Good story telling is key to engaging a listener. Everygrey captures the listener with both words and music with their newest album A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) (Napalm Records). The lyrics tell a coherent story that is augmented by the composition; both what is played and in the silence in between. The album runs like a play; it has a first, second, and third act clearly delineated. There is rising action, a climax, falling action, and a denouement; a tragedy in 10 parts. Everygrey’s A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) creates an impression of being an open love letter to Vittorio de Sica.
Tom S. Englund and the rest of Evergrey proffer a sweeping and grandiose album that is not just progressive metal, but also heavy metal and operatic. The music exudes warmth and an earthy grounding. The songs themselves evoke intense colours. For example, ‘Ominous’ has oranges and reds, like an ombre sunset in the desert.
When Henrik Danhange’s solo starts, blues and billowing whites come into focus. There is a pathos to ‘Ominous’ but the song ends with a feeling of triumph. The climax of the album is the title track ‘The Orphean Testament’. The listener hears epic battle scenes that feel as if you are right in the middle of the action.
In true Tannhauser fashion, ‘The Orphean Testament’ is followed by ‘Reawakening’. In a sense, it’s like the day after a big battle. The song has shades of blues and greens and is powerful, crisp, and explosive.
Just when the listener thinks that all is right with the world, the falling action begins. In theater vernacular, the chorus ‘The Great Unwashed’, those who are forgotten, have their moment on the stage. Just when you thought the hero had won, they instead feel exhausted, angry, and frustrated. ‘Heartless’ gives a second gut punch at 2:45 with just piano, like single drops of rain with reverbed vocals over it. The scene is in suspension, then it comes crashing down with the full band; guitars, bass, keyboard, drums – a tempest. ‘The Great Unwashed’ and ‘Heartless’ lead into ‘Blindfolded’: menacing and dark with shades of reds and blacks. The drumming is like a thousand little pin pricks to the skin. The last song, ‘Wildfires’ is plaintive as things end with overwhelming sadness. There is a stark truth in the last lines of the album.
There is a lot to unpack. It’s like the band knew what the collective ‘we’ were feeling and put it in music and words. Englund tapped into a collective unconscious and has masterfully articulated what I, your humble writer, have been feeling for months now. If you have no words to explain your maudlin-ness, thoughts about the world around you, or just how to deal in general, A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) is the perfect vehicle for expressing that which many have held close and hidden.
8 / 10