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Evergrey - "Torn" (CD)

Evergrey - "Torn" CD cover image

"Torn" track listing:

1. Broken Wings
2. Soaked
3. Fear
4. When Kingdoms Fall
5. In Confidence
6. Fail
7. Numb
8. Torn
9. Nothing is Erased
10. Still Walk Alone
11. These Scars

Reviewed by on March 13, 2009

"I can't deny that Evergrey's musicianship on 'Torn' is strong. Unfortunately, the lyrics are weak, and the songwriting starts to fall off about halfway through. "

"Torn" is more than just the title of the latest Evergrey album — it's also an apt description of the way this reviewer feels about it. On one hand, I have to admire the band's musical chops and compositional skills. On the other, though, there's a sense of sameness that permeates many of these songs, as well as some laziness in the lyrics.

The album's opener, "Broken Wings," starts out promisingly with a keyboard part that sounds like plucked violins. Those give away to a nice slow chugging guitar riff. Then the lead guitar arrives with a growl that will make the hairs on your arms stand up.

Much has been made of Evergrey's drift toward a "pop" sound. Unlike a lot of reviewers, I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. Sure, the instrumentation on "Broken Wings" sounds a bit like an outtake from Rob Zombie's "Hellbilly Deluxe," but it will get your blood pumping nicely.

Besides that, guitarists Tom S. Englund and Henrik Danhage haven't exactly gone soft, if the punishing riff that begins "Fear" is any indication.

Normally, I'm not a huge fan of metal keyboards, but I have to admit that Rikard Zander earns his salary here, with parts that mostly stick to the background, but often offer a lighter contrast to the deep guitar sludge on tracks like the aforementioned "Fear." He gets in some pleasant piano-ish playing on "When Kingdoms Fall," that adds both light and darkness in the slower parts. In fact, I often felt that turning up the sound on Zander's keyboards might have been a good idea, even if it ran counter to Englund's desire to emphasize the guitar parts.

Unfortunately, like many metal albums these days, innovation seems to be reserved only for the first half. By the time you get to "Numb," which is track seven, you'll start feeling like you've heard the songs before. They're still full of good playing, but the writing definitely seems to have slipped.

Also, I have to say that lyrically, this album is just a bummer to listen to. I can hear readers saying to themselves: "Well, what did this guy expect from a band called Evergrey?" Well, I sure didn't expect lollipops and rainbows, but what I did expect was maybe some more creativity in the lyrics.

This isn't the sublime sadness of songs like Metallica's "Fade To Black" or Megadeth's "In My Hour Of Darkness" — though that's clearly what Evergrey strives toward. Instead, on songs like "Soaked," which begins with the lyrics "My chest is open. My heart's on the ground. My bare feet soaked in my blood as I leave you without a sound," Englund sounds like a 14-year-old whose girlfriend just broke up with him on the eve of prom.

There's also a strange disconnect between the lyrics and music on some of the songs. Take the chorus to "Broken Wings," for example, in which the bummer lyrics are in stark contrast to the soaring guitars. Also, I have to say that the unidentified "you" that seems to cause all of the narrator's sorrow grows old as a lyrical device.

I can't deny that Evergrey's musicianship on "Torn" is strong. Unfortunately, the lyrics are weak, and the songwriting starts to fall off about halfway through. If you're looking for music to mope to, this might just be it.

Highs: The punishing intro guitar riff on "Fear;" "Broken Wings" and "When Kingdoms Fall."

Lows: Lyrical weakness permeates songs like "Soaked," "In Confidence" and others; after about halfway through, the album becomes repetitive.

Bottom line: Unless you're in dire need of music to be bummed out to, give this one a pass.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)