EVERGREY – “A Heartless Portrait” (The Orphean Testament)
By Colonel Angus
Just over a year ago, EVERGREY released my top album of 2021 “Escape Of The Phoenix” and here they are with another opus that will surely make my top 5 (if not the top spot again) in 2022. At this point, if you don’t know about EVERGREY, then you need to get yourselves acquainted quickly because they are the premier Gothenburg metal outfit but for those of you that have followed along all these years, then you know you’re in for quite a musical ride.
The disk opens with “Save Us” which is a pounding melodic metal tune that has an addictive chorus. It’s a “fist pounding in the air” type of track that sets the tone for the whole album. “Midwinter Call” has a very haunting sound that evokes a bleak wintery feel. Both of these two opening tracks also contain some excellent guitar work with the solos fitting the rest of the song perfectly. The part of EVERGREY that hooked me from the beginning was their ability to produce really heavy music but also add progressive parts to create a very unique sound. A great example of this is in “Ominous” which weaves back and forth from being heavy to slowing things down here and there. This not only gives the listener a chance to join the band on this ride but it also give the band a chance to explore other musical landscapes. Tom S Englund keeps getting better with each release and his vocal performance on “Call Out the Dark” and ballad (I use that term loosely) “Wildfires” sets a new bar. His emotions just ooze out of his voice so you believe whatever lyrics he sings.
The title track (at least the part in the parenthesis) goes back to relentless riffing before it gives way to a slower middle section that contains another masterful solo. Following that slightly proggy piece is more of a straight ahead track in “Reawakening” which would have fit nicely on “The Storm Within”. The track is one of the shorter tunes on “A Heartless Portrait” and has that same uplifting feel that a number of tunes on “The Storm Within” featured. After that little detour, the band march right back into prog territory with the albums standout cut “The Great Unwashed”. The track starts with a unique riff for EVERGREY and builds into something heavy, then when you think you have it figured out, the band switches gears a put in a moody mid-section where the guitars just wail. Just as the solos finish, we are brought back to the heavier part of the piece. I have listened to this record many times and “The Great Unwashed” still stands as my favorite songs on the disk.
“Heartless” is next and while it is not that short, it seems to have that driving rhythm that makes it go by really quickly. It is a good tune and gives the listener a breather before the unrelentingly heavy “Blindfolded” which sound like something from 2008’s “Torn”. After the pounding of that track, the album ends with the emotional acoustic piece “Wildfires”. I always look forward to the slower dramatic compositions on EVERGREY albums and this one does not disappoint.
Reviewing EVERGREY records for me is always a double-edged sword because I’m so much of a fan that I worry about not liking the material. Listening to this collection of tunes with a critical ear is part of the process of absorbing the record and I have to say that “A Heartless Portrait” (The Orphean Testament) is more than a worthy successor to “Escape of the Phoenix”. EVERGREY keep going from strength to strength with each of their last six releases and I would highly recommend this disk to diehard fans and newbies alike. I can’t predict the future but I would be surprised if this wasn’t in my top five (if not number one) of 2022. Now all I need is for the band to tour the states again.