Sound — 8
Ten albums is a lot for most bands, and usually, bands have a tendency to lose some of the spark that makes them special after only very few albums into their career. Gothenburg's Evergrey, now reaching their ten-album mark with "The Storm Within," has maintained a very solid sound with very little change over the years, one that's centered mostly on Tom S. Englund's impassioned vocals and beefy guitar riffs, the guitar interplay between Tom and fellow axe-man Henrik Danhage (marking his second album since his return to the band in 2014 for "Hymns for the Broken"), the atmospheric keyboards of Rikard Zander, and the solid rhythm section of bassist Johan Niemann and Jonas Ekdahl.
With a sound best described as "melodic metal," the band's sound is appealing to both fans of progressive and power metal, though there's very little in the way of either odd meters to make it proggy or mythical fantasy imagery for power metal. Perhaps the best comparison I can make is that it's the perfect halfway point between Sonata Arctica and Katatonia, with perhaps a bit of Kamelot's vocal style thrown in for good measure. Much of the material on the album is fairly low in tempo, dark and minor-key, and this is the tone set by opening track "Distance," which if it weren't for the duelling guitar solos in the middle, might not have sounded out of place on any recent Katatonia record. "Passing Through" is a bit quicker, and almost melodic in a power-metal sort of way. "Someday" goes back to a bit of a slower tempo, and feels a bit more symphonic. "Astray" opens with a cool riff, and has a sound throughout that makes it a dead ringer for a single, and possibly a hit with live audiences as well.
"The Impossible" is a short and sweet piano-led ballad that leads into probably the album's fastest track, "My Allied Ocean," a riff-fest with a pulsing shuffle rhythm and Maiden-esque harmony guitars, and shreddy guitar solo goodness. Nightwish and ex-After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen makes the first of two guest appearances on the symphonic "In Orbit," followed by the mid-tempo "The Lonely Monarch." Tom Englund's wife Carina makes a guest appearance on the power ballad "The Paradox of the Flame," which also has a wonderful violin solo. Heavier riffs and a bit more of an uptempo sound makes "Disconnect" another good track for live performances, and also features Floor Jansen for the second time on the album. The album's closing title track ends things on a big, epic note, with an intro that almost sounds like it could have been written by Devin Townsend. The track takes a while to pick up, but it's a rewarding closer for the album.
The songs do tend to drag on a little by the time we get to the second half of the album, and it seems as if the first half of the record is the stronger half, though that's not to diminish the quality of the second half, since there are some really good songs on it. The songwriting is fairly excellent, with a lot of emphasis put on big, epic melodies rather than instrumental showoffs. That said, there are plenty of amazing guitar solos, by both Tom and Henrik, throughout the record, and the riffs on display are huge and solid. Tom's vocals are also quite excellent, and that's what I think a lot of fans of this style of music are going to focus on, but I think his voice is definitely worth listening to. The production is also fairly solid, with the record sounding bombastic and huge, though perhaps some of the layers of symphonic synth strings can be a little cheesy and overbearing at times, but that's a fairly small complaint.
Lyrics — 8
It was revealed in an interview that the lyrics on this album were inspired by various events in Tom S. Englund's life, mostly dealing with relationships, and has referred to "The Storm Within" as a "love album." There are also tracks that deal with other personal issues, like seeking acceptance (such as in the song "Passing Through"), but the theme on this album is definitely that of relationships. Opening track "Distance" seems to be talking about keeping things together, even though the distance between the main character and their love interest are so far apart, and that may be inspired by the constant toll touring can take on relationships ("It's not over/We'll soon be closer than before/Can't let this distance/Keep our destined souls apart"), while "The Paradox of the Flame" takes on a certain poignancy when you realize that the male and female vocalists are husband and wife ("How I wish for you to carry me/Far away from harm/And to ensure that all we've left/Will stay buried deep/So that our hearts will endure").
Englund's vocals are powerful, as is to be expected from a band of the prog/power-metal genre, and he has a very smooth, emotive vocal delivery reminiscent of the likes of Kamelot's Tommy Karevik and Roy Khan, with a dash of Katatonia's Jonas Renkse (he, in fact, joined Renske on Ayreon's "01011001" album), fitting his vocal style along with the dark, sometimes symphonic and often heavy nature of the music. While I wouldn't claim him to by my favourite metal singer by a long shot, he still does a very admirable job on this record.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, this is a very solid record from a band that's been putting out fairly consistently good-quality records for 20 years. It's not a perfect record, with some songs that do tend to drag on a bit and maybe not enough glimmers of light throughout the often dreary, depressive music, but there are still some very rewarding melodies, songs, and riffs throughout this record, and if you're a fan of the sort of prog/power mix, this is going to be right up your alley. If you're a fan of Kamelot, Sonata Arctica, Nightwish, or some doomier bands like Katatonia, I can't recommend this record enough. If you're not a fan of those, this might not be for you. I certainly tended to prefer the faster, more riff-oriented tracks like "My Allied Ocean" and "Passing Through," but the ballads and slower tempo tracks also have something to offer fans of the style.