Evergrey - The Inner Circle

Year of Release: 2004
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 165/SPV 085-60732 C
Format: CD
Total Time: 46:09:00

After first hearing Evergrey's The Inner Circle, what you'll remember most is Thomas Englund's singing. Over the band's discography, Englund's vocals have evolved into an instrument of deep, gut-wrenching emotions, and they're applied to this album's deep subject matter with a new intensity.

The instrumentation on The Inner Circle is the most sophisticated of all their releases. Progressive, elegant, and with tremendous variations between the heavy passages and the lighter acoustic ballads. On balance the music is not as heavy as on prior releases which has left some diehard metal fans feeling cheated. But as a prog-metal-head I was in heaven. Listen for the subtleties, the slower, more emotional guitar solos, the reduction in riff-dependent song structures, and the increase in keyboards and acoustic sounds. Especially pleasing touches were the liberal use of female vocals provided by Tom's wife Carina, and the seamless blending of music from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.

The Inner Circle is a strongly themed piece about the self righteous fanaticism of religious cults. There are also a few references to child molestation, a follow-on from the song "Unforgivable" on their previous album. The tone is darker and more poignant than previous CDs and you're left in no doubt about how strongly Evergrey feels about the subject matter.

To advance the religious-zealot theme, the album is punctuated with voice-over snippets, of the rantings of one who sounds like an old world televangelist preaching hellfire-and-brimstone. In the final track "When The Walls Go Down" the same character is losing his way is and prays for restoration of his faith - which he finds. This track is an interesting all instrumental piece with the voice-overs being the only vocals - there is no singing.

The voice-over method is extremely effective and it leaves no doubts about the depth and the desperate emotions being portrayed. But it gets old after many listens.

The standout track for me was "Waking Up Blind." Englund sings almost a cappella with just the softest accompaniment. "Ambassador" is a complete contrast - a heavy piece with a double bass assault, which retreats for a time into a keyboard and orchestral segment, then back into the metal set again. Unlike the other tracks, the vocals are kept to a minimum in this piece.

Until now, I've felt that In Search Of Truth was Evergrey's best album. Although the furious guitar solos and the overall heaviness have been dampened, the songwriting on this new release eclipses anything the band has done in the past. It isn't a huge step forward - rather an evolutionary step in the direction of sophisticated progressive metal with more than a nod to the band's power-metal origins.

Expect this album to be Evergrey's biggest seller. A video for the opening track "A Touch Of Blessing," already in on MTV's Headbangers Ball, and the record's approachable heart-on-the-sleeve emotions, blended with behind-the-scenes musical sophistication, will bring it to the attention of a wider audience. And the simple but striking cover art by Mattias Norén, cover-painter for the stars, will add to its appeal in the CD shops.

Thomas Englund's vocals are the best and the worst thing here. He is far from your garden-variety metal wailer. His expressive, rather unsophisticated singing is very distinctive and effectively brings home the theme, and will win many new fans for Evergrey. But there may be too much of a good thing here, and I found I had to really work to listen behind the almost omnipresent singing, to appreciate the depth of the music - which is where you'll find the true quality to this album.

Released in North America by InsideOut Music (IOMACD 2079)

A Touch Of Blessing (5:50) / Ambassador (4:29) / In The Wake Of The Weary (4:43) / Harmless Wishes (4:18) / Waking Up Blind (4:22) / More Than Ever (4:13) / The Essence Of Conviction (6:06) / Where All Good Sleep (4:37) / Faith Restored (3:53) / When The Walls Go Down (5:38)

Tom S. Englund - vocals, guitars
Henrik Danhage - guitars, backing vocals
Michael Hakansson - bass
Jonas Ekdahl - drums

The Dark Discovery (1998)
Solitude*Dominance*Tragedy (1999)
In Search Of Truth (2001)
Recreation Day (2003)
Inner Circle (2004)
The Dark Discovery - Special Edition (2004)
Solitude*Dominance*Tragedy - Special Edition (2004)
A Night To Remember - Live 2004 (2005)
Monday Morning Apocalypse (2006)
Torn (2008)
Glorious Collision (2011)
Hymns For The Broken (2014)
The Storm Within (2016)

A Night To Remember - Live 2004 (DVD) (2005)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin SE

Added: May 16th 2004
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website: www.evergrey.net
Hits: 1370
Language: english


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