Evergrey carved quite the little niche for themselves over the last 20-plus years. Their brand of stripped down depressive progressive metal is never the most flashy or trendy thing in the room, but they’ve always had a certain somber magic that pulls you in and draws you back. They’ve been on a nice roll of late too, with 2014s Hymns for the Broken and 2016s The Storm Within both delivering the sadboy goods with enough meat and weight taters to hit the metal bone just so. The Atlantic is the final chapter in the loose conceptual trilogy started with Hymns, dealing with the confusing ebbs and tides of life as we try to chart a course and keep our head above water. While it’s in line with the usual Evergrey output, it’s the first album in a long time that feels underwhelming emotionally, lacking the usual high engagement factor I’ve come to expect from them.
Not so with album opener “Weightless,”1 which is the quintessential Evergrey song – heavy, morose, hooky and just a wee bit proggy. It’s fairly aggressive by their usual standards, with an upbeat drive and energy, and as always, Tom Englund’s world-class vocals plow the road effectively, instilling just enough somber melancholy at chorus time to make things pop. This is the band operating adroitly in their chosen comfort zone and it seemingly sets the album up for success. “All I Have” follows with much emotion and gravitas, the kind of depressive power ballad the band excels at and wrings for every ounce of pathos. From there the album pilots very familiar waters, all of which the band has navigated before and the course familiarity begins to breed a feeling of stagnation. Songs like “A Secret Atlantis” and “Currents” add muscle with djenty riffs and a sense of urgency, but only “Currents” sparks much replay value.
Despite this slump, there are some high quality chestnuts floating across the album’s surface. “End of Silence” teams heavy riffing with Englund’s emotional crooning to great effect, and the chorus resonates like vintage Evergrey material. Likewise, “Departure” is the type of super weepy bridge between prog and goth metal that the band builds exceedingly well. Unfortunately, as The Atlantic sails along, it continues to take on bilge from lesser entries like the flat, rather dull “The Beacon,” and the uninteresting “The Ocean.” The placement of these tepid cuts back to back grinds the back-end of the album to a halt prematurely, ensuring an overall impression that this is not one of the band’s finest hours (it’s also too long at nearly an hour).
As always, the good ship Evergrey is kept afloat by Englund’s superb vocals. He remains one of metal’s best singers and delivers a typically powerful performance here. He has a rare ability to project feeling and emotion without sounding like he’s trying to do so, and that pays dividends on every song. Englund and Henrik Danhage fill the album with a series of crunchy, djenty riffs to add impact, then season the mix with restrained, tempered noodling. It’s a straight-forward style with prog touches only appearing at the very edges. This formula has paid the band dividends for a long time and they don’t attempt to update or invigorate it, which may have been a mistake, as the album just doesn’t inspire the same kind of emotional reaction as past works. It’s still well done, but feels too safe and predictable, lacking enough high points to keep things captivating. In a word, it feels a bit… grey.
The Atlantic is a respectable album by a very respectable band, but it’s not on the level of their recent output and feels like a retread of earlier, better endeavors. It is a grower, but it only grows so much before I want to switch to their more consistently engaging platters. Still enjoyable and worth hearing for the inspired moments, but I think The Atlantic will be remaining at the (ever)quay for me.