Evergrey got their start 25 years ago in Gothenburg, Sweden. Their own press avers that at this point they have nothing to prove. But with their thirteenth studio album. A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament), prove they did. They proved it is possible to improve on a good thing. The band’s 2021 release, Escape of the Phoenix, charted well and this time out should be no different.
For this release, Evergrey has moved to Napalm Records, home of a full roster of hard rock and heavy metal artists like W.A.S.P., Dee Snider, Van Canto and Sirenia. Strong songwriting and the band’s usual talent makes this a label debut that will also prove their worth to Napalm.
Orphean at it’s base definition means melodic and enchanting. More broadly, it references the poet Orpheus who could move inanimate objects with his music. Orpheus was almost able to rescue his wife from Hades, god of the dead and brother of Zeus and Poseiden. And that may just be an apt description for A Heartless Portrait.
Tom S. Englund’s vocals throughout the album are spot on, moving effortlessly from earnest intensity to growly passion without a hitch. He may arguably be one of the best vocalists in the hard metal genre, but is certainly just the right voice for Evergrey throughout their history. The band (Henrik Donhage—guitar, Rikard Zander—keyboard, Johan Niemann—bass) are firing on all cylinders. There’s not a wasted note or vocal throughout this 50 minute, 10 song opus.
A Heartless Portrait is also one of those rare albums without one single throwaway. Even the song order is well done.
The album opens up with the heavy drum intro of Save Us. Fan participation vocals were used to good advantage. Hundreds of collected vocals were layered to produce backing vocal moments. This technique was also used on the following song Midwinter Calls, with its alternating staccato and smooth delivery.
The Orphean Testament is the longest song here, but you certainly don’t mind it. It’s a solid heavy metal example with a good balance of instrumental and vocal.
Evergrey has an innate ability to transition smoothly from the nearly-wistful to full-on metal assault with nary a blip. A lot of bands try it, but all to few manage to pull it off this well. Heartless and Reawakening are nice examples.
They wind up the album with Wildfires. A low-key, poetic, and a perfect album ender.
It’s difficult to come up with a list of standouts here because every song begs listening to. Every single track is important. These days that’s rare.
Evergrey is currently on tour through September. If you can’t make it, try Before the Aftermath (Live from Gothenburg) to tide you over.
A+ Would accost a stranger on the street to recommend.
A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)” track-listing:
- Save Us
- Midwinter Calls
- Call Out the Dark
- The Orphean Testament
- The Great Unwashed
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