Ever since I first rode side-by-side with Tom Englund above the crowd of an old Cajun-themed bar in Scottsdale, Arizona, I’ve been one of the biggest Evergrey fanboys ever. I’ve followed along for years as they powered their way through thick and (sadly) thin. Though I was ecstatic about the return of a couple significant members, I was a little let done by Hymns for the Broken. Though it’s enjoyable and it still gets regular playing time in my “mom car” during commutes to work, my craving for melodic metal – as only Evergrey can deliver – hasn’t been quenched in some time. And then a very pleasant commenter on my Unleash the Archers review asked why I chose that Canadian metal band over Borealis. Looking through Borelias‘ discography and discovering their similarities to my beloved melodic Swedes, I immediately begun digging through the landfill of promos collecting flies out back of the AMG offices. And behold! I found Borealis‘ 2015 release, Purgatory (you’re welcome, itsmydamnation). But can Purgatory bring about the Niagara Falls of sadness I so desire?
Borealis blew in from Canada back in 2005 and dropped their respectable self-release, World of Silence in 2008. With many moments of Evergrey (as found in all Borealis releases), their debut also had a decent grounding in classic power metal. Not amazing, but a strong beginning for the band. However, 2011’s Fall from Grace found them improving on all fronts; songwriting, vocals, production, and an overall honing of an Evergrey-meets-Symphony X approach. Using Matt Marinelli’s pipes as a vocal point (with his much improved mix of Englund and Russell Allen), the band took their sound to the next level and delivered a more mature and focused release. Now in 2015, Borealis delivers a new outing on par with it’s predecessor. Neither taking a massive leap forward or backward from Fall from Grace, Purgatory inches just a caterpillar’s length beyond in riffs, performance, fluidity, and bombacity.
Purgatory kicks off with a stellar slab of melodic power metal that would sut well as an opener for any Evergrey release. “Past the Veil” delivers an emotional chorus, chugging riffs, synthy atmospheres, and a heart-felt guitar solo three-quarters of the way through. This pretty much sums up the direction taken throughout Purgatory, but with three slightly different deliveries: over-the-top heavy (“Destiny,” “Welcome to Eternity,” and “Purgatory”), Symphony X-esque ballads (“Darkest Sin” and “Rest My Child”), and the in-between (“From the Ashes” and “Revelation”). On top of these basic structures, you can find other elements interspersed; the thick synth orchestrations in the catchy-as-hell “From the Ashes” (with its addictive female-male duet), the beautiful piano work in “Destiny,” the cheesy keyboard noodling in “My Peace,” and the hooky Nightwish keyboard intro of “Revelation.”
On the heavier side, “Welcome to Eternity” employs Iced Earth gallops to drive the power-metal pony forward, and Marinelli gets rough with some Stu Block-ish histrionics. The title track, on the other hand, looks to the other end of the spectrum and uses a chugging Evergrey introduction and a Symphony X core as Marinelli head-butts you with his spot-on Russell Allen impersonation. For softer ditties, Borealis drops a couple ballads that act almost like a “Part I” and “Part II” duo in Purgatory‘s track list. “Darkest Sin” and “Rest My Child” utilize Symphony X deliveries reminiscent of “The Odyssey,” “Paradise Lost,” and “When All Is Lost” to break up the pace of the album and summon eye leakage.
Unfortunately, after multiple listens, it becomes apparent that Purgatory is a couple tracks too long. Eliminating sub-par songs like “The Chosen One” and the way-too-Symphony X “Place of Darkness” would make it near perfect in runtime and flow (much like the conciseness of Fall from Grace). Regardless, this album is very good and the band have gone even farther in honing their style (even if it sounds like someone else). Get ready, Hymns for the Broken. I just found you a carpooling buddy.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3