken” I’d have said it was one of the finest albums the band have ever recorded! The flowing majesty of songs like ‘A New Dawn’, ‘Wake A Change’ and ‘The Fire’ are based on some of the most beautiful melodies I’ve heard in a long time, backed by modern prog harmonies and graced by Rikard Zander’s futuristic keyboards that add body and grace to Englund’s clean, soulful vocals. Along with Henrik’s guitars that combine virtuoso prog solos contrasted by chopping riffs and rhythmically shifting staccato beats, the quality of the musicianship is nothing short of outstanding on this 9th album. Produced by Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Amaranthe, Primal Fear), the bass and drums were recorded together live in the studio, with the band striving for spontaneous energy in in attaining the perfect take on arguably their strongest album in their 16 year career. From full on prog anthems to moving introspective moments, “Hymns For The Broken” might be a poignant reflection of one man’s personal journey, but I think we can all take something away from it, and if anything feel less alone in the darkness.