Tag Archives: Melodic progressive metal

BlogOfMuchMetal – Metal News – 24 July 2017

Well, while I’m on a roll, I may as well continue. And while so many bands are also on a roll of late it seems, I owe it to them to keep the news flowing.

If you’ve missed any of my other posts in this series, links to all of them can be found at the bottom of this post.

Jag Panzer release their first song off their new album.

c09ce1fccd75b68f298157c7f5ffc169Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Release date: 29 September 2017
Label: SPV

Jag Panzer and I have never had the smoothest of relationships. I bought ‘Thane To the Throne’ many years ago when it was released but didn’t warm to it, so sold it soon after. Having gone back and listened to it again a few years later, I realise that I made a rather big mistake. They are obviously a band that requires time in order to acquire the taste.

This must still be true to this day because, on a first listen, I was not blown away by ‘Far Beyond All Fear’, the first song to be released off ‘The Deviant Chord’, the tenth album from the US power metal stalwarts. Subsequent spins have been increasingly positive to a point where I’m really rather liking it. The melodies are subtle, the riffing is satisfyingly chunky and there are plenty of solos. In fact, that galloping rhythm is very reminiscent of Iron Maiden. So what’s not to like, then? It bodes well for the entire album when it is released at the end of September.

The Haunted release another song of their highly-anticipated new album…

19399139_10154703997157503_7451569900000520260_nThe Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Release date: 25 August 2017
Label: Century Media Records

The more I hear of this new album from The Haunted, the more excited I get. After the uncompromising and brutal blitz of the well-named ‘Brute Force’, the Swedes have released their second track ‘Spark’ which is a different beast altogether. You still get the harsh vocals and the big, bruising thrash-like riffs. But this time, the song contains more variety, more subtlety and arguably a more sophisticated vibe all-round.

And you know what? I dig this song a lot. It shows that The Haunted are growing and maturing all the time, with the confidence and ability to experiment just a little bit. I love the bass intro andthat quiet mid-song interlude – it is brief but the melody is continued for a time once things get heavier which is a nice touch, as is the more soulful lead guitar solo. There are hints within it to previous work but it still sounds fresh, interesting and has me very intrigued as to the overall sound of ‘Strength In Numbers’.

Confirmed release date and a non-finalised tracklist for ‘1755’ by Moonspell.

19943052_1371175159604409_8323465143835788802_oMoonspell – 1755
Release date: 3 November 2017
Label: Napalm Records

I seem to have been aware of a new album from Portuguese metallers Moonspell for ages. In fact, as early as March, I was gearing up for it.  As I confirmed back then, the record will be entitled ‘1755’ it will centre on the Great Lisbon Earthquake of that year. And, according to the press release, “the band has developed a lyrical concept that looks into the death and rebirth of Lisbon and how the disaster changed Religion, Politics and Philosophy in the whole of Europe.”

We were also told that it would be heavier than ‘Extinct’ and will be sung entirely in Portuguese. It might not be 100% confirmed yet but the track list would bear this out. And that is possibly the most intriguing thing about ‘1755’ – I generally love albums where the lyrics are not in English because there’s a greater authenticity with them and what they are singing about.

Momentum increases on the new Vanishing Point album, coming in early 2018…

Vanishing Point – TBC
Release date: 2018
Label: AFM Records

I have it from the horse’s mouth that the new Vanishing Point album will see the light of day in 2018. During a chat with guitarist and songwriter Chris Porcianko, he confirmed that whilst a date isn’t cast in stone yet, the new record was progressing well. However, it had to be delayed until early 2018 for various reasons. As soon as I hear news of a definite date, I will bring it to you.

Despite the 2018 date, I couldn’t help but bring you an update right now. Why? Because not only are Vanishing Point one of my favourite bands ever, updates from the melodic prog metal masters themselves suggest that the new music could be more in the vein of their 2000 magnum opus, ‘Tangled In Dream’. A top 5 all-time album, this is news that threatens a grown man’s bladder control.

To quote Porcianko directly, he actually said of the new record: So far the new Vanishing Point album is a mix of Prog, metal , melodic metal , hard rock and AOR…There’s a little bit of something in it for everyone…Fans of Distant is The Sun and Tangled In Dream will like it I think.’ No wonder I’m bursting with excitement! So here’s some solo action for us all to enjoy.

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Orphaned Land confirm new album in early 2018…

Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs
Release date: 26 January 2018
Label: Century Media Records

In a similar vein to Vanishing Point above, I felt compelled to comment about this confirmed release, even if it is destined to see the light of day in 2018. Israeli band Orphaned Land are a special outfit; not only do they create superb melodic progressive metal, but they have managed the seemingly impossible: brought fans of all faiths and backgrounds together in a collective love of music.

It has been quite a while since the quintet last gave their fan base some new music; five years in fact. And given how superb their last record, ‘All Is One’, I am climbing the walls waiting for this new album.

With no new snippets of music to bring you, instead, allow me to remind you just how good their last album was.

Previous updates:

22 July 2017
28 March 2017
23 March 2017
11 March 2017
5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

MindMaze – Resolve – Album Review

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Artist: MindMaze

Album Title: Resolve

Label: Inner Wound Recordings

Date of Release: 28 April 2017

The progressive power metal subgenre is large and highly saturated these days, which may go some way to explain why MindMaze have flown under my radar to date. Weeding out the wheat from the chaff in such a burgeoning scene can be difficult for fans and journalists alike. But it can be equally tough for bands themselves to find a way to thrust themselves out of the masses and be noticed.

With their third full-length release entitled ‘Resolve’, MindMaze may have done just this however. And interestingly, whilst this latest effort is the American quartet’s first ever concept album, it does not rely on gimmicks alone to achieve this higher level of attention. Instead, in my view, the fact this is a conceptual record plays a secondary role to the music itself. The same can be said when considering the fact that MindMaze are a female-fronted band. I hate that phrase at the best of times, but MindMaze have managed to create music that is strong enough to ensure that the voice of Sarah Teets isn’t the most important thing. Sarah has a great voice, full of power and she attacks the material throughout with full-on commitment and style. But she remains only a single piece in the overall jigsaw that is MindMaze 2017.

What I particularly like about ‘Resolve’ is the way that the compositions grow with time and the clever way in which the song writing has allowed plenty of different ideas and influences to flavour this particular melodic progressive metal dish. As the press release rightly states, ‘Resolve’ is made all the richer and more varied thanks to the inclusion of elements of melodic rock, power metal, symphonic metal. It all comes together cohesively but there is no denying the fact that the overall product is more dynamic, textured and multi-layered as a result.

Referring back to the conceptual nature of ‘Resolve’ for a second, it is gratifying to report that MindMaze have foregone the opportunity to go off on a fantasy or science-fiction tangent in this regard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for swords, magic, spaceships and dragons in my heavy metal, but not at all times. ‘Resolve’ instead hones in on personal struggles and human emotions. It gives the material more of a gritty edge which I think plays to its strengths.

The album opens in a blaze of glory via the instrumental ‘Reverie’. It begins with a subtle acoustic guitar that delivers a very pleasant and welcoming melody before exploding with wailing lead guitars, nice and chunky heavy riffs, a tinkling piano and rich synths, all courtesy of Sarah’s brother, the highly talented Jeff Teets. The drumming from Mark Bennett and bass work from Rich Pasqualone provides a driving beat and backbone, thus completing the composition of MindMaze.

mindmaze_band_2017

The speed, power and sheer force of MindMaze continues without a pause for breath courtesy of ‘Fight The Future’ where the speed of power metal meets the attitude of thrash and the exuberance and dexterity of progressive metal. It creates a heady, often frenetic cocktail, but one that is thoroughly enjoyable, capped by a commanding vocal performance from Sarah Teets.

After a quick interlude, ‘Drown Me’ takes over with some seriously meaty and muscular guitar riffs. Reminiscent in tone to ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’-era Evergrey, they carry some serious potency. The synths are quirky, slightly futuristic-sounding but entirely in keeping with the ambitious composition that experiments with light and shade to great effect thanks to a quieter, more introspective mid-section as well as a re-introduction of acoustic guitars nestled within the fierce and groovy chugging riffs that cannot fail to get the head bobbing enthusiastically.

With almost any album that contains as many as thirteen tracks and an overall running time of 68 minutes, I have to report that there are a couple of moments where the word ‘filler’ enters my mind. It’s hardly surprising really and, to be honest, it doesn’t significantly derail my overall enjoyment of the album. I understand the slightly theatrical aspect of the instrumental pieces for example that are nestled within the record, but I’m not sure they add an awful lot to the album. Future releases might benefit therefore from a little more ruthless editing.

But to return to the highlights and there are several to pick from. I really like the urgency and the full-throttle assault of ‘Abandon’ which once again flirts around the edges of thrash metal, whilst delivering some great riffs and a strong chorus. Almost subconsciously, the name Triaxis flutters in my mind during this dominant and forthright track but then so does Iron Maiden thanks to a striking melody that briefly lurks in the latter stages of the song.

The bass playing and drumming that features with ‘True Reflection’ is worthy of a mention, as is the unusual but clever fading in and out of the acoustic guitar at times. Again, the melodies are strong as is the structure of the track.

Sarah Teets’ voice shines within ‘Release’, a ballad of sorts that builds from a quiet acoustic base to end rather appropriately with a wailing lead guitar. And then there’s the 11-plus-minute closer ‘The Path To Perseverance’ which wraps things up in a suitably bombastic manner. For my money, this song delivers some of the strongest melodies anywhere on this album as well as creating a rich and vibrant listening experience, full of twists and turns and bursting with energy, led once again, by the effervescent lead guitar histrionics of Jeff Teets. The return to the album’s opening acoustic melody at the death is a really nice touch too, bringing a neat sense of closure to the record.

Overall, ‘Resolve’ has impressed me far more than I ever expected and it should no doubt propel MindMaze to the next level within the echelons of melodic progressive metal. However, as good as ‘Resolve’ is, I confidently predict even bigger and better things for MindMaze in the years to come.

The Score of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Damnations Day – A World Awakens – Album Review

damnations-day-cover-web-1024x1024

Artist: Damnations Day

Album Title: A World Awakens

Label: Sensory Records

Release date: 24 March 2017

I have gone on record before about the strength of the heavy music scene in Australia; there is literally no let-up in the number of bands that are coming through. It’s like a torrent. But more than that, these bands almost all display an incredibly high standard, whatever their chosen subgenre. And now you can add the name Damnations Day to the list because, as ‘A World Awakens’ demonstrates, they more than threaten to muscle their way into the competitive antipodean melodic prog metal scene.

In fact, come to think of it, the title of this record is very apt. Prior to the arrival of this sophomore release, I had never even heard of Damnations Day. I suspect I am not alone. But now, the world must surely awaken to the merits of this talented band from Geelong, Victoria.

Damnations Day, who released their debut ‘Invisible, The Dead’ back in 2013, is comprised of vocalist and guitarist Mark Kennedy, his brother Dean Kennedy on drums and Jon King on guitar. Those already familiar with this kind of music will almost certainly recognise the name Teramaze and it might therefore be of interest to know that Dean Kennedy is also their tub-thumper. The Teramaze links don’t stop there either, as Dean Wells was drafted in as session bassist and knob-twiddler extraordinaire.

On that note, it has to be said that ‘A World Awakens’ sounds very good indeed. The production affords the music the power required for a metal band, providing plenty of grunt and muscularity. However, there is clarity too and so the melodic sensibilities, the technicality and the vocals are given the best opportunity to shine.

Speaking of vocals, there’s really no other place to start because boy, this guy can sing. Low range, upper range, soft, powerful, emotive; there’s no place he can’t seemingly go and nothing is off limits. And you can hear that he is giving it everything. There’s an enthusiasm and a vibrancy that comes through, even when Kennedy is leading the music down a darker or more aggressive path. What this means is that Damnations Day are able to compete in a genre that already boasts some amazing singers, when they might have otherwise struggled.

Damnations-Day-JAN-5-web

It’s just as well because the music that sits alongside the vocals is genuinely out of the top drawer. When Damnations Day hit full pelt, the riffs are big and bold, the drumming is aggressive and the tone is brooding and intense. Opener ‘The Witness’ is the perfect example, coming out of the blocks with fists flying. The guitar tone that delivers the bruising riffs catches my ear immediately, as does the surprisingly sophisticated rhythm section. The bass rumbles but with understated finesse and the drums deliver both intricacy and an all-out double-pedal assault.

But within the same song, there are some great melodies to be heard, a catchy chorus and brief moments when the foot is taken off the pedal to allow something more subtle and nuanced to come through.

‘Dissecting The Soul’ reminds me of a cross between Circus Maximus and Tomorrow’s Eve. It is a moody composition that has a slightly greater progressive edge whilst the sophisticated chorus is sprawling, dreamy and utterly irresistible, topped off by some dextrous lead guitar work. And I love the dramatic and dark outro too.

The high quality continues as the album develops. For example, ‘Colours of Darkness’ plays around with light and shade to great effect, underlining the bands’ progressive leanings in the process. And then there’s ‘I Pray’ which is an ambitious composition that pulls together a number of different elements into a cohesive and compelling listening experience.

Then there’s my favourite track of them all, ‘A World Awakens’. It was the track that I heard first and immediately pulled me under its spell. It begins with a slow, atmospheric intro before opening up into a galloping verse aided by a commanding vocal performance. It takes a while to materialise but after a suspense-filled build-up, the chorus is absolutely enormous, begging to be sung along to with gusto. Everything about it is just about perfect, culminating in a hair-raising scream from Kennedy that segues into a quieter, more introspective passage before skipping towards its conclusion.

Like most good melodic-leaning metal bands, Damnations Day are not averse to a ballad either, giving us two on ‘A World Awakens’. The first, ‘Into Black’, is dominated by an acoustic guitar and sumptuous vocals initially but introduces well-placed orchestration to provide an elegant and grandiose conclusion. The second, ‘Diagnose’ is also the closing track, bringing the album to an end in style. Again, acoustic guitars figure in the opening stages alongside some deeper and more sombre vocals but are eventually placed by a wonderfully strong and emotive guitar riff that compliments and indeed enhances the melodic intent of the composition. However, the real strength of this last song is its relative simplicity, which allows the atmosphere and the tangible emotions to take centre stage.

To be honest, I can find very little to criticise about Damnations Day and their sophomore album ‘A World Awakens’. It has certainly caught my attention for all the right reasons and deserves to be heard by anyone who enjoys properly powerful melodic metal with a progressive edge.

Powerpoints: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Anticipated music in 2017 – an update – 11 March 2017

It is becoming something of a trend now that  almost immediately after I post one of these updates, one of the mentioned bands will release something new, either a new song or more detailed information about their upcoming release. On the one hand, it is quite funny. But on the other, it means that I’m left tearing out what little hair I have left.

It also means that there is justification for writing another update, so that’s what I shall keep doing. Today’s update is briefer than normal but is also one of the most important to date in my opinion.

If you’ve missed any of my previous updates, they can be accessed via the links at the bottom of this post.

Voyager – Ghost Mile
Release date: 12 May 2017

Here is the biggest culprit this time around for releasing something just after I mention them in an update. But it’s Voyager, so I immediately forgive them and bring you the latest news that I have regarding the modern melodic progressive metal band with pop/synth leanings.

According to the band themselves, the release date for ‘Ghost Mile’ is 12th May 2017 and, having now reached their pledge target, they have released the first track off the new album. Here it is in all its glory and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a bit of a monster.

Anathema – TBC
Release date: TBC

This is arguably the biggest news that could come out in 2017 – a new album from Anathema. The Liverpudlian band are one of my all-time favourite artists and after many of the big hitters in my world released albums in 2016, Anathema are set to return this year with brand new material. I have this on very good authority, so trust me on this.

Anathema are one of those bands that seem to effortlessly create beautiful and poignant music. I have lost count of the amount of times I have shed tears whilst listening to this band and frankly, long may that continue.

I will admit to having a few nerves leading up to this new album because I have such high hopes for Anathema and I pray that the new album delivers in the same way that the last two or three certainly have. if you recall, the title track from ‘Distant Satellites’ was noteworthy because of the increased use of electronica – I’m wondering whether this might be an area of greater exploration this time around? Whilst I do love that track, I have to admit that I hope it isn’t a future trend, because I love Anathema most when the music is more organic, beautiful and lyrically intense.

As I said, I have it on very good authority that the album will see the light of day sooner rather than later, so hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

Moonspell – 1755
Release date: November 2017

K1600_1755I’ve had a soft spot for Moonspell ever since I heard the awesome ‘Irreligious’ back when I was a teenager. However, as far as I was concerned, it took until 2015 and the release of ‘Extinct’ for the Portugese Gothic metallers to hit somewhere near to the heights reached some 20 years ago.

My love for the band has now been well and truly rejuvenated and so when I heard that a new album was due in the near future, I was excited. Having now read a little more about it, I remain excited but also highly intrigued.

Entitled ‘1755’ it will centre on the Great Lisbon Earthquake of that year and, as the press release states, “the band has developed a lyrical concept that looks into the death and rebirth of Lisbon and how the disaster changed Religion, Politics and Philosophy in the whole of Europe.”

What’s more, it will be heavier than ‘Extinct’ and will be sung entirely in Portuguese. The image attached may or may not be the cover artwork, but it gives us a bit more of an idea of what we might expect in November. My appetite has been whetted, how about yours?

Teramaze – TBC
Release date: TBC

I reviewed the most recent album from Australian melodic progressive metal band Teramaze on this very blog and I was rather taken by it I must admit.

As a result, I have been buoyed by news that new material is being worked on at the moment. I have no firm answers as to whether a new record would be released in 2017 but I will keep my fingers crossed. In the meantime, the band have released a snippet of the new music they are writing which I thought I’d share with you.

The noises coming early from the band’s camp suggest that they are really happy with the way the music is shaping up, which is always nice to hear. And, if this demo material is anything to go by, the satisfaction of the Teramaze guys is pretty understandable.

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Previous updates:

5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

Album of the Year 2014 – Number 1

We’ve finally made it! Here we are with my Number 1 album of 2014. It has taken over a month to bring you my full top 20 but I hope that it has been worth it. It has taken a lot of effort on my part over the past few weeks to bring this series to you but it is a labour of love that I thoroughly enjoy. And based on the comments, follows, likes and interaction that I’ve had to each post, I get the feeling that many of you have enjoyed following it too. I want to thank everyone of you for making the effort so worthwhile and I hope that maybe it has helped some of you to discover your new favourite band.

If you’re new to this series however and want to discover what you’ve missed, the links to each post in the series can be accessed at the bottom of this post.

And now for the main event, as I reveal which album was the best in 2014 for me:

evergrey hftbEvergrey
‘Hymns For The Broken’
AFM Records

I did not know for a long time exactly how to begin this post. It hit me after much thought though that I should just speak from the heart and, as always, be truthful. So, here goes: ‘Hymns For The Broken’ is just about the perfect record. It is as if the band sat down together and thought ‘there’s a chap in the UK for whom we should write this album’. This is just plain nonsense, preposterous even, I grant you. However, that’s how it feels because just about every single note, every solo, every song is exactly the kind of music that I want to listen to and would dearly love to be able to write and perform. I can’t play and I can’t write music, so it is just as well that there are bands like Evergrey then that have the ability to tap into the minds of others and create music that speaks to them on so many levels. It’s then my job to write about these bands and give something back.

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Before I continue too much further, I should point out that this post has a caveat: I am an Evergrey fanboy. I have written an entire post on the subject but to give you an idea, I have followed the band for fifteen years, travelling to Sweden to watch them play live, as well as catching them at festivals in Germany and in UK venues when they’ve played to just 50 or so people. I attended Bloodstock in 2004 when it was still an indoor festival just because Evergrey were playing. I think I was in the minority of maybe 10 judging by those that I spoke to during the weekend. And Evergrey’s 2000 release ‘In Search Of Truth’ is my all-time favourite album. I wrote a post about that too.

Therefore, for long-term readers, it will come as no surprise to see this record at the top of my 2014 list. That being said, although I’m an Evergrey fan boy, I am honest and will admit to the fact that none of the band’s last three albums would have received this accolade. Neither ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’, ‘Torn’ nor ‘Glorious Collision’ would have warranted such a lofty position in my end of year lists. They are all good albums in their own right, particularly ‘Glorious Collision’, but to be brutal, they’re not as good as ‘In Search Of Truth’, ‘Recreation Day’ or ‘The Inner Circle’, all of which are spectacularly good. But in 2014, the magic returned; that spark is back and the planets have aligned. It all means that ‘Hymns For The Broken’ is the album that I knew that Evergrey had in them and had kept the faith that one day they’d release. It’s so good, it rivals ‘In Search Of Truth’ for my all-time accolade, although only time will tell which album will win that duel.

And yet, leading into the recording of this album, the signs were not good. Evergrey have always seemingly been plagued by the curse of the revolving door with members coming and going with alarming frequency. Following the release of ‘Glorious Collision’, both Hannes Van Dahl (drums) and Marcus Jidell (guitars) departed, leaving a core trio of founder Tom Englund, bassist Johan Niemann and keyboardist Rikard Zander to ponder the future. I interviewed Tom and Johan in London this year and was shocked to read that these departures almost spelled the end for Evergrey.

Instead however, following months of secrecy, the return of former members Jonas Ekdahl (drums) and Henrik Danhage (guitars) was revealed. Given that this line-up was responsible for ‘The Inner Circle’ album and ‘A Night To Remember’ gig in Gothenburg, I felt that the line-up had returned and, as such, we were in for a positive album. What I wasn’t prepared for however, was just how positive ‘Hymns For The Broken’ would be.

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I’m not sure what it is, but Evergrey are one of those bands that are at their best when executing a concept album. This release is no different and the lyrical content just helps to make the album that extra bit special. With ‘Hymns For The Broken’, Tom has laid himself bare and has tackled a subject that has been of personal importance: mental illness. Surprisingly for someone so overtly confident, talented and in control, Tom has admitted to suffering from exhaustion depression and has confronted the subject head-on on this record. It’s an immensely brave move and, speaking as someone who has battled (and continues to battle) demons, it has an added weight. In keeping with all of the albums in my top 3, this album is an emotional rollercoaster but is ultimately a tremendously positive experience. A spoken-word line within ‘Archaic Rage’ is enormously powerful, giving me strength and a really positive sense that my problems are shared by many others and I’m not unique. The line reads:

“You are not alone,
You will never walk this path alone
There are thousands and thousands of people just like you,
Who will never let you walk this path alone.
So raise your fists,
Believe in this,
For we are the remedy.”

It’s spine-tingling and provides me with a warm glow each and every time I hear it. I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

And then there are the compositions themselves. The band might admit to the fact that they are not that technically difficult to play but by heavens they are all anthems. Each and every one of them. The skill employed in writing such a consistent body of work must be huge and it is here in this aspect where ‘Hymns For The Broken’ displays its brilliance.

Whether you refer to the music on this album as melodic metal or melodic progressive metal or even dark metal, the bottom line is that the music transcends these descriptions and is just damn fine music. After the dystopian-sounding instrumental intro, the album blasts into life with the gargantuan ‘King of Errors’. Packed with seriously heavy riffing, a powerhouse of a rhythm section, a chorus to die for and some cracking guitar solos, it’s the perfect statement of intent and an exciting portent of what’s to come as the album unfolds. My favourite track of the Year? Quite possibly.

I could talk endlessly about each of the songs on this album but in order to at least attempt some brevity, I will refrain from doing so. Every one of the twelve compositions offers something superb and full of value, so trying to pick favourites is a thankless and rather futile task. On a daily basis, my opinion changes and a new favourite emerges. To me, this is the hallmark of a quality record that just keeps on giving time after time.

That said, I’d offer honourable mentions to ‘A New Dawn’ with its killer chorus, the epic magnificence of ‘Archaic Rage’, the dark and proggy stomp of ‘The Grand Collapse’ and the hook-laden ‘Black Undertow’ which also benefits greatly from the other ingredient that I have yet to mention: Tom’s vocals.

I have always liked Tom’s vocal delivery but in recent months and years, I have reached the conclusion that he is my favourite vocalist in heavy metal, full stop. Yes, I’ve written about this in a blog post as well. The sheer power of his voice is staggering but the way that he delivers the lyrics is full of drama, it drips with emotion and you really feel every word. The fact that he is singing about such a personal subject here means that there’s an added weight to everything,a subtle fragility hidden within the immense power to counteract the anger, the frustration and the despair that he emotes so beautifully time after time, song after song. Very few other vocalists are able to hold me so enraptured and provide so many goose-bump inducing moments. Put simply, when Tom sings, I listen.

I realise at this point that I’ve spoken a lot about Tom Englund, but each and every member of Evergrey 2014/15 delivers an amazing performance; guitarist Henrik Danhage, keyboardist Rikard Zander, bassist Johan Neumann and drummer Jonas Ekdahl – gentlemen, take a bow. Without each and every member of the band playing a blinder, an album this special would simply not be possible.

With that, I reach my conclusion and wonder what more there is to say. Quite simply,’Hymns For The Broken’ is just about the perfect record. It is a stunning masterpiece, a tour-de-force of heavy metal deserving of every possible plaudit and has been my overwhelming soundtrack to 2014. Bravo.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Album of the Year 2014 – Number 2
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 3
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 4
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 5
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 6
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 7
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 8
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 9
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 20

And if you’re interested, my similar countdowns from previous years can be accessed here:

Top 20 of 2012
Album of the Year 2013