I don’t know about you, but it feels like just yesteryear that Evergrey, seminal Swedish prog power metallers, released their last album, The Storm Within. Turns out, that was two and a half years ago, and they’re following it up in coldest January with The Atlantic, which is way less nautically themed than it at first glance appears to be. Judging by the album cover, it’s more colorful than its predecessor, but no more vibrant, and as it turns out, that judgment is fairly accurate for the music itself as well. In so many ways - basically all the ways – this album is so much what can be expected from Evergrey. It’s their eleventh album, so obviously they’ve found what works for them and they’re running with it. And still in comparison with the latest few releases, which were bleak and… “down”, there’s a certain liveliness here.
The release was preceded by no less than three singles, a full third of the full length songs on the album. The first of them also acts as the album opener, A Silent Arc; it is perhaps the most disappointing thing about the album. While it starts of well enough with some refreshing riffing and rhythm play, the moment Englund’s first verse ends, the whole thing just stagnates into a slow mesh of boring melodies and disengaging rhythms. The few moments it picks up speed again it’s somewhat interesting, but on the whole it’s the worst way they could have opened the album. Take instead second single, Weightless, which has a little more accessibility to it, with a kind of groove to the riffing and an all round more energetic approach. Luckily, the album picks up heaps a few songs in. Especially after The Tidal (a one minute intro to the following track), when the emotive presence just gets closer and the keyboards a bigger role to play alongside Englund’s vocals; Rikard Zander's keys might should need bigger emphasis, because they usually bring out that emotional touch that contrasts the harshness of Henrik Danhage’s fleshy guitars.
Englund was of course recently picked up by American progpower outfit Redemption, giving their latest release a kind of new fire, but somehow he manages to sound more tired here. He too picks up when the music does, bringing plenty of life to the best tracks on here, which are best simply because the musicianship and Englund’s fine vocals come together so nicely; Currents is likely the best example with its fleshy intro by Danhage accompanied by the tightest rhythm section on the album - and how it picks up towards the end with Danhage and Zander battling behind Englund is a thing of beauty - but the entire closing 20 minutes shows it strongly. The album is basically flawless in terms of musicianship, and Evergrey are sounding even tighter than on the preceding full length, and the songwriting isn’t anything you can complain about either. What’s amiss is the pacing; starting off with the drag that is A Silent Arc and then alternating between the livelier tracks and the slower, drearier ones. Bottom line is, Evergrey fans won’t hate this and non-Evergrey fans will like it. It’s good.
Standout tracks: Currents, Departure, The Beacon