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EVERGREY A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)

By Nathan Dufour, Great White North
Wednesday, May 11, 2022 @ 1:40 PM

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A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)

2022, Napalm Records

Uh, did EVERGREY not just release an album? Oh, that was all the way last year. My mistake. Rise of The Phoenix absolutely floored me, easily being one of the best outings in the twisting and turning world of the EVERGREY machine. 2022 finds the band with a new home at Napalm Records and onto their newest opus. A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) is anything but heartless. I had to Google a bit, so that seems like a good starting point. Let’s go.

Oxford languages defines “Orphean” as follows:

relating to or characteristic of the poet Orpheus, especially in being melodious or entrancing.
"they were entranced by the Orphean skill he displayed"
resembling or reminiscent of Orpheus' journey into the underworld.
"an Orphean journey into a kind of underworld of sin"

Admittedly, that is a lot to take in, and the inclusion of a dictionary definition was something I wrestled with while in the nascent phases of this very review. Is it pretentious? Is it just a space filler because I lost my words? Will I be successful, in some way, to accurately convey to whoever reads and cares about this music and this band, the absolute dominance of A Heartless Portrait…? Ultimately, I truly have no idea. And for the first time in quite a while (read since last year’s EVERGREY review) I feel very vulnerable here, in this place.

The place I am writing from is my music room in our home - a place filled with, well, music. But more than that, our home is my personal safe place, and this room in particular. My wife has taken pains to make the room special for me, and has breathed so much life into our home that I can scarcely believe it. What does this have to do with EVERGREY, right? Well, the band occupies a very distinct part of my heart and psyche, as I am sure I said before. Vulnerability is not something many of us are acquainted with, at least not outwardly. But increasingly, it seems, EVERGREY seems to be encouraging us to be vulnerable and be truly authentic and to be, I guess, fragile, as well. At the same time, there is a strength and protection that permeates A Heartless Portrait. I can’t articulate it very well, but the dictionary definition above fits - the album is at once amazingly melodious and, without doubt, a journey. The album as a whole speaks to great amounts of strength, but not in a tough guy way - strength and beauty by way of understatement, quiet resolve. My music room, in some way, strikes me the same way. It’s beautiful and wrapped up in so much emotional investment that I can’t even, as the kids say. At least, I think they still say that.. I love this room. And that is the best and most apt description to encapsulate my feelings on the new album - I love it.

Whatever you do, don’t listen to A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) through your phone speaker. Just don’t. It is easily one of the most densely layered affairs of EVERGREY’s career, at once distancing itself from Rise of The Phoenix as being a totally different, um, animal, and the mix alone deserves some really good headphones, earbuds, or external speakers if that’s what you have to do. This thing is dense and immense. The mix and master of Jacob Hansen is stupefying - the slight shimmers of embellishment of keys or a slick bassline dance in the background of the larger show but are not bit players, either. EVERGREY feel and sound rejuvenated in every sense of the word. Keys play an integral part in the sound here, as with most recent releases, but they are at once morose and oddly playful. There is also experimentation in the delivery of vocals, at times almost gang vocal territory but also more aggression and bite than Tom has had a in a while. I have mentioned before that Tom Englund has a one of a kind voice and it is here on full display. I think I just got a chill.

Right from the get go, “Save Us” kicks in and is a great introduction for the album. What’s even cooler, is that the aforementioned gang style vocals are fans - EVERGREY having petitioned fans for their voices to include on the track. Easily having one of the best choruses of the band’s career, full stop, “Save Us” grabs the attention of the listener. That attention, it should be noted, is not likely to wane throughout the duration of the album.

Lyrically, and again this goes back to vulnerability through strength, EVERGREY should stop making me teary - it makes it very hard to write a review. I cannot speak highly enough of the pure emotive quality of these lyrics. Indeed, speaking to the everyman and certainly through a lens informed by the current climate (which only seems to be worsening), Tom Englund has somehow managed to once again basically punch a guy in the gut and grab at his heart. Thank you - truly - for your assistance to me personally. Music is your friend. I really believe that.

Speaking of keys, the introduction to fourth track “Call Out The Dark” reminds me of a music box, a truly unique experience in the context of a metal album. It coaxes the listener in, albeit briefly, before the song fully kicks in. It’s a transition you can feel and is very effective.

“The Orphean Testament” has one of the tastiest riffs in recent memory - slashing about with gleeful abandon before settling into a deep and swelling chorus with tasteful leads to add to the atmosphere. That atmosphere continues into what I believe is one of the best EVERGREY songs of recent times, “Reawakening” - the keys wash over in a cascade of ambiance and drive the melodious nature of the track. The vocals are delivered in resplendent fashion and the rhythm section, particularly drummer Jonas Ekdahl, absolutely shiines.

The riffs don’t stop coming, either. “The Great Unwashed” is low and slow, likely as close to sludge as EVERGREY has ever been, and again, those little embellishments raise the bar. The underlying keys are prog gold, reminiscent knowingly or unknowingly of DREAM THEATER, at least to my ears.

A Heartless Portrait is shorter than its predecessor but it doesn’t feel stunted in any way. Every song, every note of composition, is so incredibly deliberate that it is almost too much to take. The emotional nakedness is at once arresting and disarming. The album ends with a ballad. I really don’t know what else to say about that except that it is a rarity and, in this case, performed excellently. At the end, the listener doesn’t feel as though they are wanting more or that there are any qualities lacking. Plainly put, EVERGREY keep getting better with every album. That too is a rarity - a true gift to not only the fan but also the band since it certainly eliminates the feeling of repeating oneself.

Earlier I spoke about writing this review in my music room. I write in here because it is easy to focus on the task at hand. I write in here because the room itself speaks to me, and EVERGREY speaks to me as well. I hope you can all find a space of your own in life, and also someone to share it with. To me, in some way, certain artists and bands immediately strike a chord and feel like home, a safe place to let one’s guard down from the world. EVERGREY is, without doubt, one of those.

A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) is the sound of a group progression, pushing itself to be its very best out of a need to be exactly that. There is no fat to trim here, every movement is exactly where it needs to be. Don’t listen to it on your phone. Please.

5.0 Out Of 5.0

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