Metal Review – Evergrey: A Decade and a Half

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Metal Review – Evergrey: A Decade and a Half
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Evergrey: A Decade and a Half
Power Metal, Progressive Metal
SPV Records
January 17th, 2012
Release length: 1:55:04
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While Evergrey has been a bit iffy with their material as of late, far from being the pinnacle of Progressive and Power Metal that they once were, it was only a matter of time before they found a release collecting their supposedly best material. A Decade and a Half collects various songs from their debut The Dark Discovery in 1998 up to their latest release, the 2011 Glorious Collision, all packed into a two disc collection that lasts a solid one hour and fifty-four minutes over twenty-four songs. Given the eight albums the band and label have to play with, there’s plenty of great choices for this expansive best of collection, but are they all the right choices?

One of the things that makes Evergrey so great in the first place is their dark concepts. Since Solitude Dominance Tragedy, the group has tackled each album as a story about very controversial topics ranging from cults to aliens, and that’s what really makes many of the band’s hit songs work so well. You also have to take consideration into the advancements of technology from their late nineties debut, to their more recent album. Songs from earlier releases are clearly going to have a much rougher quality against the more modern cuts that have a sleeker sound to them, and that roughness between songs can be a bit of a down point to anyone not familiar with Evergrey‘s material in the past, and how a certain audio quality can really affect the outcome of that song. This is a release that immediately plays to the dedicated fan since many of these songs are good by themselves, but what makes them classics in their own right can easily be lost upon someone who never heard the full Recreation Day or Inner Circle releases. Much of In Search of Truth falls under this category too, but sometime you come upon a track like “The Masterplan,” which of course is the first song off here and easily the band’s most noted and recognizable single in their career. The set up in that song establishes the paranoia that comes along with alien visitations and what exactly that spoken word introduction references. So, for new fans of Evergrey, jumping right into this release is a big no-no, but it does give that listener an idea of what the band’s rich history has been like.

On the first disc alone, there’s a great deal of solid songs that the dedicated fan with start frothing at the mouth over. Of course “The Masterplan” is a great track any way you cut it, but there’s a good deal of the more intimate material of the band’s past to be found here as well. “A Touch of Blessing” is a fantastic song that really packs a great deal of emotion behind the music, and anyone who listens to it will immediately be wrapped up in the lyrical content of the album. However, without hearing The Inner Circle and just looking at the song as the single it was released as in this compilation, you won’t be able to get the connection with those same lyrics that take on a much deeper meaning that becomes richer with each passing track. You wouldn’t have a feel for the character and what he is going through in the story, urging for a realization that the cult is not worth throwing everything aside for whatever belief it may be. You don’t sit there pining for the right thing to happen and being there conceptually through the struggles that occur in each song. And with “Rulers of Mankind,” you’ll sit back and perhaps take a completely different meaning from it than if you were to hear the In Search of Truth and know what the lyrics represent in the eyes and mind of the listener in comparison to the rest of the album.

The second disc actually comes off more as some of the band’s darker material compared to what appears on the first. While the other one isn’t all that upbeat to begin with, there’s no denying the darker tone that “The Great Deceiver” feeds the listener the very second it starts. Again, hearing the album this is from helps out a lot, but like “The Masterplan,” this song manages to carry itself well enough that you can enjoy it with or without the additional knowledge of the album’s plot. The same goes for the following “Monday Morning Apocalypse,” the single off the album of the same name, and easily one of the best tracks from that release. “Leave it Behind Us” also makes a good track that, whether you heard Glorious Collision or not, it really stands out as a song worth taking the time to listen to. Sure it’s not one of the greatest Evergrey cuts, but it does come off more as the kind of track you’d expect to hear as a single anyhow. These, as well as the aforementioned tracks are all songs worth mentioning, and for good reasons.

One of the moves that can be questionable here is the inclusion of the live material. Many of these songs simply don’t work out too well as far as any alteration goes. When the song kicks in, much like “Blackened Dawn (Live),” the crowd is already mid-cheer for the band, and a lot of times there is no fading out either, unlike “For Every Tears that Falls (Live)” which already has that fade out effect and a rather silent crowd. These work for the more intimate tracks, showing off the band’s talent outside the studio for a more emotional experience, which is one things these track end up having work for them. Of course these are all taken from the band’s live CD A Night to Remember and nothing all that new. The only real complaint about using this tactic, really, is the song “Waking Up Blind (Live).” The song is an amazing piece, but the live version just doesn’t really capture the amount of emotion that the studio version does. Yes, it’s still a beautiful performance, but it doesn’t quite give the listener that strong connection as the initial version did. Of course, this is more a gripe for the fans of Evergrey who have heard it on The Inner Circle, as well as the context that it was used in to that album’s plot. Newcomers to the band that haven’t will more than likely find a decent amount of joy with it otherwise.

But, one of the issues becomes “Wrong (Live Unplugged),” which sounds like absolute garbage. The quality is horrendous and sounds like a poorly recorded cassette transfer of a live radio broadcast done in someone’s bathroom. The vocals sound terribly washed out and can be mistaken for having been auto tuned. The problem is that this, unlike the live material, is one of only two songs that have never been released before. These same complications happen during the song “Frozen.” The music here isn’t the worst you can possibly have, but on both songs you can tell it really was a low-budget recording, but the vocals on this track do sound a little better thanks to not quite being as washed out as “Wrong (Live Unplugged)” found them to be.

What it all boils down to is whether or not this is a collection of the band’s best material, and if it’s really worth it or not. Honestly, people who are dedicated Evergrey fans will get the most enjoyment out of the selections here, as this really does cover the best songs the band put out, both in the financial success aspect, as well as just overall musicianship. Of course not all the songs here are number one hits, largely because the band doesn’t really have that many, but it’s largely the kind of set you’d expect to see in a long live performance. But those dedicated fans probably already have the albums and could have easily done this on their own. Clearly this is targeted more towards the newcomers who are unfamiliar with the band and don’t have their eight studio albums nad live release readily available. While they may not fully appreciate the songs that appear here, there’s still enough solid material that anyone fresh to Evergrey would still greatly enjoy in the long run and would easily come back to time and again. If you’re curious on how Evergrey sounds through the years and are new, or a fan that wouldn’t find an “official” best of that really isn’t just a cheap cash in, then A Decade and a Half is well worth looking into, even if this is one of those bands who shouldn’t really issue a best of collection given their material and how almost all the songs here play off other tracks.

Disc One:
01. The Masterplan – 4:55
02. Blackened Dawn (Live) – 4:11
03. Rulers of the Mind – 6:07
04. A Touch of Blessing – 5:56
05. Frozen – 5:04
06. For Every Tear That Falls (Live) – 5:02
07. More Than Ever – 4:20
08. Blinded – 4:43
09. Faith Restored – 4:00
10. These Scars – 6:00
11. Broken Wings – 4:49
12. Words Mean Nothing – 4:16
13. Wrong (Live Unplugged) (Previously Unreleased) – 3:20

Disc Two:
01. The Great Deceiver – 4:27
02. Monday Morning Apocalypse – 3:16
03. Wrong – 5:15
04. Waking Up Blind (Live) – 4:12
05. Solitude Within – 5:43
06. Recreation Day – 5:28
07. Still in the Water – 5:25
08. Leave it Behind Us – 5:18
09. Fear – 4:23
10. When the Walls Go Down (Live) – 5:37
11. Frozen (Live Unplugged) (Previously Unreleased) – 3:18

Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

Evergrey
Evergrey

Digital review copy of this release provided by SPV Records via Freeman Promotions.