“Escape of the Phoenix”

By Colonel Angus

EVERGREY is one of those bands that I did not get into from the “ground floor”.  They were 5 albums in when a friend lent me a copy of “The Inner Circle” and from that point on I was hooked.  Going back and obtaining their back catalogue was something that I had to do right away and upon listening to their first records I realized that I had been missing out on one of the best bands out there.  I continued to be a first day purchases of all of their subsequent disks and while many people (my friends included) were a little disappointed with “Monday Morning Apocalypse”, I liked it and to this day, listen to it often.  The band has really hit their stride starting with “Glorious Collision” and have released 4 albums in a row that ranked in my top spot for each year of release.  That all being said, when I was offered the chance to review “Escape of the Phoenix”, I was both excited and nervous at the same time.  There is always that chance that one of your favorite artists might make a stylistic change or just not be able to come up with the goods.  After a good 20 spins, I have to say that EVERGREY has pulled off another winner and even surpassed their previous effort “The Atlantic” which surprised even me.

“Escape of the Phoenix” starts off in fine fashion with the heavy and catchy “Forever Outsider”.  The track takes the heaviness from “The Atlantic” but incorporates some of the catchy elements of “The Storm Within”.  “Where August Mourns” switches gears a little by focusing on Tom S Englund’s emotional vocals.  His vocal performance throughout gives the listener a sense that he “feels” every lyric and that each word is important to the story he tells through song.  I’m not much of a ballad person but when they are done right, I’m all onboard.  Both “Stories” and “You From You” are great ballads and they are done in that mournful way that only EVERGREY can do perfectly.  Not only are the vocals emotional, the guitar solos also evoke a sad emotion which fits the tracks perfectly.  Even though I like their ballads, I love the variety of tracks on their records. 

 After the mellow “Stories” we are treated to the rapid fire riffing of “Dandelion Cipher”.  Even though the band has moved away somewhat from incorporating prog into their brand of metal, they still add elements here and there and “Dandelion Cipher” is a good example of that little bit of prog thrown in for good measure.  Speaking of prog, Englund has never shied away from sharing vocals and on “The Beholder” none other than James LaBrie makes an appearance.  Both voices, although very different and distinct, blend very well together and the end result elevates this track beyond Englund’s other duets.  I have also always loved EVERGREY’s heavy use of piano and keyboards and “In Absence of Sun” starts off with piano and Englund’s mournful vocals but continues to build throughout its 6 minutes until it fades with same piano as the intro.  “Nocturnal Eternal” is a hit and is very reminiscent of "Passing Through" from “The Storm Within”.  The title track, “Leaden Saints” and "Run" all finish off the album (“You from You” is also in the mix towards the end) in typical EVERGREY style with “Leaden Saints” being the standout. 

I’m always excited to when there is news of a new EVERGREY release and while there is that part of me that hopes they deliver, there is also a part of me that knows that whatever they come out with, I’m going to like it.  That being said, for the past decade, EVERGREY have been on a roll and have put forth 5 albums (including this one) that contain not a single dud track.  Is this my favorite record by the band?  That is hard to say because “In Search of Truth” will always hold a special place in my heart but “Escape of the Phoenix” sits right up there with that record.  I don’t know what 2021 holds for new releases but I can’t imagine this record not being my top pick for this year.