Sound — 6
With nearly two decades and a total of nine full-length studio albums now behind them, the members of Evergrey have established a proud reputation for remaining true to their own style of progressive metal. Their approach occasionally ventures into prototypical "power metal" boundaries, highlighted by soaring synthesizer arrangements, crunching distortion guitar and overtly melodic vocal harmonies only shaded by lyrical themes of deception, paranoia, child abuse and alien abductions. This consistent form of stylistic methodology has developed a steady audience for Evergrey, who continue to craft compositions tailored to fit the tastes of their demanding followers on their newly released studio effort, "Hymns for the Broken."
Nearly two minutes of anticipation-building sound effects introduces the listener on the opening instrumental, aptly titled "The Awakening," before the album shifts into overdrive with assertive percussion playing and solid rhythm guitar work bombarded with cascades of artificial harmonics on "King of Errors." Directed by lead vocalist and guitarist Tom Englund, this assaultive sonical force quickly embodies a character all it's own, and quickly sets the tone for the remainder of the effort. "A New Dawn" and "Archaic Rage" introduce similar bombastic pairings of guitar playing overridden by guitar effects and electronic overtones attributed via synthesizer, whereas "Barricades" reinforces the album's brooding musical themes through chilling war chants.
In what would otherwise be a moderately enjoyable climb through power metal territory, "Hymns for the Broken" conjures up several weak moments in the form of poorly crafted ballads which attempt to deliver the same punch of it's predecessors in the track listing while laying off it's actual musical side. The aggression is still present on such cuts as "Wake a Change" and "Black Undertow," the difference is that the members of Evergrey don't back it up with the same no-holds-barred musicianship which made the aforementioned numbers standout. The contrast is enough to make an apparent impact on the end result found here, however that isn't to say there aren't additionally memorable moments on the rest of the album, including the epic seven minute compositions "The Grand Collapse" and "The Aftermath."
Lyrics — 5
Frontman Tom Englund serves overtime as Evergrey's guitarist, however it's when he steps to the main microphone that his abilities really surface on "Hymns for the Broken." Concrete levels of emotion consistently flow through Englund's vocal performance on the album, which proves to be a dual-edged sword in regards to the effort's quieter moments. When the remainder of the lineup are working towards the common goal of setting the world ablaze and overthrowing maniacal dictators to the roars of distortion guitar and punishing percussion, Englund is right there alongside his bandmates, but when the aggression begins to dissipate, ala "Wake a Change," a tear in the metal field is formed, and Englund's performance can be accredited as the major force behind that contrast.
Overall Impression — 6
Simply put, when the members of Evergrey reach their stride, the outcome is overtly standout throughout their new studio album, "Hymns for the Broken." Unfortunately, the album as a whole is battered and bruised when it comes down to it's more reflective moments, which reveal a more apparent clash within the band's chemistry.