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Evergrey - Live: Before the Aftermath

Evergrey
Live: Before The Aftermath
by Mike Peacock at 14 February 2022, 3:36 PM

Live albums are tricky beasts to review. There are several more factors to consider than when covering a normal studio release, mostly due to the fact that in many cases, live albums contain songs from a band’s discography than can span years or even decades. Additionally, songs performed live have a completely different feel than their studio counterparts and getting a good sounding live recording is no small feat.

Sweden’s EVERGREY, and their latest release “Live: Before the Aftermath” proved to be no exception. Released on January 28, 2022, via AFM Records, this epic package consists of a live-streamed concert performed in 2020 in the band’s hometown of Gothenburg and comes as both a triple-vinyl and a full-video Blu-ray/2 CD set.

Clocking in at just under two hours of listening time, there is a lot to dissect here. And it’s mostly pretty damn good. As touched on earlier, live albums often suffer from poor audio quality and tend to only appease the die-hards who are willing to sacrifice audio fidelity to get a taste of their favorite bands playing live in the comfort of their own homes. This is simply not the case with “Live: Before the Aftermath.” In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The audio quality of this recording is absolutely stellar. With the exception of the bass being somewhat buried at times (though by no means is bassist Johan Nieman “Newsteded” out of the mix), each instrument stands out with distinct clarity and also has a fair amount of “punch,” which is often also lacking in live recordings. The drums have a particularly powerful sound, and the technical skillset of drummer Jonas Ekdahl shines as one of my favorite things about this album. The detuned guitars are heavy and chunky with a distinctly powerful chug that reeks of modern British tone. The frenzied keyboard tones supplied by keyboardist Richard Zander are prominently on display and not relegated to simple overlays or transitions, and they sound great. And the vocals of front man/guitarist Tom S. Englund sit perfectly in front and at no point take over the production.

Speaking from a purely technical standpoint, this album is among the best live recordings I’ve heard. At times I wondered if was truly a live recording or if it was engineered to sound live, like TYPE O NEGATIVE’s “The Origin Of The Feces.” I have no doubt it is a true recording, through clearly the mixing and mastering engineers are über talented as are the live sound team and there was definitely plenty of post-production wizardry. That being said, I couldn’t shake the thought that the “live” feel isn’t fully there. The crowd noise is super low, clearly dropped down in post. Even the constant “Hey, hey, hey” chants (of which I could definitely do without) and crowd sing-alongs seem really disembodied, and do nothing to make you feel like you’re there. If it wasn’t for the frequent bouts of Englund’s between-song banter, and the occasional sloppy lead guitar work you’d almost think it wasn’t a live recording. So, in that sense, it’s almost too good. I, for one, love the crowd noise and ambient stage sounds (of which there are practically none) on live albums, as long as it’s not overwhelming.

From a content standpoint, this performance consists of sixteen songs than span their twelve album/ thirty-year career (though of course no songs are included from their 2021 studio release “Escape of The Phoenix”) with a good mix of older and newer tunes sure to appease the most devout fans. Those that are familiar with EVERGREY will be more than pleased with the selections. For those that are not familiar with the band, this would be a great starting point to get introduced to their signature style.

It would be too much to do a song-by song breakdown of all 16 tracks, but there are definitely some highlights. The opening track “A Silent Ark” is a solid choice to lead the listener in, beginning with a cool keyboard intro (which I normally tend to dislike) that leads into an epic build up, culminating in a heavy and dynamically diverse tune with plenty of time signature changes.  “Distance” also takes us in with a keyboard intro, but it’s a different vibe entirely. More of a melancholy, soul-sucking piano sound sure to send you into a spiraling state of sadness and despair. The overall song is slow and emotional and is the closest thing to a ballad, though it doesn’t quite go down that road. The chorus has a great hook and is very singable, and the pairing of the ethereal keyboards and staccato guitar chugging are very reminiscent of DREAM THEATER. In fact, this entire album has many Dream Theater-isms. The track “Passing Through” starts out with a crowd-enticing “Hey, hey, hey,” then launches into a killer heavy riff-fest that’s very thrashy but also somewhat reminiscent of LINKIN PARK in the way it manages to be heavy and melodic at the same time. There’s some killer shredding in this tune as well as some tasty whammy-laden lead shenanigans.

Mark Of the Triangle” grabs you with another awesome whammy-divebomby intro, then gets the blood pumping with a very RAMMSTEIN-esque galloping chug that had me bobbing my head involuntarily. Not quite a full-on headbang, but definitely the mark of metalhead approval and enough to make me look around to see if anyone saw me doing it. The eleventh song on the album, “My Allied Ocean,” kicks you in the nuts immediately with a fast and heavy thrash-tastic onslaught that keeps its pace through the entire song and really doesn’t let up. This is easily the highest energy song on this album and stands out in stark contrast to the mostly gothic/doom -inspired vibes of most of the other songs. This track is pure metal. Speaking of doom, we’re immediately pulled back into a slow dirge of agony with “All I Have,” an emotionally tortured anthem with a catchy (and highly singable) chorus as well as dome downright sludgy guitar work. This is a deep song that is sure to be a favorite due to its memorable execution. “The Grand Collapse” almost gets into metalcore territory with its djent-like rhythms and epic mid-song breakdown that perfectly contrasts the doomy heaviness of the opening, the awesome lead work, and the hauntingly ethereal keyboards. Finally, “A Touch of Blessing” delivers a true sensory onslaught. With keyboard intro reminiscent of PINK FLOYD or YES, maybe with a touch of “the Halen”, this song exudes a somewhat retro 80’s/early 90’s vibe. It’s a total instrumental wankfest until about 6minutes in, but then it gets super heavy, and we get an awesome treat of QUEENSRYCHE-y style harmony guitars before the song really opens up. I’d say this track is a grower, not a shower. Definitely worth sitting through the intro to get to the good stuff.

There’s literally so much going on here that it’s hard to sum it all up accurately and not put you to sleep. As it stands, EVERGREY is a perfect name for a band that really doesn’t fit neatly into one genre. Is it metal? Yeah, mostly. Is it Rock? Maybe. Is it Gothic? Definitely. Is there such as thing as “Progressive Doomy Gothic Stadium Metal?” There is now. For me, the one thing that keeps this out of purely metal territory is Englund’s vocal delivery. There’s a certain amorphous quality to his voice. There are no growls or screams. Nor are their wailing falsettos. There is very little happening in terms of vocal variation. Englund stays in one basic range, clearly his comfort zone. Additionally, his voice has a kind of “I can’t quite describe who he sounds like, but he sounds like somebody” quality to it. This is a criticism that is often levied at him, yet he stays the course. Perhaps in an attempt to keep the mood consistent and not overshadow the overall feel of the songs. Don’t take that as I think he’s a bad vocalist. He’s not. He’s got a very clean, consistent, and deliberate delivery that definitely fits the music. It just doesn’t stand out.

Overall, this is a very solid release that belongs in the collection of any fan of live music. As comparison to this band is difficult, I will say that there are many overtones of legendary bands at different points in the songs. Fans of DREAM THEATER will appreciate the riffing and keyboards, while fans of MY DYING BRIDE and SOLITUDE AETERNUS will be drawn to the emotionally doomy feel. There’s even a hint of Tony Martin era BLACK SABBATH, TRANS-SIBERIN ORCHESTRA, KING DIAMOND, GHOST, NEVERMORE, QUEENSRŸCHE, AS I LAY DYING, and DREAM EVIL. Again, these are subtle influences and by no means is EVERGREY derivative of any of these bands.

If you’re willing to invest a couple of hours of your time, “Live: Before the Aftermath” is a worthy collection of songs that display a range of emotions and styles and may just be the “something different” you’re looking for.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. A Silent Ark
2. Weightless
3. Distance
4. Passing Through
5. The Fire
6. Leave It Behind Us
7. Mark Of The Triangle
8. The Masterplan
9. Solitude Within
10. Black Undertow
11. My Allied Ocean
12. All I Have
13. The Grand Collapse
14. Recreation Day
15. A Touch of Blessing
16.  King of Errors
Lineup:
Tom S. Englund – Vocals/Guitars
Henrik Danhage – Guitars
Rikard Zander – Keyboards
Johan Nieman – Bass
Jonas Ekdahl – Drums
Record Label: AFM Records
     


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