Album: Hymns for the Broken
Release date: Sept. 26, 2014
For my first review, I've decided to write about my most favorite release of 2014: Evergrey's Hymns for the Broken. The truth is, I'd never listened to Evergrey prior to this album. Sure, I'd heard of the band. I just hadn't listened to them. For whatever reason, they were never recommended to me by my immediate circle of prog pals. But I'd seen their name pop up frequently on the Dream Theater Forums, which I visit quite regularly, and I noticed the high praise for the new tunes. And so, during a slow day at work, I finally decided to check out this band once and for all.
As someone approaching the band with fresh ears, I unfortunately can't compare Hymns for the Broken to the band's past albums. But I can say is that this album has made me a fan that plans to check out those past albums. From the album's earliest moments, you know you're in for something more than just a collection of songs – you're in for a special journey. The album starts with sounds of war – galloping horses, a helicopter, voices crying in pain. Then a speaking voice. "We've crowned a king with no soul; when all doors are closed we walk alone." You can quickly tell that this is an album about an internal struggle – a battle between happiness and sadness, or good and evil, or self worth and self loathing – all told with a well-crafted war metaphor. It's a fight we've all experienced at some point in our life. It's something we can all relate to. And Evergrey unifies us through our common sorrow.
The album's single, "King of Errors," is the first track after the intro. It's a beast of a song that's hard not to love. It starts off with an instrumental section that briefly reminds me of "Anarchy-X" from Queensr˙che's Operation: Mindcrime. But by the end, it is all Evergrey. Tom Englund's emotional voice shines from the very first lines and a scorching guitar solo demonstrates this band has the technical abilities to hold their own against any of today's progressive metal juggernauts. It would be easy for the energy to dip a bit after a monster like "King of Errors." But it doesn't. In fact, there are no weak songs on the album at all. They all firmly rank between an 8.5 and 9.5, in my opinion. It reminded me of Megadeth's Youthanasia album in that way – or most recent Rush albums. Solid from start to finish.
Hymns is also a very well-balanced album. Englund channels his inner Michael Bolton on the piano ballad "Missing You," followed by crushing riffs in tunes like "The Grand Collapse." The latter is the album's longest song at 7:48. It is also, no doubt, is the most progressive. The middle of the song is filled with more war sounds, leaving you to wonder who ultimately won the internal battle – a question that is answered on the final track. I'd be lying if I said the progressiveness of "The Grand Collapse" didn’t make me wish that the previous, more straightforward, songs had some more progressive elements on this level. If they did, this album would easily be a 10/10. But that's the closest I can come to a Hymns criticism.
I was shocked to learn in interviews that Evergrey considered disbanding prior to writing and recording this album. What a crime that would have been. This is clearly a band with a lot left in the tank and a lot left to say. If Hymns is any taste of what the future might hold for Evergrey, then the band's fans are in for a major treat in the years, and albums, to come.
- Michael R. Ebert (progzombie.blogspot.com)