A Deep Dive Into `The Atlantic'
As rain torments me on the way in, and a temperature of just above 4 centigrade, it looks like the perfect day to do an in depth interview with the masters of grim metal: Evergrey.
To meet the band I travel to the Abbey Rolduc, in the south of The Netherlands. The old monastery is built in 1106 and expanded over the course of centuries. It actually bears the seal of the Dutch bishop by approval of the Vatican, and aside the monks living in the old God’s house, it also has fallen prey to modern use of the old building, in order top reserve it’s long spanning heritage. Rolduc abbey today has a restaurant, conference rooms and large hotel included. I meet vocalist Tom S. Englund and drummer Jonas Ekdahl alongside their promoter Theo Samson in an old deserted wing of the large monastery, just above the bar. Tom and Jonas, who have a lot to share with HeadBangers LifeStyle, welcome me…
J: ,,Thanks for joining us.’’
T: ,,Thank you for being here man…’’
Photo by Edwin van Hoof
How are things going so far, promoting the new album `The Atlantic’?
J: ,,Yes indeed. We went to London last week for an extensive press and promo day over there. Yesterday we were in Paris of course. We had a day of interviews and a meet and greet in the evening, with a listening party for `The Atlantic’. Plus we did an interview this morning as well.’’
Then this is a pretty laid back day with travelling mainly…
T: ,,But hey, when you ask how we are doing… we are doing great! It’s insane to travel around Europe, talking to people who listen to our music. It just never stops to amaze me.’’
Isn’t it hard to grasp that the release day is still 2 months out, and you already have to do the interviews to support it?
T: ,,We already did the music a f*cking year ago at least, considering we all got started. It’s even more than a year.’’ (LOL)
J: ,,Yeah… when we start writing a new album we set a timeline. Writing, composing, preproduction.’’
T: ,,We just have to…’’
Is this because of the enduring streak the band has been following the last couple of years; Record and release the new album, followed by a tour and immediately after returning to the drawingboard for the next album. It’s always about two years in between right…?
T: ,,Pretty much, yes! With `The Atlantic’ following `The Storm Within’ it’s exactly two years. Well… it’s gonna be two and a half years when it’s finally released in January.’’
J: ,,Yes, but at the same time it’s pretty much up to us, to decide, when start writing…’’
I listened to the album yesterday for the first time, being provided the pre release audio stream. It is kinda surprising you push the release to next year as it would have easily landed among the top releases of this year, with 2018 coming to its end and the release then still being fresh upon the treshold.
T: ,,I think it still will be (laughter).’’
With `The Atlantic’ being fusing the bands past with a more furious and loaded present presentation, Evergrey has turned a corner in their evolution. The album is likely to be featured on many end of years list, whether it’s in 2018 or 2019. So, yes, but it will be a lot fresher as a release and with 2019 in the making, it has to endure to reach those top ranks with journalists and fans…
T: ,,But what if it will be the best album in 2019?’’
Again the guys burst into laughter. Not at all because of self-confident attitude, but being confident about the new album of course. With both Jonas and Tom showing me they actually have goosebumps when I mention `The Atlantic’ easily being their best release to date, due to its impressive and emotion packed heaviness and the anger laden hooks and vocals, both musicians get excited and delve deeper into the album’s sincerity and sound.
T: ,,I think, well wait… I think you (Jonas) have similar answers, but I think it’s important that we answer both of us… (to which Jonas agrees). The driven part for me has been my private life. I put everything into the music, as I’ve done for the last 3 albums to be honest. Obviously I did the same on this one. That’s my main motor, you know. But also, the agression is because I have a side project, which is entirely different. A different outlet. I believe this is what Jonas can explain as well.’’
J: ,,Yes it is. You know we do other things outside of Evergrey. Writing, composing and producing outside of the band and with different kinds of music. We have our creativity spread over different projects, which works well for all of us.’’
Of course Tom is known for his variety of contributions to acts (Ayreon, Mind Key, Nightrage, DGM, etc) and projects over the last 2 decades, eventually leading to him also taking the limelight as vocalist of Redemption in 2017, replacing Fates Warning’s Ray Alder. Jonas on the other hand, lends his skills and talents to DeathDestruction with whom he recorded 3 albums since 2011, after his departure from Evergrey. On the side he did session work with Dead By April and the mighty In Flames.
Jonas continues: ,,It’s the needed outlet because we are music nerds, so to say. We get so inspired by so many things over time, that just playing heavy metal isn’t enough to express ourselves. (Tom agrees, especially on the term ‘Music Nerds’) Now we have the opportunity to do that, and come back to start work on the new Evergrey album with entirely different energy. It all feels a lot fresher now, almost like a breathe of fresh air taken. You come in with so much more inspiration and a clear head. It’s different than only writing Evergrey music. That turned out to be essential, as we went to work with no boundaries. All we did; we jammed out and recorded. It just felt natural…’’
As Jonas is looking for the right words to explain the inspiration for `The Atlantic’ Tom adds Jonas mentioned a key explanation in an interview the day before.
T: ,,When we do the other projects and different music, we just scale off that music and ideas. We feel as we don’t need to stretch ourselves into putting in ‘this calm part’, don’t feel the urge to do ‘this atmospheric piece’ and put it there, you know. We’re freed of a lot of creative ideas we channel into other projects. When we use these fragments for our side projects, like the music for movies or the more poppy music, then these are already scaled away from us. When we return to Evergrey we have our focus full on metal again, with a clean slate. And that’s what we want!’’
J: ,,Yes, just like that. For me, and likely for you also (as he turns to Tom), we were able to go in and go a lot heavier straight away. From the start! As we dealt with all the melodic parts and easier accessible stuff already.’’
You should have done that earlier! (Loud laughter on both sides.) With this new and more forward heavy sound implemented in `The Atlantic’, it is exactly what won me over on the spot. When I explain I have always been a critic of Evergrey’s music in the last, reaching the skip and play buttons frequently, they look at me and understand when I explain that it sometimes was just too much. I had particular favourites on their albums and other tracks simply did not ignite the spark for me. It all dwelled onwards in the same grim atmosphere. That however changed with the `Hymns of the Broken’ release, and was continued with a more accessible `The Storm Within’. `The Atlantic’ tops it off and is a lot stronger and diverse, yet more consistent in general. With Jonas and Tom trying to grasp the exact note of what I just stated, I repeat my question as to why not adding this grit and turmoil sooner…
T: ,,I think it’s a natural evolvement and a natural evolution of us as a band and musicians. And of course; first and foremost as human beings. Also, the subjects that we’re dealing with on these 3 albums are straight from the heart. They are about us, about who we are and where we stand, and not about anybody else. All lyrics and music comes from the heart. It’s a lot more personal. This sincerity, combined with all the knowhow collected over the years, simply shines through now. Finally, it took a while… (laughs). It’s what we’ve always done basically, but at the same time the albums are like diary moments for us. They are all very personal… and come clearer and clearer and we try to refine and refine during the process. And hey! We’re still here after 24 years of making contemporary music. We’re still here and we keep growing as a band and that counts! We’re not declining but growing steadily and becoming bigger and bigger in 24 years. That’s insane really… (he looks sincere and somewhat surprised). `The Storm Within’ was our best selling album! Can you imagine that?! In these days of digital music being easily accessible all over the web. You should add that…’’
J: ,,We also feel more confident with ourselves, without sounding arrogant. During the writing process we decide easily that if it feels good, it is good, and it stays. No hesitations. We move on a lot more easily in crafting the songs because of that.’’
T: ,,It doesn’t matter that it runs close to 8 minutes, like with ,,A Silent Arc”. We don’t care and proceed to record what feels natural for us. We just don’t care what others might think. We have to feel good about it. That’s important.’’
J: ,,Right. With ,,A Silent Arc” we sat down together and wrote, and finished without hesitation.’’
Tom laughs out loud: ,,This is never going to play on radio!”
J: ,,… we’re 7 and a half minutes in and we’re about to finish the song and just said “Fuck it!, leave it like this”. It’s a great song and it was an opening statement of where we were going with the album.’’
T: ,,Talking about that aspect of our creativity, with a 7:50 minute song, is extraordinairy. For instance: yesterday I noticed all these lists on Spotify, and we suddenly appeared on those lists that we have never been on before. With the new 8 minute long single. And hey, let’s not forget that Spotify is today’s radio! It says something. Fuck! We did what we always did, but with a lot more confidence. We just roll with the band, as persons and musicians.’’
Photo by Edwin van Hoof
Tom realizes they are hijacking the interview, but with the enthusiasm of both musicians increasing, I tend to let them do the talking. My occasional remark and question gets answered with a lot of devotion and Tom and Jonas appear to feel pretty much at home as we progress. With the Tripel Karmeliet opened and a direct hit of the cork on Jonas’ hand, the beer is poured into the glasses. The atmosphere is getting better by the minute, as this is Tom’s absolute favorite beer. ,,Did you know that one glass with cost you at least 17 euro’s in Sweden?”, he adds, to return to the interview and to the lyrical content of the new album. With ,,A Silent Arc” clearly setting the pace and being benchmark for the slightly altered and heavier course of `The Atlantic’, the sonic bombardment is excruciating. The anger brought to the plate and Tom vocally adding to that, I have to ask if this one is even more personal perhaps, even though the lyrical content always was sincere and gripping deep. Tom sighs and looks at me with eyes wide open. He takes a sip of his beer, with another silence being casted, tensioning the lush mood before continuing…
T: ,,It’s the most personal it could ever become… (clearly looking to put it in the right words). Okay, listen… (sighs), I’m gonna put it in one sentence and you’ll be able to figure it out…’’
Englund is weighing his words and looks at me and leans towards me, putting his hands together, thump-to-thump and forefinger touching forefinger. He stares into my eyes to continue.
T: ,,This is the first album that my wife (Carina) is not on… The 3 albums, from `Hymns to the Broken’ up were about me discovering that I had to make changes in my life… and so did she.’’
The long silence is gripping, but I have to get my thoughts aknowledged…
T: ,,Yes, we broke up. But we’re in a good place… It has been a transition and a struggle. Something the others in my band (Tom actually ‘s caught by surprise stating it is ‘his band’, to quickly correct..), the band, have been going through and were affected by.’’
I have to leverage on this, as I believe it is Tom’s band. He’s not only the founding member, but he has also been the engine of the band for 24 years. Jonas agrees, with Tom delving into it.
T: ,,That’s what is so fucking nice about being in the band nowadays: everone is just fine with everything. We’ve grown so close. Jonas is ten years younger than I am, and still has been with Evergrey for over 14 years, even with the little vacation he had from us. We literally grew up together, all of us. None of us feel it’s important to put themselves in the front room, you know. We’re all fine with the other talking about the album from their perpective. When we talk about it from our perspective, nobody gets upset or it feels like I stepped on some toes. We’re all equally involved, as musicians and as humans. But in the past… that was exactly the root of all the problems we experienced. This was exactly what disrupted the band. Discussions… “I have to put my riff into the song!” (Plays a question and answer)… “But it’s not good!” Stuff like that, you know. “Yeah, but you have to allow it in…I want it there” (Jonas bursts into laughter). Now we simply share everything and are able to be more honest and open. It is key to our growth and displays how we matured as a band and individuals. It takes time and it takes age, to realize what it takes to get where we want to go.’’
With the creativity spawning from the band, especially on the last 3 albums, and the brotherhood between Jonas and Tom always being strong, I have to take us back to that defining moment for the band. The relationship between Tom and Jonas (as well as Henrik Danhage) was broken during the `Torn’ tour in 2010. It’s a moment often adressed since their reunion in 2014 has seen the band creativily elevating on the last 3 albums. Looking back on this breakup, how do they feel now?
T: ,,Honestly… they were only out of the band, not out of our friendship. (Jonas agrees). But naturally, when we play music in two different bands, on entirely different levels and stages, you don’t meet that much anymore. But there was nothing between us affecting our friendship. Nothing! I remember agreeing to Henrik, if we ever come across journalists or anyone twisting our stories, I would call him and we would talk about it to verify the actuals of it. Henrik immediately said, “Of course, call me.”… And it happened man, it really happened!!’’
Photo by Edwin van Hoof
Evergrey is a family apparently, extremely close. Still it’s obvious that the seperation lead to bigger things eventually, especially on a creative level.
T: ,,It was the best decision we ever made…’’
J: ,,Yeah it was, really. We were taking each other for granted and hardly spoke to one another. We stopped to communicate. Not intentionally, it just stopped.’’
T: ,,Everybody was afraid to hurt the other. Things got from bad to worse. When we got into the van or tourbus in the morning, we didn’t even greet each other. We didn’t say “hi”, can you believe that? I started to wonder what the fuck was wrong.’’
J: ,,Believe me, there’s always something going on between people obviously. One moment we jusy stopped communication. We’ve gone silent. Afraid to step on each others toes, afraid to hurt or get hurt yourself. Tom turned to me and said we needed to talk…’’
It is something happening to everyone. With a band spending more time with each other than with their family. The endless streak… Recording, promotion and rehearsals, and eventually touring, you are closer than a family. If silence is the way of communication, and things aren’t addressed anymore, you’re bound for a break up.
J: ,,Recording and writing `Torn’ was the most emotional and deepest experience of my life. I won’t even get into the details, but it was really intense. Everything started bubbling and I couldn’t get my head around what was happening to us. Fucking hell! There was so much discomfort then…’’
T: ,,Oh, and we were in that situation for a long time already, without us noticing it. Nobody just stood up to address it. But we did it, eventually, and it was the best decision we ever made.’’
J: ,,It really felt natural when Tom told me he wanted to talk. “You really want to be in the band at all?” I just replied that I didn’t want it anymore. “Okay, good”… “you’re out”… and I was all good with it.’’
T: ,,It actually were Rikard (Zander) and Jari (Kainulainen) that said to me in Brazil, “kick them out!”. Well, (silence) I was going like ..“Hey, take it easy…”. Rikard made clear that it isn’t an obligation to be in Evergrey. If you don’t wanna do it anymore, then get the fuck out! That’s pretty much how it actually went. Me saying that its better for you to leave the band, rather than me telling you that you’re out.’’
Tom looks at Jonas who nods verifiying he remembers it the same way. Confirmation follows.
T: ,,…and then we recorded the video with the statement and so on… the rest is history. And if we wouldn’t have done that back then, Evergrey would not have existed anymore!’’
J: ,,And don’t forget…. In the meantime this entire situation made us all grow like crazy on a personal level. When we finally got back together, it differed like night and day. We had matured and grown over the years, adding up to the situation.
Funny story:… the first time we really got back together was when our old bass player Michael Hakansson had his bachelot party, remember?’’ (Tom bursts into laughter as he hints the story.)
J: ,,We kidnapped him for a jam throwing him into our rehearsal room, blindfolded.’’
T: ,,He was totally shocked when we put on the intro: “I didn’t hold a bass for over two years… Guys!”
J: ,,Yeah! We had a couple of fast beers, as we call it. You put a straw in and you shug it down in like two seconds or so. With the intro running, he had no clue where he was. It was 10 or 11 in the morning and speakers booming in our rehearsal room with us cracking up with laughter as Michael just stood there looking like a freakin’ idiot with his bass strapped on.’’
T: ,,The only thing he could do was just go like… “pling, pling”, picking his strings… “I can’t play!”. That was the first time we had fun again together.’’
J: ,,Oh yeah, and we sounded good. Even with him not playing the bass, we sounded really good and tight. It really felt good to be back together and sound this good. Yes, we had some beers shugged, that might have clouded our judgement.’’
We get back on track after this sidestep explaining the reunion and how the brotherhood was reinstalled. This obviously all sprouted new inspiration and with Henrik and Jonas having experienced life outside of Evergrey, and the rest of the band growing alone, the reunion brought together a cohesion that was inevitable. `Hymns for the Broken’ opened a new concept for the band to explore and musically was endured and explored on the very melodic and gripping `The Storm Within’. `The Atlantic’ supposedly announce as the closing chapter to the concept Englund let’s us in on an interesting secret.
T: ,,The funny thing, and the cool thing is, that we never said it was going to be a trilogy…’’
Surprised by this I wonder if this has evolved to be a story shared on the Internet.
T: ,,Well, the label has stated it. It’s the language barrier, I think. We just said this to be the third part of our three-album story. It might be somewhat confusing, but we never said it was the final chapter. So, there might be a quadruppel to the concept. Hahaha! The 3.2… let’s see…’’
J: ,,That actually makes sense.’’
Enlighten me please. Why does that make sense?
T: ,,Look, the reason we, upon release of `Hymns for the Broken’ never said, “…we’re gonna write a trilogy or quadruppel opus”, is because we didn’t know if we we’re fucking following through with this.’’
J: ,,We just got back together and didn’t know where it would take us. We weren’t even sure if we were going to last for one album, you know.’’
T: ,,Exactly yes! But the idea arose at that time, and we weren’t sure. But it all is very evident now obviously. `Hymns for the Broken’ is the starting point. It’s about the uproar and revolution, the fire and the anger. The Fire… the fire…keep that in mind. `The Storm Within’ is all about the storm… (emphasising it once again) the storm. The third album, `The Atlantic’ is about the ocean, the water… you hear me; the water. So it leaves you with the idea of what that fourth album can be about.’’
I personally would guess the shores of new territory to discover. Tom quickly responds he was talking way too much. Was he revealing the outline of a new album? I don’t get this question answered, but it leaves room for speculation and also leaves the end open for fans and journalists to draw conclusions or guess the less obvious. Being in the dark sometimes feels out of place, but with Evergrey producing these intensely cinegraphic albums with their diary elusive lyrics, the band is free to throw me off on subject. `The Atlantic’ is a gripping and fierce experience perfectly rounded by an impressive and hard hitting production adding up to the sonic bombardment of drum and bass over the dropped heavy riffs. With Jacob Hansen signing for mixing, the band finds themselves in a safe environment. Hansen was also signing for both previous releases. But there was one big difference vs. `The Atlantic’….
J: ,,Indeed, we produced the album ourselves!’’
Basically, you just had Jacob for the final mix of the album?
T: ,,Well, not “just for mixing”! He’s an amazing guy. Jacob was with us for the last two weeks straight.’’
J: ,,He did a shitload of work and must have been driven crazy by us!’’
T: ,,At a certain point he was laying on his sofa and looked at us. “You guys just hear stuff… you hear what isn’t there…”.’’
Isn’t it hard to step back from the process and keep a distance from the music in this final stage, as it is already very personal? I gues you have to look from the outside in producing the album…
J: ,,Yes, yes! It’s actually horrible really!’’
T: ,,It is… but at the same time we are that skilled and intellectual nowadays. We know how to get the sound and feeling across. And Jacob is able to convert this vision into the mix. He can… He set the sound, and everything else: we did. And I mean “Everything!”’’
J: ,,We’re super nerds when it comes to music. We have a 100% clear vision on how we wanted this album to sound. How particular songs have to come from the speakers. That is horrible for the mixer. I mean, we had this great feeling from the songwriting and composing days, and the pre-production of the album. This feeling even intensified during the recording stage, and we wanted to bring that across. That analog, warm and gritty sound was part of the process. We wanted to capture this warm, ‘woody’ sound, rather than a super clean production.’’
T: ,,We didn’t want to sound like Amaranthe or Within Temptation. That sound is fantastic for them, but not for this Evergrey album. We recorded this with so much grit and feel, that we did not want it to sound all programmed and artifical. It just didn’t add up losing that dirt and feel we put in it. The first mix we received back was exactly that, stripped from it’s dirt and grit. We were looking at each other, “You’re telling him…”. “I’m not telling him… YOU!… Tell Him” It’s always been like that, except for “Storm”, which sounded exactly as wanted, on the very first mix. We didn’t tell Jacob anything about how we wanted “Storm..” to sound. The only album we recorded, pleasing us after its first mix. `Hymns for the Broken’ we even thought it sounded like shit! Well.. not like shit, but nothing like we wanted. Not even remotely! Jonas emphassyses it really not lived up to their expectations at first.’’
That being said, how hard is it to bring across the moody and intruiging dramatic and grim atmosphere Evergrey is so known for. I can imagine a mix indeed might grow into the wrong direction like the band states, without the mixer being aware of the course set for the album soundwise. Looking back on their 11 albums spanning catalogue, and given the satisfaction about the last 3 albums, would they have considered to re-record or remix the albums for a re-release? I appear to have drilled a nerve…
J: ,,Never! Nothing like that! They are snapshots of a particular time. Every album displays a certain period and that comes with a feeling and production or sound. That is super important. Seize the moment.’’
T: ,,Yes, it is a statement of time, and statement for so many other people as well. To me it would be sort of disrespectful to change their sonic view of how we sounded on a particular album.’’
J: ,,Mostly because of that; the fans.’’
What follows is an interesting interaction between Tom and Jonas about the why’s and won’ts, though both agree and allign predominantly. Back and forth mentioned the pros and cons, as well as limitations.
To which Tom concludes; “Re-record them, not remix them. Re-record them, fine”. To immediately roll back and explain: “Not fine!” (Englund sighs and laughs.)
J: ,,Once again, we’re nerds, we’re music fans.’’
T: ,,I get upset! I mean, if somebody would fucking change the ‘Hysteria’ album…’’
J: ,,Or Pink Floyd’s albums…Whaaa!’’
T: “Mutt Lange didn’t produce this good enough, so we are going to re-record this milestone”. Well… they only spent about 18 million dollars on it, so, okay. It’ doesn’t sound good… Duh! I’m not gonna buy it! Never! I just don’t wanna change or reprogram my thoughts and emotions of that album.’’
Well, I agree. But with this album sounding so much different from `The Storm Within’, I could imagine your approach would be different now. Just check out the difference in sound of interaction between drum and bass. It’s so in your face! This would have made any previous album benefit. Touching this particular piece of the mix and production, enthuses Tom.
T: ,,And whatta bassplayer, right?!!!’’
J: ,,Hey, and we recorded this live. All of the album, live in studio. Except for one song.’’
T: ,,But we’ve been doing that since “Hymns…” really.’’
J: ,,Off and on indeed. But nothing like on `The Atlantic’. With that one song I just didn’t feel too confident.
Tom cuts in to find out which song wasn’t recorded live in studio, as he doesn’t know, but Jonas doesn’t give away the secret. He firmly holds his ground with Tom laughing and clearly digging into his memory to find out which song he’s referring to. When his eyes light up, it is obvious he figured it out and starts laughing. “I know!”
J: ,,…we were recording it and I just had this feeling that it wasn’t right. Finishing the song we went on feeling okay with it at first. Moving on and recording the next track it hit me. “What was I thinking?…”, even considering to do this take again. But anyway, we played it all live in studio, and that is also one of the main aspects to the versatile vibe and sound of the new album. It’s analog and it is all about the vibe, and not about it being perfect. ANALOG! It was so important for us to capture this organic and honest vibe in the mix, as we really worked our asses off to make it sound this energetic. The album benefits from the groove and it moving you.’’
T: ,,Really making it sound vibrant and analog. Capture the attitude.’’
J: ,,We kept telling Jacob we needed more of an analog vibe, more ‘wood’. Tom chants: “More, more… analog!”
T: ,,It took us two weeks to reach the point where we said what we thought, instead of having this pussy attitude agreeing on everything. (Raises his voice.) “It’s good, yes yes. It’s close, but no cigar…” Instead of putting our fist down and saying “Hey bitch, you Danish little shit, we don’t want it like this… we want that”. (Laughing again.) If we would have had the balls to tell Jacob that two weeks earlier, the process would have been more fluent. We really should have told Jacob to listen to the `Hymns for the Broken’ album, and mark this as the direction to take with `The Atlantic’.’’
J: ,,And more wood, a lot more wood… and even more wood and analogue.’’ (Laughter sounds through the empty and hollow room of the cloister.)
T: ,,Then, the day after… we got it and we went bezerk. “Fuck!”’’
J: ,,We spent so much time listening to it apart from each other and together. In the car, outside of the car. In my room, outside of the room. We listened and looked at each other in silence.’’
Both are reenacting the moment staring at one another speechless with no recognition of what they heard. It was just not as they imagined it.
J: ,,But now, we got that new mix (faces are drawn once again – displaying their satisfaction) and it really sounded vibrant and alive. It was sounding like we wanted it.’’
T: ,,It literally felt like I gave birth. I really gave birth to this new record. Seriously… “Oh finally!”‘’
Tom raises his head and arms to heaven in a dramatic way, explaining how agonizing the actual delivery of the perfect mix was. Mentioning this being a pretty bad quote for the interview, Tom starts laughing.
T: ,,It really was hard work. Believe me. But we never caved one inch..’’
J: ,,Jacob is 100% professional. He listens and gives feedback without having an ego. He never ever mentions a certain sound or production isn’t suitable for him. He always adds his abilities and feels where you want to go with the sound. There’s always an interaction between Jacob and the band. We listen to him and he listens to us. It’s crucial. We have a vision about the sound of the album and he channels that, as him being the best tool for us as a band. He has the ability to make it all even better!’’
Photo by Edwin van Hoof
The actual difference between how `The Atlantic’ sounds, with it’s analogue and driven live sound, is also the missing link between the band’s impressive live shows and the albums. The impressive power which they deliver live is somewhat differing from the records, and with the band recording live in studio more frequently for the last albums, they managed to capture that turmoil and the interaction of them as musicians.
Another focal point for the album is the impressive drumwork of Jonas. His drums are vibrant and at times elective, hitting cymbals and toms constantly. This versatile and dynamic drumming uplifts the band’s overall sound and creates an immense drive throughout the ten tracks. I had to pull my headphones out of the dust to try and grasp the dimensions of his hard labor on `The Atlantic’. It is in your face and the turbulence is exquisit.
J: ,,Thank you. I’m very happy with the album as well.’’
T: ,,We’ll see if it reaches the top 3 at the end of 2019. HAHA! If it doesn’t; we’re still very satisfied with it, either way. Even if it lands on the 99th position. We’re just very happy with the outcome. In all honesty, we’re very confidant the album will do good.’’
It’s just an album, right?
T: ,,No, no no… it’s not. But either it does good, or doesn’t.. we’re fine with it.’’
As the album roots in the `Hymns for the Silence’ concept, I still wonder how Jonas and Tom look back on its predeccessor, now 2 years behind them. With `The Atlantic’ being such a driven album, would `The Storm Within’ have sounded different with the recording knowledge they have now?
Tom leaves no room for discussion and is firm to state that the album sounded exactly like it was supposed to. It was the album about the storm. More melancholic, more melodic, and eventually a lot more pompous and compact. The timestamp is perfectly matching the album, especially with the new chapter taking it all up a notch or two.
T: ,,I didn’t have a second of hesitation when I heard the first song. I was in the car in Denmark, driving to Jacob, and I heard ,,Passing Through” for the first time. I had to think hard and honestly didn’t know which song it was. “What song is this?!”, he repeats. It was so surreal.’’
J: ,,You sent it to me and I had the same experience… yeah…’’
T: ,,I believe I only asked you one time before, if it was perhaps to clinical, didn’t I? I just think it suits the vibe and lustre. The eery feeling of the album. It doesn’t sound mechanical at all.’’
J: ,,Yeah, but for us it sounds superclean. It really sounds like no other album before.’’
T: ,,The sound is really warm, but the sound… it’s… it’s more digital than it’s analog.’’
J: ,,It was on ,,Distance” that I said “YES!”. This is it! This is how it’s supposed to sound. Right away.’’
T: ,,Come to think of it… it’s also because of the seven string. It just becomes grittier, much lower. That is probably also the first song he (Jacob) worked on and dug into. He maintained that lower and dark tone as it suited the album perfectly. Getting to ,,Passing Through” he comes across the standard drop C, which is a lot dirtier and heavier as well. “Standard drop C”, as if it’s so standard… (laughs). Like Jonas told you before; we are so nerdy, we want to dissect everything.’’
J: ,,Hahaha, indeed. The sound really suits the theme of the album.’’
T: ,,Being deserted cast away on this ineterstellar planet…’’
J: ,,All alone and isolated, in outer space, on this lonely planet. Of course it has to feel colder to bring that across. You’re supposed to feel left alone and isolated. It’s the whole concept of the album.’’
The lonely and withering dense atmosphere indeed adds to the perfection of the album. `The Storm Within’ perfectly captures the imagination and that somewhat clinical and overwhelming production depicts the serenity of being cast away. Mentioning the seven string, Tom also hints the lower toning of the new album, which is pulled forward by loud and dark ominous riffs. The toning adds to the interaction of the gritty and driven bass – drum interaction, and at times feels like nu metal grooves could hit you at random. Lower toned and drop C guitars, give the album the propelling character. Is it the key to today’s different approach perhaps?
T: ,,We played seven string on the `Recreation Day’ album (2003), when nobody played those seven string guitars, except Steve Vai. So it’s nothing new to us.’’
J: ,,Well, Steve Vai and KoRn, Tom…’’
Is this indeed a key to the sound of the album then?
J: ,,If you look at it; There aren’t too many seven string songs on the album either.” (Tom counts outloud and comes to three, with soon a fourth track added.)
J: ,,Yeah… the 4th being one chorus on ,,Departure”, right?’’
T: ,,So about half the album basically. Same for `Hymns for the Broken’ and `The Storm Within’. It’s more about the deliverance of the music really.’’
J: ,,Deliverance and attitude, rather than the tuning. Drop C has been a standard for us since `The Inner Circle’ (2004). I believe the seven strings are tuned in A actually.’’ (Tom nods)
When I mention that loud and driving groove, remeniscent to old Biohazard, they burst into laughter and agree.
J: ,,We actually been asked this before. I believe it’s ,,A Secret Atlantis”, and they asked me if we used the 7 string. But really, it’s the same 6 string we use recording ,,Currents”, it’s drop C. When people ask you that, it’s a huge compliment, of course. Take Pantera for instance, with their super low tuning. It hits you and it sounds so impressive and dirty. But it is all about the deliverance and sincerity with them as well. It’s the attitude and anger packed.’’
T: ,,On ,,All I have” you also feel like a 7 string hitting. Very heavy, dark and gritty. It’s the heaviest thing on our new album.’’ (Tom starts reencating the groove of the riffs with a grunt.)
Photo by Edwin van Hoof
Once again it becomes clear how much they enjoy talking music and get excited explaining the album. Both, Jonas and Tom, are complementing one another throughout the interview and I need only a few words to have them delve deeper in to the matter. They pick it up and rave on. With lots of laughter and fun they proceed and we are running towards an hour with this questionary. Just to surpress boredom, Tom turns to me with a question…
T: ,,Was there something that came out raising a question? I mean, we put so much energy into the creation of `The Atlantic’, so much time. We sat there and watch a stormy ocean on a large TV screen, just to gather ideas for the song, and writing the music. We decided on the title, and then went on with that…’’
Is that why you added all the sinematic sounds and effects? The seagulls and the ocean hitting the vessel?
T: ,,That’s what I’m saying exactly.’’
J: ,,It is the whole concept for our ,,A Silent Arc” video. Feed the listener and invite them into our world. You’re in for a treat, you know. This is the first glimpse and it is there for you to fill in the blanks…’’
Is this the reason why, instead of releasing a full-blown music video, you decided to release the songs with just a black and white video of the ocean?
J: ,,It’s visual, but nothing like the regular videos we shot. It’s much like a bonus, instead of a regular video with lyrics popping out, or bringing across the wrong imagery. It is a video, but it is also more a visual introduction, open to the listener to visualize their own scenery.’’
T: ,,We really didn’t want to influence the listener too much. Not blow them away by fire and explosions, or really hot chicks on the hood of our cars. (laughs) We wanted the listeners to be blown away by the music and the Atlantic. Draw them in…’’
With Patric Ullaeus (ReVolver Film) producing a wide range of very atmospheric cinematic videos in the last 2 decades, Evergrey videos have always been a dominant selling point as they alligned the bands deep dark metal with very impressive images. `The Storm Within’ featured no less than 4 masterpieces, which displayed the Ullaeus’ impressive talent to visualize Evergrey’s songs. ,,The Paradox of the Flame” and ,,The Distance” capturing the imagination, as does that other explicidly brilliant video for ,,Different Worlds” (`In Search of Truth’ – 2001). The interaction between Ullaeus and Englund c.s. is impeccable and, though his video for ,,A Silent Arc” is sober and stripped to its bare essence to accomplice the above, it does add up to the vision of both, the band and the videographer. But there’s more coming our way soon…
T: ,,It was extremely important for us not to take away the first impression of the album for the listener. They can fill in the blanks, without me walking in Iceland… we leave it open for the listener. With what we’ve done now, you get presented an eery image of the ocean from where we live. This is where we come from. That is the ocean, the influence for this album. Even though it was a calm and suiting day, it still comes out extremely eery. “Fuck! Now I understand why these guys call themselves Evergrey!” (LOL)
Patric’s images adding up to the experience of your music, does it also root new ideas for future songs or albums?
J: ,,Nooooo, but he is important for us. Much like Jacob Hansen, he’s part of our history and present, he’s part of the Evergrey team. He’s one of the people that we cherish and that we love to work with. He also understands us and understands what we want to bring across. He’s our eyes…’’
T: ,,Well said. Patric is our eyes and Jacob is Evergrey’s ears. Let’s not forget he is working with us since 2003. I believe your (Jonas) first video with us was shot by Patric.’’
So he brings across the images, and visualizes the songs?
T: ,,Well, I have to say this… really have to…. Videowise: Patric gets the ideas from me! I tell him… “these are my ideas and I discuss them with you”. He immediately understands, which is extremely rare. He always responds super inspired… (putting up a darker and enthusiastic voice) “I get it, let’s go to Iceland”. Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to go with the entire band, but we were bound for Iceland soon after. But Fuck… I drove and walked around the whole of Iceland! Five long days in a car with Patric suddenly demanding a stop to shoot. “Out! Let’s film here!” Hahaha… make up on, and here we go again. Over and over again… He just gets it. He’s the graphic guy of our band. He grew up in the same area as I did and we lived in the same neighborhood. My mum even had him in daycare! We speak the same visual language…’’
With the new albums being so strongly leaning on orchestration and multi layers of tracks, it would be more than obvious for the band to record highlight of their albums with a symphony orchestra. Their music is tailor made for an endeavor like that…
T: ,,Well, we did that in 2004 with the live filming of our DVD.’’
What follows is another discussion between Tom and Jonas about the recording date and release date of the DVD. It’s just funny to hear them go at each other with facts being finally put in place…
T: ,,2004, it says so on the DVD. Smart-ass!’’ (Both burst into laughter.)
T: ,,It might, of course… We don’t add stuff, which we don’t have to. We don’t play guitar solos because we have to play guitar solos, we play them because there’s a reason to play a solo.’’
J: ,,We added strings on `The Storm Within’. Dual, but they’re always there. But to make the songs and rearrange symphonic… pfff… we can’t afford it.’’
T: ,,We can’t afford it, unless we go to the Czech Republic. It’s not like we’re saying we won’t. But it has to fit the songs and the music.’’
With the album being addressed thoroughly, we’re especially interested in the next steps for the band. Evergrey will embark onto a short tour in January in Sweden, promoting their new album, and will later head out supporting Kamelot on their new Euro tour.
T: ,,First of all, we talk music. We’re going to do a lot of interviews. Talk about our new album as much as people want us to. Then we’re going on a tour. A lot more than our social media shows now.’’
J: ,,Don’t forget the shows we do in Sweden in January.’’
T: ,,Right. From then on we will start our tour. We will do Finland and head to Lithuania I believe. We also might go to South America, if it fits our agendas, before embarking on the Kamelot tour. Even though it’s only 10 dates, it will take us all over Europe presenting `The Atlantic’ to a broad audience. When that’s over we do a five-week headliner tour in support of the album, seeing our fans again.’’
J: ,,Hey, and we’re goning to play the festivals again. A lot of festivals.’’
Do festivals fit you at all?
T: ,,It fits us if we know what the circumstances are, and we usually know. Since we’re not that huge band, and aren’t on top of the bill. We play the mainstage at 3, 4 or 5 o’clock in the evening, you know. Unless we play a festival like Graspop and are programmed in the tent. Then we can play around midnight.’’
J: ,,Of course, we adapt our setlist… We can cut it and select the songs fitting the festival and the situation. That’s the cool thing about Evergrey. We’re a diverse band, playing and covering a lot of the musical spectrum. We’re diverse. Obviously we can open for Hate Eternal and Arch Enemy without being killed of getting tomatoes and turds thrown at us. It’s a wide spectrum allowing us to adapt and present ourselves the best possible way.’’
T: ,,I dare to say we have become a pretty good live band. We’re a good live band, since your return.’’
J: ,,I know… I agree.’’
T: ,,We know how to play our instruments and know how to take an audience. We’ve learned that over the years. We can do that in a timeframe of 35 minutes. We can… It’s not optimal, but it works. Like cooking a 30-minute meal in 2 minutes. Making it taste as good as cooking it in 90 minutes. You have to serve up the best possible and bring the best out in yourself. It’s a hassle…’’
J: ,,If we were to choose, it’s obvious we like to play 90 minutes and present the best we have. With the 115 songs we have at our disposal, we can however adjust to any bill.’’
T: ,,How long do we have boys, 30 minutes? Let’s play 2 songs… Hahaha! Let’s play 4 video songs… ow, we’re out of time?! We know we can convince people. We’re able to serve them an introduction to Evergrey. That’s what matters… always!’’
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Gothenburg's [Sweden] finest export of darkness, led by founder, singer and guitarist Tom S. Englund.
Active since 1995.
Progressive, heavy melodic metal