Every few years like clockwork, Evergrey shows up to expose their innermost turmoil, angst and self loathing and generally harsh our collective mellow with their unique brand of misanthropic dark metal. Few bands are as adept at expressing the inner doubt, depression and ennui that make the human experience such a flawed one, and for that they certainly deserve praise and respect. Whether you care to have those particular emotions rubbed raw is a personal decision, but for those who relish their scar diaries, this act always provides the ideal soundtrack for ritualized self abuse. Mixing elements of traditional metal with goth rock and taking it deeper and more personal than most bands would willingly allow, Evergrey‘s songs often become voyeuristic therapy sessions with someone so deeply hurt and ruined, you know they can’t be helped. Through this grim process, they arrive at some beautifully tragic, gorgeously dark anthems and Hymns to the Broken is their most accurate album title thus far, clearly warning of what’s to come (even as the Soviet propaganda cover does not). It may not be their best work, but they never release a bad album and this delivers more than its share of heartbreaking sonnets to the lost and damaged.
If you’ve heard any Evergrey album since In Search of the Truth, you know what to expect here. Melodic tunes backed by moderately heavy guitars, often executing fairly simple riffs that can at times veer too close to metalcore/nu metal ideas. The icing on every slice of Evergrey cake is Tom Englund’s wounded, plaintive vocals which pack more emotion than anyone in the emotion business. On songs like “King of Errors” this creates the perfect shitstorm of day ruining despair, hitting all the “kill me now” buttons this kind of music lives (and dies) by. It’s the typically beautiful and haunting kind of song Evergrey has specialized in for years and shows them at their bleeding heart best. Other major standouts include the truly grim, emotionally raw “Black Undertow” where Englund dominates things with his ‘broken man’ singing, and the poignant title track which overflows with sad vocals and beautiful guitar work.
Similarly effective set pieces include “A New Dawn,” which is wonderfully bleak, despite the hindrance of some core-ish riffing, and “Wake a Change,” which is pretty and dark. Also of high quality is the somber “Missing You” which is the “Waking Up Blind” of this album and Englund owns these kinds of ballads completely. The balance of Hymns is good to very good, with only “The Grand Collapse” spitting the bit due to over length and dullness.
As good as most of the material is, at over an hour, this is too long for an album so crammed full of soul killing anthems. I can only absorb so much ‘head in a noose’ material in one sitting and by the last three tracks I found myself consciously uncoupling despite my appreciation for what was going on. This kind of stuff cries out for an emotional blitzkrieg approach, carpet bombing the listener with sadness over eight or nine tracks then leaving them alone to pick up the pieces of their wounded psyche. Anything more merely dilutes the overall impact.
From a musical standpoint, Evergrey completely revolves around the charismatic vocals of their front man. Englund makes them what they are and his singing is what puts butts in the seats. His passionate and despairing vocals always deliver and lift all the songs a notch or two. The accompanying guitar work by Henrik Danhage and Englund (and much of the rest of the music) often feels like an afterthought or so much supportive gravy. Their solos are generally solid and occasionally beautiful, but their riffs can be too simplistic and straight forward. This leads to some flat moments, like on “The Fire,” where the guitars just kind of lay there and leave it to Englund to save the day.
On a curious note, the lyrics seem to be telling the downtrodden that they aren’t alone and it’s ok to be hurt and crestfallen, which is a pretty ironic message concealed as it is in this deep morass of wrist opening music.
Hymns for the Broken delivers exactly what it advertises and though it’s less immediate than Glorious Collision, it’s deeper and darker. A cathartic listen to be sure, but as arduous and exhausting as always and certainly not for the bright and shiny people out there. I need to go stand in the sun for a while and look at the flowers… just look at the flowers.