Label: AFM Records
Date: February 26th, 2021
Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. Such is the story of these Swedes and likewise with their brand new record. Though highly regarded for over a quarter of a century, it seems like Evergrey never quite gathered the following some of their colleagues have. Even if one cannot point to a downward spiral in their creation, it is also impossible to sort out a peak record that could have made them into stars some of their contemporaries have become.
So, why is that?
Basically, the story aligns with “Escape of the Phoenix”. An excellent album by all the standards of the genre. A modern progressive metal with traces of power metal. Produced to perfection, executed masterfully, crafted beyond reproach… Really, when you look at it from multitude of angles, you will hardly be able to bring out a fault with the album. Yet, there is most definitely something that will leave them short of the achievements of such Dream Theater (having Mr. LaBrie as a guest is a nice attempt), Savatage… In sports terms, Evergrey still fails to become a championship contender, but remains a strong upper half of the table combo.
Wherein lays the answer to their lack of massive following?
In short, they still lack a hook. I’m having a real good time listening to “Escape of the Phoenix”. Almost a full hour of great music, no doubt. Strong rhythms, enhanced by creative riffing and supported by neatly crafted keyboard inputs. The whole being wrapped in suggestive vocal work and lyrics.
But then the album draws to a close. So, I spin it again and come to the same conclusions. Very enjoyable record. Yet, it ends again, but let’s leave the “repeat” button on. Five times in, “Escape of the Phoenix” is an excellent piece of music. Let me stop it for now and go about some other business. An hour later, there is almost nothing of the record stuck in my mind. Not even a fragment.
And now we have an answer…
Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m not a foremost expert in progressive metal. Also, among the devotees, Evergrey has a certain cult status and following. However, a quarter of a century in, there is a serious doubt that they will ever grow into the big leagues, speaking of metal in general. Be that as it may, so long as they keep releasing albums such as “Escape of the Phoenix”, there will not be a question of whether they are slipping up.
An album for the loyal fans to worship and the rest to easily skip.