All my future wishes
Put aside for a greater journey
All the things I planned
Left my friends so coldly
Put aside for a higher purpose"
One Word Review: Haunting
Like 2001's "In Search Of Truth", "The Inner Circle" is a concept album. This time religion and abuse are central themes. The album is not easily digested and can best be described as haunting. Evergrey is one of those bands that are instantly recognizable and the gloomy, agonizing atmosphere is ever present on "The Inner Circle". The album is more compact and focused than their previous, "Recreation Day", but the songs take a lot longer to stick. Give it 20 listens to fully bloom and you'll find a memorable, unique album, one that I still find relevant here, over a decade after its release. Having become a father during that time, the album leaves an even bigger mark on my mind today and though it is a hard listen, it is as important and relevant as ever. The album has gained an element of timelessness.
If you have not heard Evergrey before then "The Inner Circle" will be a good start. It has all the Evergrey elements, namely their dark atmosphere, Tom's expressive vocals, the heavy guitars and the atmospheric keyboard sound. Each of these elements adds a layer to Evergrey's unique sound, which I can only sum up as melancholic, dark and slightly progressive Heavy Metal.
The opening moments of the album slowly draw you into Evergrey's void and with A touch of blessing you are soon free-falling through feelings of loss, desperation and misguided hope. It is an interesting mix and one that Evergrey capture in a very exciting way and with complete success. The opening song has the feeling of setting of on a long undiscovered journey, with the hectic bass line of the bridge section conjuring the distinct feeling of something ominous, sinister and not right.
The ultra heavy Ambassador draws you further in with a strong sense of authority and has Tom singing with a lot of aggression. It feels like the song can explode at any time, successfully capturing a feeling of withheld anger and, in this way works as both a comment on the state of things, as well as progressing the story.
One of my favorite songs is In the wake of the weary, which is driven by excellent guitar work and a thick wall of drums. The ultra heavy guitar riff introducing each verse is a clear highlight. The song also introduces Carina Englund, who sings all the female vocals on the album and does an outstanding job.
The essence of conviction is another favorite, though it is deeply haunting in its subject matter. The opening instrumental intro has the coolest break and the song captures me completely, from start to finish. It is one of those songs, where the keyboard makes a great difference in bringing out the atmosphere.
The album also has several slower, very atmospheric and emotional songs. Harmless wishes has some overwhelming, huge parts, while especially Waking up blind and Faith restored capture some touching moments.
Finishing of the album in a perfect way is the elusive When the walls come down. It is a very powerful track and in fear of spoiling the experience, I won't say anymore. It should be experienced first hand.
The production is excellent with a big sound stage, clear distinction between instruments in multiple layers, Tom's vocals, dead center at the front while the drums are spread wide, guitar and bass weave in and out of the sound just behind him and keyboards and choirs are pushed to the boundaries of the sound. Sweet production overall.
A special mention goes to the Gothenburg Symphonic Orchestra, who play all string arrangements and enhance the album greatly. Be sure to get the limited edition of the album, which comes with three acoustic bonus tracks and excellent packaging.
The Inner Circle is an ambitious concept album that succeeds in drawing me in and makes me feel with the music, however uncomfortable that may be. If you missed this album when it was released, it is still worth hunting down to get a taste of this very special band.
Written By Steen
Online: Monday, December 14, 2015
A Touch Of Blessing