Sweden's EVERGREY never disappoints, as demonstrated one again by "Monday Morning Apocalypse". The only question about a new EVERGREY album has nothing to do whether the collection of hooky, passionate, and heavy rock tunes is worthy of a listen (of course it is); the question is how it stacks up against other releases in the band's impressive catalogue.
"Monday Morning Apocalypse" is a different album from classics like "Recreation Day" and "In Search of Truth", and surely does not follow the same path taken on 2004's concept opus "The Inner Circle". I'm not ready to say that the new album reaches the levels of musical brilliance achieved on the former two albums, but it comes damn close. As far as catchy songwriting, proggy flourishes, and the icy cold heaviness of the arrangements are concerned, "Monday Morning Apocalypse" is definitive EVERGREY. The most noticeable difference comes by way of the production, courtesy of Sanken Sandquist and Stefan Glaumann (BON JOVI, RAMMSTEIN, DEF LEPPARD). The guitars of vocalist Tom Englund and Henrik Danhage are much thicker and heavier, while the solos are more pronounced and aggressive. Comparatively speaking, the keyboards continue to play an important role, but in some respects become a less significant (though in no way unimportant) instrument, primarily because the riffs are so weighty. The most notable exceptions are on beautiful piano instrumental "Till Dagmar" and heart wrenching album-closer "Closure". The keys also play a pivotal role in creating mood on songs like the haunting "The Dark I Walk You Through" and the soon-to-be-classic "In Remembrance" (fantastic gothic backing vocals and somber aura).
For longtime fans, such as myself, the initial spin can be startling because it is such a departure from past works sound-wise. Still, it doesn't take very long to recognize that it is the same EVERYGREY melodic mastery at work on the hard-driving "Obedience", "The Curtain Fall", and the title track. In short, the guitars are big, but the hooks are even bigger. There is no letdown on any of the remaining songs either. The three-minute "Lost" is the perfect radio track, featuring a simple and immediately catchy chorus. "Still in the Water" is a mid-tempo tune that alternates between beefy riff churn and majestic airiness, and also includes gothic backing vocals and a female singing part from, I assume, Tom's wife, Carina (no information was provided with my promotional copy).
The further I got into this review, the more I realized how much there is to appreciate on "Monday Morning Apocalypse". As I alluded to earlier, the question is not whether an EVERGREY album is good or bad; it is a matter of degree of greatness.