DEMONSPELLS SONGS TO WATCH EVERGREY SPECIAL..Today is Recreation Day. Written February 4-5, 2002 www.mp3.com/stations/songstowatch - recent additions: Aghora Immortal Bliss Divided Sky Grasp Heavens Cry Masterdoms Profit Kataklysm In Shadows & Dust Moonsorrow Hiidenpelto Pathology Solitary Dwarf xthoughtstreamsx Hardcore, Indie, Pop Expect frequent changes due to mp3.coms absurd three song limit policy that went into effect this month. Greetings, devoted readers. What follows is an in-depth review of Evergreys Recreation Day, due out March 11th, and the usual short recommendations. Over the course of their three albums, Gothenburg's Evergrey have gradually become a leading force in the world of metal. The Dark Discovery was a debut few bands can match in terms of raw power, and their identity was already fully formed, the record's impact was diminished only by a thin production. This was remedied in time for 1999's Solitude Dominance Tragedy, a vast improvement on the debut boasting a much fuller sound and an increased progressiveness to the music. This was their breakthrough album internationally, and by the time their brilliant concept album In Search Of Truth was ready to be released, Evergrey had acquired a growing cult following. ISOT received almost unanimous rave reviews, and propelled Evergrey into the metal elite...a showstopping performance at Progpower 2.0 cemented their reputation. Unfortunately, Evergrey suffered a series of setbacks as they lost two keyboardists in quick succession and Neil Kernon was unable to produce their next album due to immigrattion problems. But it would take more than that to stop music as vital as that of Evergrey, as the final results prove... ...The Great Deceiver (not a Crimson cover, of course!) grabs you right away, establishing this album's more aggressive sound right away, and nearly every song continues in the same wall of guitars approach. The chanted sections prevalent on their last two albums make an early appearance here. New keyboardist Rickard Zander introduces himself in spectacular fashion on the next track End Of Your Days with a mindbending solo, and Tom Englund proves to be one of metal's most dynamic vocalists, as just about every song has a chorus that ingrains itslef in the listner's mind with stunning force. As I Lie Here Bleeding continues in the same vein, with more devastating riffs balanced with the band's gift for melody. Next comes the title track, which contains a gigantic chorus loaded with raw emotion and an instrumental section rivaling anything on In Search Of Truth. Visions is full of just about everything that makes this band great. The melodic solo that comes out of nowhere after the pounding chorus is a moment of beauty, and the track's conclusion is magnificent, with a visceral riff worthy of Opeth making way for an elegiac piano and violin coda. Next is the album's first single, I'm Sorry. For those who scratched their heads after learning that Evergrey was doing, of all things, a Swedish pop song, rest easy. This is 100% Evergrey, the only disappointment being its brevity. It begins as a ballad but quickly builds in tension, and the chorus is excellent: Tom's strength is such that he can make a simple phrase like "I'm sorry", which is repeated four times, sound cathartic. Fragments is built around a stunning choral arrangement. The production on this album is excellent, bringing out the nuances of every instrument without sounding overproduced, and not only preserving but enhancing Evergreys bleak atmosphere. Blinded is another potential single, and a great choice as the riffs are crushing yet immediate and the chorus is infectious. I am definitely blinded, by the display of talent on this album. Track nine is perhaps an even more pronounced departure than Im Sorry, the all-acoustic Madness Caught Another Victim. This stripped down approach is perfect for the dread that often defines Evergreys lyrics and musical atmosphere, and pushes Tom into yet another soul stirring performance. Next up is perhaps the albums finest song, Darkest Hour, one that continues the fine tradition that every Grey album must have a song with dark in the title. The melodies in this track are brilliant, the keyboards are expert, and the chorus commands instant recognition, everything falls into place here creating a composition that is the essence of this band. Carina Kjellberg, a.k.a. Mrs. Tom Englund, has a solo spot on this song, and it is gorgeous. The closer Unforgivable Sin ends the album on a disturbing note with its haunting piano and a chilling performance by Tom, especially on the second verse where he is largely unaccompanied. Recreation Day is a brilliant piece of music. Preorder it now on www.metalages.com or else. And now, the other songs Akashic Voices And Signs, Gates Of Firmament: Brazilian progressive metal act with some exceptional guitar work, reminiscent of Symphony X Alias Eye Just Another Tragic Song, The Readiness Is All: German progressive rock act characterized by thoughtful lyrics and melodies and expressive vocals, the latter song contains some jazzy sections Amaran Void, Coming Home: This excellent Finnish act is expected to deliver the followup to their debut a World Depraved this year, and if the latter demo, available on their homepage, is any indication, it will be an improvement, as it is a scorcher. In addition, this column is mentioned on their site thanks guys! Amon Amarth Where Silent Gods Stand Guard, Death In Fire: On Versus The World, the formula developed on their last two albums is sharpened into a sound balancing the best elements of Viking metal and melodic death Arilyn Reach You, Rescue Me: German act playing progressive rock with some slight metallic tendencies Artension Endless Days, New Discovery: The latter title track is misleading, as this band hasnt changed too much, if at all, over their five or so releases, and even on the slower former track, Vitalij Kuprij cant resist taking an extended solo should still please neoclassical fans. Children Of Bodom Needled 24/7, Bodom Beach Terror: Alexi and company are back, with even more inane lyrics and poorly arranged songs than their last few efforts. As always, there are some impressively manic solos, but no reason to pay attention otherwise. Death Machine Inflicting, Not To Be: In which three fourths of Zero Hour team up with a growler to produce a tech death album, reminiscent of Meshuggah in places though not as relentlessly heavy. The latter track is something completely different, a short, morbid piano-led piece. Divided Sky Grasp, Lifestream: One of several interesting unsigned prog artists from the Philadelphia area, this one I became aware of after receiving an Email about inclusion on my station. The former track is excellent, containing some heavy sections and effective instrumentation. Both songs available at www.mp3.com Divinity Destroyed Threnody, Nothing But A Shadow: Unsigned metal act from the New York area whose songs contain equal elements of prog and doom, especially on the latter track with its operatic vocal arrangement. Both songs available at www.mp3.com Dragonspoon Conjuring Grace, Devils Gone Too Far: One man project of former Fates Warning guitarist Frank Aresti, going in an electronic direction. Not everything Ive heard from it works, but it isnt the complete disaster one might expect, and the former track finds Arestis melodic sense intact. Emocean Underwater Fears, Poseidons Trident: Yet another gathering of progressive metal artists for a conceptual album, among them Marcel Coenen and Dreamscape vocalist Hubi Meisel. Both of these tracks contain some impressive instrumentation, and project the aquatic atmosphere the titles suggest. Esucarys The Answer, Im The One: Another unsigned progressive act brought to my attention by the good people at Seismic Radio. Both of these songs are progressive metal with some influence from Dream Theater, and some hard-hitting sections that demand the listeners attention. Both songs available at www.mp3.com Gordian Knot Some Brighter Thing, The Brook The Ocean: Two more selections from Emergent, a rare instrumental album that can be listened to both for contemplative purposes (the former track is blissfully expansive, as is the majority of the album) and to marvel at its technicality (check out the hyperactive basswok on the latter). Green Carnation untitled demo: This preproduction track was made available as part of a studio diary documenting the recording of the followup to Light Of Day , available at www.wallsoffire.de From this evidence, the album will containue in the epic psychedelic orchestral doom whatever of its predecessor Kataklysm Beyond Salvation, Years Of Enlightenment: Shadows And Dust is one of the more impressive death metal albums Ive heard lately, while it doesnt fall short in the brutality department (witness the former tracks pummeling opening), there is a surprising amount of memorable choruses on it, and moments that emphasize musicality over frantic blastbeats. Former track available at www.mp3.com Lake Of Tears Return Of Ravens, The Shadowshires: Last years The Neonai is rumoured to be the last album for this enigmatic Swedish act, and is also reputedly a contractual obligation album. Both tracks contain an atmosphere similar to their previous release Forever Autumn, and the latter contains a great chorus. Land of Chocolate Waiting For The Go, Killing With Kindness: Progressive rock act whose songs are marked my strong melodies, energetic playing, and occasional quirkiness. Former track contains a memorable chorus, while the latter is a demo for an upcoming album, available at their official site. Landmarq Cutting Room, Pinewood Avenue: UK progressive rock act whose first three albums featured Damian Wilson on vocals, both of these are from The Vision Pit. Former song contains a descending vocal line on the chorus, while the latter balances its playful verse with an impressive instrumental coda. Moonlyght Fantasy, The Sceptic Traveller: The name of this Canadian acts debut album, who recently opened the Montreal stop on the Opeth/Paradise Lost tour, says it all about their sound: Progressive Darkness, and the resultant songs balance elements of black metal and progressive metal with much success. Both songs available at www.mp3.com Mourning Beloveth In Mourning My Days, Dust: The ten-minute former track and title of their debut album is pure doom metal, while the former goes in a more melodic direction Nice Beaver Wintersong, Oversight: Dutch progressive rock act who should get more attention for their music than their suggestive moniker, as the former track contains some great riffs, while the latter contains an addictive chorus the vocals might annoy some, though O.S.I. Shutdown, Hello Helicopter: The long awaited side project reuniting Mike Portnoy with Kevin Moore. The ten-minute former track features Steven Wilson on vocals, and sounds like it was written by him as well, as it carries the same sense of isolation and hidden rage prominent on In Absentia. The latter track sounds like Moores Chroma Key project with acoustic guitars, but not as focused Pathology The Wishmaster, Leprosy: When it comes to metal, Poland is best known for producing death metal, but this band is different, as these songs are more reminiscent of Mindcrime-era Queensryche, but with some thrashier elements. Both songs available at www.mp3.com Prymary Running To A Standstill, Promise: Making this prediction in February means nothing of course, but I am assured that this bands self-titled album will be one of the best debuts of 2003. Both of these songs are expertly performed progressive metal along the lines of Fates warning, with some stunning instrumental passages (the bassist kicks ass) and great vocal harmonies. Satyricon With Ravenous Hunger, Black Lava: This came heavily recommended to me by a few UM forum members I met up with at the Opeth show in New York you guys have good taste. These songs from Volcano are top of the line black metal, the former containing some insane sections, while the latter is a fourteen minute track containing heavy doom elements and a hypnotic recurring riff and chorus Sirenia Sister Nightfall, Lethargica: Band formed by Morten Veland after leaving Tristania, in which he was the main songwriter. Naturally, both of these tracks build upon that bands strengths and contain similar arrangements, especially the classical influences. Strapping Young Lad Relentless, Force Fed: Devin Townsend returns with a third full-length of aural punishment, stretched to almost inhuman extremes on the latter track. The former track does live up to its name, but does a better job of showing off the dynamics of the band and allows its savage lead riff to stand out amidst the assaultive pace Sylvan Human Apologies, Timeless Traces: German progressive rock act whose late 2002 release, Artificial Paradise, contains some thought provoking songwriting and memorable melodies. The former track goes through numerous sections without losing momentum, while the latter is a highly emotionally charged ballad. Theocracy Serpents Kiss, Mountain: The first signing on the newly established Metal Ages label, and another 2003 debut that should mark this band as one to keep an eye on in the future. The lengthy former track contains some great instrumental sections, while the latter has a memorable chorus. Tired Tree Tired Tree, Leaving Without A Reason: Side project of Mattias Holmgren of Embracing, an excellent unsigned band who has been featured in at least two of my recent lists. Both of these tracks are light progressive rock, but performed with much passion and the keyboards in particular sound very good, the latter sounds a bit like Nightingale. Thus ends this chapter Stay Grey!