01. Save Us 02. Midwinter Calls 03. Ominous 04. Call Out the Dark 05. The Orphean Testament 06. Reawakening 07. The Great Unwashed 08. Heartless 09. Blindfolded 10. Wildfires
Swedish metal powerhouse EVERGREY returns with album number thirteen, "A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)", a release that continues along the band's proven path of producing extremely heavy, soulful progressive heavy metal that's true to form yet fresh and inventive all at once. Yet again, EVERGREY wields its world-class musicianship and progressive sensibilities with a focus upon quality songwriting that makes sense, avoiding the pitfalls faced by many talented prog bands who succumb to self-indulgent urges. Frontman Tom S. Englund continues to lead the charge with lyrics and conceptual references to Orpheus, the figure in Greek mythology who traveled into the underworld to save his wife. The universal sense of journey and struggle is evident throughout the listening experience, which feels cinematic in scope, scraping across a myriad of emotions with a resilient spirit threaded from the first song to the last.
Striving to create such a piece is one thing, but EVERGREY sufficiently delivers in its effort to create an album that's truly moving and in line with the thematic grandiosity at hand. Unlike some prog-inclined bands whose compositions tend to be appreciated only by highly skilled musicians, EVERGREY continues to be a band that can be appreciated by a broad spectrum of heavy metal fans. "A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)" is an album for the people, as EVERGREY incorporated fan involvement by inviting them to participate, resulting in hundreds of their voices resounding on the opening track "Save Us", a song about the challenges of retaining a healthy and realistic self-identity in a modern world that's obsessed with posturing and appearance more than substance. Fan participation also finds its way in "Midwinter Calls", as the song includes atmospheric audience recordings from EVERGREY's most recent Swedish tour.
Beyond the fact that it's heavy sonically, the Gothenburg quintet has proven itself over time because of its depth. "Ominous" is true to its name while resting upon methodical yet stuttered drumbeats. While Englund is clearly the focal point with his incredible vocals, other members prove their talent as well. Keyboardist Rikard Zander offers spellbinding synth parts on tracks like "Heartless", and drummer Jonas Ekdahl provides a solid backbone from start to finish.
EVERGREY has maintained its relevance for a few reasons. The Swedes haven't shied away from their passion for everything that is heavy metal, and they keep their eyes locked upon the present and future. "A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)" is a remarkable album that may be heralded as one of the year's peak moments for progressive metal. At the end of the day, they've earned that claim because they've created something that is forward thinking and inspirational.