Review 2251 : Evergrey – Theories of Emptiness – English

Evergrey shares its thoughts with us.

Formed in 1995 in Sweden, the band led by Tom Englund (guitar/vocals, Redemption, Silent Skies) and accompanied by Henrik Danhage (guitar, Death Destruction), Rikard Zander (keyboards, live for Tiamat, ex-Death Destruction), Jonas Ekdahl (drums, Death Destruction) and Johan Niemann (bass, Beyond the Katakomb, ex-Mind’s Eye, ex-Therion) unveil this year Theories of Emptiness, their fourteenth album, on Napalm Records.

The band also announced the arrival of drummer Simen Sandnes (TemicShining NO) for live shows.

The band kicks off with the groovy riffs of Falling From the Sun, the first track on which airy clean vocals meet a jerky energetic approach. Regular touches of technicality add the composition some depth and create a contrast with the softer choruses, as well as with the heaviness of Misfortune, the following track, which is immediately darker and more melancholic. Backing vocals strengthen the chorus’ unifying aspect, then it’s with To Become Someone Else that the musicians allow us a short pause, followed by the return of the crushing saturation that fuels the track’s duality, while making us shake our heads. The ethereal piano break serves to temporize the violence before letting it take on a more haunting form on Say, a melodious and quite motivating composition that is sure to unite the crowds in front of which the band plays it. Evergrey‘s signature style hits the spot, before slowing down on Ghost of My Hero and its much more solemn but at times majestic atmosphere, divided between striking sadness and a glimmer of hope. We Are the North follows with much more ominous synthesizers, creating a tenebrous ambience where a few cries also appear to accompany the fateful lyrics, before the tension subsides with One Heart, which returns to a catchy rhythm and accessible, almost danceable riffs. Intriguing sounds return in full force with The Night Within and its soaring but natural keyboards, then Cold Dreams welcomes Salina Englund, the singer’s daughter, for some backing vocals, as well as Jonas Renkse (Bloodbath, Katatonia, ex-October Tide), giving the composition a more violent touch with his saturated voice. Back to quietness with the gentle lilting Our Way Through Silence, a ballad that easily draws us into its flow of melodies troubled only by saturated riffs, then the album closes with A Theory of Emptiness, an outro where the piano is given pride of place, seconded by an upbeat sampled voice.

Evergrey‘s reputation grows with every album, and I’m sure Theories of Emptiness will amplify the phenomenon. The album knows perfectly well how to be violent and dark, or on the contrary very catchy, very soft and melodious. The Swedes have definitely found their place.


Version Française ?

A few questions to Rikard Zander, keyboardist for the Swedish Progressive/Power Metal band Evergrey, for the release of their new album Theories of Emptiness.

Hello Rikard and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Without using the usual musical labels such as “Progressive Metal”, “Power Metal” or so, how would you introduce the band Evergrey?
Rikard Zander (keyboards): I think there are some Progressive elements in our music but we more or less try to make good songs and interesting music in some kind of Metal, I guess.

Even if you were not part of the band during its creation, what does the name Evergrey mean to you, and how is the link with the music you create now?
Rikard: It’s a name that’s been around for all my time in the band and I guess it reminds a little bit of the dark side in our music. I don’t think about it that much, I must confess.

The band’s new album, Theories of Emptiness, will come out in a few weeks. How do you feel about it? Do you already have any feedback?
Rikard: It feels really good and the feedback has been great so far. It’s always hard to know what you have accomplished  direct after finishing an album, because you have worked so hard with it and can’t really see it objectively.

How would you sum Theories of Emptiness’ identity up in only three words?
Rikard: Heavy, soft, Evergrey.

How did the creation process happen for Theories of Emptiness? Did you notice some changes compared to the previous records?
Rikard: We have worked in a similar way as before. The main difference is that Johan, our bass player, has come up with a lot of ideas on this record and he hasn’t been doing that so much before.

Is there a concept behind Theories of Emptiness? How do you work on the continuity with previous album A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) evoked in the press release?
Rikard: There is not a concept as far as I know but that’s really a question for Tom since he writes 100% of the lyrics and knows much more of those things.

What about the artwork, what were the guidelines you gave Mattias Norén and how does it fit with the music you created? What about the promotional picture taken by Patric Ullaeus where the five of you are covered with clay?
Rikard: Yes we were covered in some kind of clay and we also shot the video for Say. It was pretty hard to get it off later. I think Tom gave Mattias som guidelines about the cover but I’m not really sure how it became the way it did.

The band’s sound is anchored in Progressive and Power Metal, but how do you manage to create your own touch? Where do you find your inspiration to create music?
Rikard: We just try to do as best as we can and when we decide to make an album, the creativity just seems to happen.

How did you decide on the singles to reveal to introduce the album and why did you pick those ones precisely? Do you have a favorite song on this album? Or maybe the hardest one to achieve for the album.
Rikard: We sat down and listened to the whole album together and then we had a vote on which singles to release. It was quite obvious for all of us which one we were gonna use though my favorite song on the album is Misfortune and that’s not a single.

You welcomed Jonas Renkse (Bloodbath, Katatonia, ex-October Tide) alongside Salina Englund on the song Cold Dreams. If it sounds quite obvious for Salina as she is Tom’s daughter, how did you reach Jonas and ask him to participate in your work?
Rikard: Jonas and Tom met on the Ayreon project and became friends so it was kind of a coincidence that Tom later asked him if he wanted to  guest the new album

The band teams up again with record label Napalm Records, how is the collaboration with them?
Rikard: It goes very well and we have one more album on contract with Napalm then we will see what will happen.

Do you think you improved yourself as a keyboardist with this new record?
Rikard: I have used my Hammond organ quite a lot on this album so that’s a real improvement in my opinion.

How do you work on live shows as a band? I was lucky enough to catch a few Evergrey shows, between Paris and Hellfest (2017 and 2023), do you have some special memories of French shows you would like to share with us?
Rikard: We have played in France a lot and the experience has pretty much always been great. When I joined the band in 2002, France was maybe the most supporting country for us and I will always cherish that.

Jonas Ekdahl just announced he will no longer perform live with Evergrey, but will still be involved in terms of songwriting and production. How do you face his decision as a band? Who is the “incredible drummer ready to take over for him in 2024” and how did you choose him?
Rikard: I totally understand his decision and we are still the best of friends and will keep on collaborating in the future. It is sad of course to not having him around on the road but I’m sure It’s gonna workout for the best. Our new drummer is Simon Sandnes and of course he is great since we need someone to take over from Jonas. We found out that he was interested and when we tried him out we really didn’t have to try anyone else.

Are there any other musicians or artists you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, or maybe more.
Rikard: We like the collaboration with other musicians so probably we will have guests on more records but we will have to wait and see who that might be.

What do you know about the French Metal scene? Are there any bands you know and like?
Rikard: I am and old school guy and one of my favorite Metal bands of all time is Trust. I also have a friend that was the singer in Attentat Rock (Marc Quee).

Evergrey will tour in Latin America in June, then a few Summer Festivals, then in Scandinavia with Cyhra this Fall, how do you get ready for those tours?
Rikard: We will of course practice a lot since we have a new drummer but we are starting to get ready!

If you had to organize a concert for Theories of Emptiness’ release show, which bands would you love to play with? I let you create a poster with Evergrey and three other bands!
Rikard: Trust, Michael Schenker Group, Judas Priest.

Last and funny question: which dish would you compare Evergrey’s music with?
Rikard: A Swedish smörgåsbord.

That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Rikard: Thank you very much. I hope you will like the new album and see you on tour!

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