Let me preface this review with a few things of note. First, I am an Evergrey fanboy. Period. They have not released a bad album in my eyes. Second, I have referred to myself as Tom’s bitch in the past. He & Jon Oliva are my all-time favorite vocalists because of the passion in their vocal delivery. Finally, I consider Tom a dear friend. Evergrey and ProgPower USA have grown up together. Nothing has changed. With that said, I can indeed be objective. The last two Evergrey releases were my least favorite of their catalog by a mile. I enjoyed several songs from each, but both had something missing. I think my problem with MMA was that it simply followed the fantastic “The Inner Circle.” The more commercial direction left me wanting a hell of a lot more depth despite a few stellar songs (“Still in the Water”. I simply wasn’t ready to move on to Evergroove. My problem with “Torn” was that several of the songs were a bit bland, repetitive, and simply lacked a spark. They just didn’t stick. I think the recent roster turnover was a reflection of something missing on that disc. That said… “Glorious Collision” is not the heaviest Evergrey album. It is not the darkest Evergrey album. So, I ask the old-school whiners to please shut the fuck up now & stop reading. Get on with your life and enjoy other bands. This review is not for you. However, those with an open mind will celebrate the Evergrey magic returning through diversity. The band has combined elements from their entire career in the new disc as opposed to making the cliché attempt of turning back the clock like so many bands have failed at miserably. Does that mean there are a few commercial songs in there from their most recent forays? Absolutely! However, it also means that everything you learned to love about Evergrey over eight albums can be found again with “Glorious Collision.” Track by Track thoughts…. Leave It Behind Us This is how you do an intro. It’s gothic, short, AND part of the song. It sets the mood for some bombastic crunch to get things started. Immediately, you are going to feel the difference in the atmosphere this time around as compared to recent years, as the keys are back where they belong, baby! They actually even enhance the verse section with an electronic vibe before transitioning into the lush piano sound during the chorus. The change of pace is both a bit startling yet comfortable at the same time. That makes no fucking sense as I type it, but it is how I feel. Speaking of the chorus, this is a bit different than the typical Evergrey opener in that I find a lot more melody in Tom’s vocal approach. The signature vocal rasp is still there, but his pitch has gone up noticeably. It works really well in terms of the song, as the chorus is meant to be uplifting. That may turn off some of the old Grey Clan bastards that want every song angry and desperate. However, it’s time to grow the fuck up and listen to a band maturing in terms of songwriting. This song also introduces a fantastic new guitar partnership with Tom & Markus Jidell (ex-Royal Hunt). The solos alternate between soaring and powerful to frantic and technical. That is tricky as hell when you are focusing on the song and not the chops. Regardless, it still flows effortlessly. “Speak to me I can’t hear when your words not spoken Where’s your belief in me The one that could never be broken” You The one thing that you notice before you even start it up is a running time of 6:25. The three minute songs of “MMA” are nothing but a memory now as the road back to the abyss has come full circle. The song immediately hits you in the nuts from the go with the trademark Evergrey riffing before calming down. However, the keys are back adding that extra layer that truly defines an Evergrey song. The first verse/chorus portion has more in common with later day Evergrey with one exception: lyrics. There are a lot of words to digest here, folks. It would appear that the “commercial” aspects have been thrown out the window for the moment, as I don’t see the average metalhead singing along here. The second verse starts after a nice bass bit and begins building again with the returning crunch adding even more depth. The chorus changes up in that lower harmonies are added that seem to emphasize the lyrics even further. It’s basically the opposite of the happy-go-lucky traditional type power metal chorus. And now…welcome back the ‘Grey prog’ baby! A blistering 35 second guitar solo is followed by some heavy duty atmospheric keys and slow, soaring guitar leads. The tempo builds and the head-banging crunch returns to blessedly kick my ass. It’s a full 90 seconds of instrumental bliss before the warm chorus returns with Carina this time! That’s three melodic verses with three different styles. The song abruptly closes down with a beautiful piano melody. “And if weakness is a virtue And an act of strength a pride Then I am king and misery’s my empire” Wrong I may be a fanboy, but I will be the first to admit that this is my least favorite song on the disc. Why? It’s the most commercial song by a million miles. This is radio territory. I can see the record label editing the cool as hell solo bit down to a 3 minute verse/chorus/repeat tune. Nicklegrey if you will. That said, there is absolutely nothing “wrong” (oooh that sucked) with the song. It’s very melodic with an insanely catchy chorus. This may indeed be a bridge to a wider audience if given the right push. Of course, hell is not going to freeze over anytime soon to my knowledge. I do want to point out that sometimes it’s much more difficult to write a good, short, & memorable song than a 20 minute wankathon. That will make no sense to the prog snobs, but moving on…. “Somehow I thought I always knew The difference between a lie and truth I always thought I’d live a little longer To have a chance to grow a little stronger But maybe I was wrong” Frozen Every album contains that one song that you roll the windows down on your car, crank up the volume, and proceed to sing as loud as your voice can go. Screw tone and pitch. This song is a hurricane. It pummels you up front with fast and heavy as hell riffing. However, the eye of the storm passes, and the abrupt change gives you whiplash. There is a stark, naked anger without the music when Tom belts, “Everything is built from change.” Then, the anger and resolution return as the intensity goes from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye with the most pounding drums we have heard from Evergrey in years. Just when you thought you had the song figured out, the most insanely catch chorus hits. It’s a very simple line and done once again in a previously unheard higher tone. I belt this shit out with everything I have in car when it plays. “We’re frozen we’re numb” Actually, that goes…. “We’re fffffffrrrrrrrrrrrooooooooooooooooooooooozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzeeeeennnnnnnnnnn….” Restoring the Loss This song would have fit perfectly on “The Inner Circle” in terms of both mood & atmosphere. However, this is where the band takes that formula and pushes it a bit. The vocal overdubbing is what immediately jumps out as there are two Toms sharing harmony, forcing it to hit even deeper. Once again, the chorus threw me just a bit with a startling contrast between the bleak lyrics and the almost uplifting type of vocal delivery. In other words, it’s catchy as hell. Btw, have I mentioned how awesome it is to have the keys back to prominence? “Don’t ask me to stretch any longer These arms are strained beyond what they can take Don’t ask me for strength cause it’s gone And I’ve reached my end restoring the loss to faith” To Fit the Mold It’s a good day when the boys break out the acoustic guitars. The first minute of the song is devoted to a bleak painting of the human race. It’s a declaration of a soul that is not only lost, but doesn’t care if it ever existed. Once the acoustics end, I absolutely DEFY anyone not to think, “Holy fuck, this sounds like something off of ‘In Search of Truth’!” with that riffing. My favorite part is that after the second big chorus build up, the song shifts back to a subtle and somber acoustic style before my favorite solo(s) on the disc start. This is an old-school guitar solo where it’s all about the emotion. The leads drip passion. Fuck all that fancy fret works stuff. THIS is what I want from a guitar. “Without words and speechless Walk us through the storm On a bound collision course” Out of Reach This one falls more into the later day style of the last two discs. It’s definitely more straightforward and in your face with a much slower tempo. It’s basically a good partner for “Wrong” in terms of style. The chorus has a nice contrast in the deep, choir type harmonies with Tom’s new found higher pitch. I like the song. I don’t love it. “Closed eyes won’t kill thoughts” The Phantom Letters I had a hard time listening to any of the other songs on the disc because I kept hitting repeat on this track. I honestly believe it's one of the darkest stories I have heard put to music in a long time. The song builds in three parts and the intensity rises dramatically each time. The first minute of the song sets the mood immediately. It's just two acoustic guitars providing more depth than most songs provide entirely with full instrumentation. The nylon string scratches not only show great production work, but come off as if they are bleeding. Tom's voice is as strong and as haunting as ever. However, he keeps things totally somber to match the intro mood. The second part is a transition into the welcome return of the piano riff enveloped with the atmospheric keys. The vocals turn it up a notch by adding harmonies and the vocal punch of conviction. The power is there, yet you can still hear that it is a tad restrained. The acoustics return toward the end as you can just feel the crescendo building. The final segment is the money shot. The crunch hits, the drums pound, while the bass whips your ass. Carina and Tom remind us why they are the best one-two punch in the metal world today. The musical tempo continues to vary just when you start to get comfortable with the direction we are being taken. You also get two distinct guitar solos, the first with some warm and soaring leads, while the second works the shit out of the fret. "..along with memories of things I've done to you that will never come undone Can't stop my world from burning down, these flames are all my fault When the ashes fall from heaven, they fall as my confession...." It may just be the best song Evergrey has ever written. The Disease… This is the one track that grew on me the most. At first, I was totally put off by the sludgy, down-tuned guitar intro. However, once I took the song for what it is instead of what it is not, it just took off. There are plenty of subtle nuances that hit you once you put the headphones on. You begin to truly appreciate the instrument separation instead of just the immediate gratification of the upfront chorus and insanely catchy riffs. It's a down and dirty, blink and you miss it kind of song otherwise. One thing I do want to point out is something that some folks may take for granted. Tom’s vocals continue to shine here in what may be his most bluesy performance yet. He holds a note or changes up the emphasis on a syllable just enough to make you take note without it being a distraction. These are the type of things that some may take for granted, but I don’t. This type of effort is what separates the good vocalists from the great vocalists in terms of passion and delivery. Once again, fuck all that technical garbage. “I failed to see the disease before it created distance” It Comes from Within What I love about this disc is that the boys continue to nod to their past without repeating themselves. They do it again here with a fast & furious guitar intro that harkens back to the SDT days. It doesn’t stop there either. The entire tune is an epic gallop intertwined with angry as hell guitar solos. However, don’t get used to that just yet. The middle of the song slows down and a bombastic groove takes over. It’s the kind where you can stop with the whiplash head-banging and just kind of nod your head a bit (think of the Slayer crowd vs. the Opeth crowd). And then...*BAM!* The frantic pace kicks back in before an abrupt ending that leaves you asking yourself, ”WTF just happened?” “For as long as I remember I fought this war alone And the blood on my hands the weight of the cross Are bricks in a wall Built from vengeance” Free In American terminology, this is what we would refer to as a “homerun.” This is a slow and brooding number with an atmosphere so thick it chokes you. While the tempo & melody remain somber, the diversity continues to shine quietly with keyboards that blend into acoustic guitars seamlessly. Once again, it takes a page out of the catalog with the vibe from “The Dark Discovery.” That said, I want to point out something that most either take for granted or do not even notice. Evergrey continue to write some of the most poignant and poetic lyrics that I have ever heard put to music. While most bands struggle to write songs that make a damn bit of sense, Evergrey have cemented their lyrical content at the thesis level. “I’ve read your words I understand it’s said it’s done I walk away in fear of what you said that I’ve become Can’t change your words now they are stains made to stay Won’t be erased” I’m Drowning Alone I’m not going to describe this song. I’m only going to tell you about four simple lines that will raise every hair on your arm and give you instant chill bumps. I still freeze up when it happens. In fact, I have a hard time typing anything about it now because I get that much into the song. “See me cause here I am Hear me cause here I am Remember me cause here I am Notice me cause here I am” Remember the movie “Poltergeist?” There was a scene where Caroline was trapped in the television and you could hear her voice in the distance with an echo affect. With that in mind, Tom & Carina’s 10-year old daughter, Salina, sings those lines with pure innocence and childlike beauty. However, the effect is also one of loneliness and distance. She lulls you into a peaceful bliss before delivering an emotional sledgehammer with a stunning vocal performance at the end. It’s only a few seconds, but wow…just wow. The pride those two parents must feel here goes without saying. …and the Distance It is only fitting that the disc closes with a song that features everything we love about Evergrey. Tom’s soulful wails, a beautiful piano, and some emotional guitar work take us straight into the maelstrom of a chorus. Carina’s sirenesque vocals duet with Tom’s impassioned pleas throughout the rest of the song, as each attempt to convince the other of the true conviction in the words. The music bleeds grey before fading back out with the piano. It’s fanfuckingtastic and leaves you begging for more. “You’re keeping your distance You’re pushing me away You’ve never let me say the words I want to say” …and the Distance (Carina bonus track) Long time fans; let me hear you yell, “HELL YES!” This is the exact same song, but Carina reverses roles with Tom and dominates the vocals. In fact, Tom backs off completely until the last minute of the song before the duet battle returns. I have said it before and I will say it again. Carina is the best female vocalist in metal. Rei-Zan (Japanese bonus track) So I asked Tom, “Who is playing on "Rei-Zan?” His response, “I can’t do that shit.” The bonus track is an instrumental that is a bit of a departure for the band. While the keys and rhythm department do their job, this is a total, tasteful shredfest. Markus basically steps up to the plate, raises his middle finger to the world, and announces his presence with authority. With the release of “Glorious Collision,” Evergrey have returned to the top of the prog/power genre. Take a bow, gentlemen. You’ve earned it.