Evergrey - Escape of the Phoenix
AFM Records
Dark Metal
11 songs (58'42")
Release year: 2021
Evergrey, AFM Records
Reviewed by Alex

There were days when I couldn’t wait until the next Evergrey album, would get it the week it came out, played it incessantly, and then reviewed it at the first opportunity. Those were the days when I was probably a non-discerning fan making an error of awarding 100/100 score to Recreation Day (the album is good, but not 100/100), because its predecessor In Search of Truth took my breath away. Times have changed since. A few strange choices, members leaving and then returning, produced albums I liked a lot less (but still overquoted on these pages, apologies). I know that Tom Englund considered dissolving Evergrey at some point, but I am really glad he didn’t. Although Evergrey is off my personal highest perch I still hold the band in high esteem and appreciate their music style, especially considering The Storm Within and maybe to a lesser degree The Atlantic were the albums I enjoyed (and hope to have quoted properly).

So, right off the bat, I like Escape of the Phoenix quite a bit, but it won’t lift Evergrey onto the pedestal it formerly occupied. Call me scarred. I also think the choice of singles on the album is great. Forever Outsider and Where August Mourns are fantastic, the closest thing to In Search of Truth in a long time, and open the album with a bang-bang. Eternal Nocturnal doesn’t move me as much, but Forever Outsider is a total projection of seamless darkness moving at you driven by relentless double bass drumming, rising & plunging with its symphonic effects, with slight melodic shifts gliding over steady guitar chops. The end to Forever Outsider is dramatic as well. Where August Mourns opens the sound a bit and spaces riffs apart somewhat, allowing for a gothic dark melody to flow. The trademark syncopated off-beat riffs return and make things plenty harsh. Tom’s voice is in excellent form, still unique and totally unmistakable. The mood is totally there and I am ready to punch walls while listening to Where August Mourns. Guitar leads are a tremendous fit, which actually can be said for just about every song on Escape of the Phoenix.

Not that the rest of Escape of the Phoenix is getting into doldrums, but the level of dark intensity comes down from there. Maybe going with Stories right after the opening double punch caused the effect. Stories is a piano/voice ballad at first, but quickly fills up after a minute or so, but still pulls back on the energy levels while allowing for softer dark embrace. Angry, biting, rhythmically pulsating A Dandelion Cipher, with a few pregnant pauses, attempts to return the forcefulness and ferocity, but it is the hugging shimmering darkness of The Beholder and the title track, as well as also less busy heartfelt In The Absence of Sun, which you will remember the most from the latter half of the album. Not a bad thing, I love that side of Evergrey, but the album starts feeling a little less cohesive, and definitely less intense, even though softer trademark balladic You from You is followed by Leaden Saints and Run featuring predatory lunging riffs and aggressive drumming.

If you never liked the Swedes and thought mixing of poppy gothic moody darkness with heavy foundations was out of place, Escape of the Phoenix will not change your mind. Many of my friends don’t understand how I can appreciate this band while calling more extreme sides of metal my favorites. Yet to those who, like me, overpaid to get the live album recording of A Night to Remember the magic spark is still here and Escape of the Phoenix is a good album I would recommend you acquire and listen to. (Now here is to hoping I quote it correctly, although it will be difficult to do given I have slipped up so many times before).

Killing Songs :
Forever Outsider, Where August Mourns, In the Absence of Sun, Leaden Saints
Alex quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Evergrey that we have reviewed:
Evergrey - Evergrey, Shattered Sun and local support(Fierce Atmospheres and Legacy Black) reviewed by Joel and quoted
Evergrey - The Atlantic reviewed by Alex and quoted 88 / 100
Evergrey - The Storm Within reviewed by Alex and quoted 92 / 100
Evergrey - Hymn For The Broken reviewed by Joel and quoted 94 / 100
Evergrey - Glorious Collision reviewed by Alex and quoted 80 / 100
To see all 13 reviews click here
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