Evergrey – “Torn” (retro review)

 

Evergrey

“Torn” (2008)

SPV/Steamhammer

Rating: 8.5/10

Ah, Evergrey, everyone’s favorite gloomy bastard offspring of progressive and power metal out of Gothenburg, Sweden. At this point in their career, they have established a distinct sound, and more likely than not, those who have heard them either like them, or have never bought into what Evergrey is trying to accomplish. With the mixed reaction to their previous effort, somewhat more streamlined and song-oriented “Monday Morning Apocalypse”, a change in record label, and an addition of a new bass player (whose pedigree includes much happier-sounding Stratovarius), the expectations were naturally high for “Torn”. The question is, does it deliver?

To answer this question, one has to decide whether they have bought into the entire Evergrey concept to begin with. Tom Englund and the crew have always been a band capable of writing album with subtle (or not-so-subtle) conceptual overtones, perfecting their craft on such excellent pieces of work as “In Search For Truth” and “The Inner Circle”. While they have had numerous standout songs, Evergrey’s music has always worked better when accessed at the level of an entire album; when the conceptual focus was lessened on “Monday Morning Apocalypse”, the results showed. Therefore, a good Evergrey album is more likely than not to embrace the conceptuality, even if at the expense of toning down the impact of some individual songs.

In that respect, “Torn” delivers. Songs like “Broken Wings”, “Fail”, or the title track provide more than enough standouts, while the rest of the material fits nicely into the conceptual framework. While not a true concept album per se, there seems to be a common thread connecting the songs, both musically and lyrically, generally dealing with disappointment, frustration, and other appropriately gloomy topics. Tom Englund’s vocals are a perfect fit for this kind of music, not overly technical and much lower-pitched than the vast majority of his peers, but able to carry the emotion of the songs well. On two of the tracks, the female vocals are used to great effect, accentuating Englund’s rougher delivery on “Broken Wings” and taking lead on parts of “These Scars”.

Musically, “Torn” occupies the middle ground between the song-oriented “Monday Morning Apocalypse” and conceptual pieces such as “In Search For Truth”. That said, the quasi-conceptual thread does bind the music together, resulting in an overall more enjoyable experience than “Torn”’s predecessor. More so, “Torn” sounds every bit like an Evergrey record – melodic, dark, heavy when it needs to be, showcasing impressive degrees of musicianship from the band members when needed, but also knowing when to subside and let the song breathe, topped off with Englund’s instantly recognizable voice. While it does not necessarily touch the best of the band’s efforts due to some of the songs falling prey to overt dramaticism, it is much of an improvement on “Monday Morning Apocalypse”, and is a step in a right direction. Even the lesser moments of Evergrey records are still very good music by the standards of any other band, and there are not many of those on “Torn”. And while it may not be the band’s grand musical statement, it is an Evergrey record through and through, and any who have enjoyed their music before will not be disappointed.

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