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EVERGREY – Restoring The Loss
Anthony Morgan
February 2011

Evergrey (l-r): Marcus Jidell, Rikard Zander, Tom Englund, Hannes Van Dahl
and Johan Niemann

On May 7th, 2010, Gothenburg, Sweden-based progressive metal outfit Evergrey issued a public statement: guitarist Henrik Danhage, drummer Jonas Ekdahl and bassist Jari Kainulainen had all parted ways with the group. Henrik and Jonas preferred to explore music as members of their project Death Destruction, while Jari opted to play with Los Angeles metal assortment Killing Machine for financial reasons. “It wasn’t very easy for us,” admits Tom S. Englund, founder, guitarist and lead vocalist for Evergrey. “We’ve been friends for ten years, and the last two years of those ten we started degenerating as a band and as people – we didn’t enjoy the company of each other any more. Before that got to be a real big problem we wanted to make sure that we ended this, because nothing was more important to us than keeping our friendship. That was something that we built for a very long time, and not something that we were willing to sacrifice for a stupid band like Evergrey. That would’ve been extremely stupid in my eyes, so we just felt that we should let bygones be bygones. They went one way, we went another way and we’re all still friends.”

2008-2010 marked the decline of Evergrey’s internal relations, though one root, central cause is difficult to pinpoint. “It was just total apathy,” the guitarist confesses. “We didn’t enjoy playing, and it wasn’t any more complicated than that. We didn’t appreciate each other’s company at all – we spent more time with the crew members than we did with each other. We had a beer in Brazil, staying at a five-star hotel, lying by the pool and drinking drinks. If we aren’t even enjoying that, then something’s wrong. Somebody’s not happy with the situation, and if the situation was that we weren’t happy with each other, or if it was something to do with the music, or if it was something to do with the economy or the stature of the band, I don’t know. It was most likely a combination of all.”

So it was a case of seeing each other too much Tom? Being on the road with the band, and all that? “Not that much because it was band related, you know? It was business related. As soon as we sat down we stopped being friends and became business partners, and we forgot about the friendship.”

An age-old tale throughout the history of sound, musical differences were possibly a factor. “For me music is extremely important,” the vocalist explains. “It’s more important for me to get my way and get the music out that I have inside me than it is for me to have you as a friend. We had three major figures in this band – me, Henrik and Jonas – so we had three big minds clashing all the time. That came to a point where we didn’t wanna step on each other’s toes, and I can’t do that. I have to write music and I have to get out what’s in me, and if that means that I have to tell my best friends to leave the band then that’s what I will do, and that’s what I did.”

Naturally, Evergrey’s major personnel changes brought the unit’s future into question from the remaining members’ perspective. “We weren’t a band first of all,” Tom freely admits, laughing. “After those guys were gone, we were nothing. I said to Rikard the keyboard player ‘I have to really think about this. I have to see what I wanna do. I have to see if I should get a new job, or if I should do other music or whatever.’ After a week to ten days the hunger came back though, and I told Rikard ‘Let’s try to write; we have to see if we can write together, just you and me.’ All of a sudden, within a week we wrote three songs and it was like going down the autobahn in this fucking sports car and never putting your foot on the brake. Within two to two-and-a-half months, we wrote eight to ten songs and then we started contemplating getting new members.”

Torn line-up: Jonas Ekdahl, Jari Kainulainen, Tom Englund, Rikard Zander and
Henrik Danhage

While Tom S. Englund and keyboardist Rikard Zander remain Evergrey members, completing the quintet’s line-up are guitarist Marcus Jidell (ex-Royal Hunt), drummer Hannes Van Dahl and bassist Johan Niemann (Demonoid / ex-Therion / ex-Evil Masquerade). Thankfully, auditions weren’t necessary. “We just called friends; we called friends and asked them ‘Do you know anyone?’, and they would say either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’,” the Evergrey founder reveals. “Eventually, we spoke to three people that we respect very much. We spoke to one guy named Snowy Shaw, who used to be the drummer for King Diamond and he sings for Therion. He’s a fantastic drummer, and he had a drum student that he could recommend that was totally mature in his opinion, a drum student that was also a great player and had the ability to become even greater. He gave us Hannes, and then I called a great friend of mine named Pontus Norgren who plays guitar for Hammerfall. I asked him if he knew a good guitarist and he said ‘Yes, I have one sitting next to me. Do you want to speak to him?’, so I spoke to him. Pontus is married to Marcus’ sister. Johan I knew from before; I knew him from touring together with Therion ten years ago, and I knew he was a great bass player so it was very easy. We didn’t even audition anyone – we just met and started rehearsing for the tour.”

It sounds like everything fell into place Tom? “Yeah, I would say so. Definitely.”

The mood within Evergrey circa 2011 to that within Evergrey circa 2008-2010 is incomparable. “The previous members of Evergrey we spent so much time together with; we did ten tours together and so on, and all this travelling and all these albums,” the Swede reminisces. “We experienced so many things and what not, so I won’t compare that at all because it wouldn’t be fair either to the old guys or the new guys. Especially the new guys, because they’re not here to replace anyone. They’re here to take their own space, and carve out their own little world within Evergrey. That’s what I want anyway, and that’s what they have done.”

The multiple additions of Marcus, Hannes and Johan have injected fresh blood into the Evergrey stream, fuelling a renewed hunger. “I think it’s like when you play football, where you get two new players in the team and they start scoring and create new ways for you to do things,” Tom figures. “Right now this album is getting such rave reviews from everywhere, and we have never encountered anything like it for eight albums. It’s quite strange for us to have unanimous praise from everyone. It’s extremely nice of course, but at the same time mostly relieving.”

As Tom stated, a full three compositions had been penned for eighth studio full-length Glorious Collision by the Evergrey mainman and Rikard within the first week of songwriting sessions. “It was great,” he exclaims. “I just fucking turned my head to the right or to the left, and I asked him ‘Hey dude, do you like this?’ He would say ‘Fuck yeah, man – that rocks’ or he would say ‘No, that sucks.’ Either way, we would come to a conclusion in two to three seconds. Also, me and Rikard have the same mind when it comes to being constructive; we criticise ourselves to the point where it’s almost ridiculous but it also ends up with some sort of quality in the end, and that’s where our heart lies. We’re extremely keen on the quality; we would never let anything pass without us being totally convinced that that was supposed to be there.”

New guitarist Marcus Jindell, meanwhile, made songwriting contributions towards two numbers: ‘You’ and ‘To Fit The Mold’. “That’s correct,” Tom confirms. “It’s quite remarkable in a way since he came into the band so late. Even though he came into the band so late, he still got his say and still got things into the band. It’s great for him as a musician to come into the band and really understand what the band is about, because that is quite a task to be honest. He came in and co-wrote ‘You’; he wrote the beginning riff for it, so I just wrote parts around that and the vocal melodies of course to make it into a song. With ‘To Fit The Mold’ we rewrote some of his ideas and made it into an acoustic beginning, and so the song is what it is today, which is great. Those two songs widen the album’s diversity.”

Tom Englund

Bassist Johan Niemann and drummer Hannes Van Dahl contributed towards Glorious Collision as well. “They mostly contributed fresh views and fresh ideas but most of all positive input, which is not to be looked at lightly,” the axeman emphasises. “That is something that is extremely important, because before it was sometimes the case with Evergrey that it wasn’t really that important. I could say whatever I wanted, like ‘Hey, listen to this’, and the response would be ‘Yeah… well… yeah.’ You felt that their hearts weren’t in it, that they weren’t burning for it anymore.”

Evergrey’s new members joined at a late stage in the songwriting process for Glorious Collision, so it would be plausible to assume its successor will be a more diverse affair. Tom remains noncommittal, however. “I don’t know man – I don’t even know if there will be another record,” he concedes. “Right now, we are very fragile. It’s like asking… we’ll have to see where this takes us. Right now, it looks extremely good. Pre-order wise and everything like that, the numbers look better than any album we’ve ever released, but at the same time things change and things can happen. Right now we’re looking at the schedule which will take us into January 2012, so we’ll do that first and then we’ll see how much speed we’ve got within us.”

Tom founded Evergrey in 1995, and over the course of those 16 years the outfit have issued eight studio full-lengths. Without doubt, Evergrey has been a huge part of the man’s life. “Oh yeah, fuck man,” the vocalist acknowledges. “Half of my life I’ve been in this band almost, but you change as a person also. I’m not the same guy as I was when I was fucking 20 or 21 or 18, and thank God for that. You alter your ways of thinking and you alter what you value the most and such, and I don’t want to come to a point where I write music because I wanna make another $40,000. That’s fuckin’ useless – the day when I do it for that, then I will stop. Right now I still write for the love of the music, and for the fact that I love to do this. I can’t imagine myself doing anything different.”

Marcus, Johan and Hannes are fully fledged members to confirm, as opposed to session musicians. “The line-up? Yeah. Fuck man, they’re there now,” Tom corroborates. “They’re a part of this album, so I would say that they are most definitely in the band. They came in and recorded the album, so they’re there. That’s what is nice about this. Breaking up from Evergrey as it were was the best decision the guys in Evergrey have ever made, otherwise we would not be here today and we would not have this album and people would not… Like in America, it’s extremely weird because we have all these high-profile internet pages like Metal Injection and Decibel that premieres our videos and our singles, and those sites never looked at Evergrey before.

“Seriously, I’ve done over 200 interviews. This is my fourth week in a row doing this, and for me, it’s like all of a sudden… And no-one… The worst review I’ve got from a journalist – speaking to them like I’m speaking to you right now – was ‘I think it’s a quite good album’, which for me by that point was two weeks into doing interviews. It felt like he was degrading me (laughs). Even that was quite a nice comment, but for me right then I thought ‘Something is wrong with you because everybody says it’s in our top three albums.’ Everyone from the USA says it’s our top album, but it doesn’t feel like we’ve done something different. That I’m aware of, anyway. It feels like we pushed some kind of button that made the world understand us all of a sudden – it’s really, really weird. The only thing I can think of is that maybe this album has a more prominent sense of hope within the despair and drama that usually surrounds Evergrey.”

Asked to judge Glorious Collision against its seven predecessors, the Evergrey founder refuses. “I wouldn’t,” he rebukes. “I wouldn’t do that – I never do that. It’s like comparing seasons in football – I use football references all the time because I love football (laughs). How can you compare one year if you win the Champions League and the next year you win it again? Which one would you say was the best? It’s weird. I can’t even do it, because for me all of the albums are a map of my feelings. They’re a map of where I was at that time, because at that time the writing represented my mood. The writing told the story of where I was at that time, which is a great thing for me because it’s an emotional map of my history. When I listen to one of our albums, I immediately end up in that place where I was when I wrote the songs. It’s fantastic.”

Evergrey (l-r): Hannes Van Dahl, Johan Niemann, Tom Englund, Rikard Zander
and Marcus Jidell

So with that being said Tom, you were in a less positive frame of mind when Torn was written? “Oh yeah. Can you maybe even tell that by the title (laughs)? Maybe that title was a prophecy. I guess it was (laughs). I didn’t even think about it like that, but yeah, definitely. The thing is, the older you get the more you understand things. I sound like an old man speaking (laughs). I’m sure you’ve been through this as well, whether it be in a relationship with a girl, or like us a band situation. You can continually be in that situation for several months or years without really appreciating where you are because you just go on routinely, thinking ‘This is the way life is – nevermind’, and that was what was happening with Evergrey. When we wrote Torn we were all fired up and felt great, but Henrik wasn’t really involved. He met a new girl and his views on life changed a bit, but we were okay with that because we were still best friends. I thought ’He needs his time with that, so let him do that’, so me and Jonas wrote that album. Then it came out though, and nothing panned out the way we wanted it to. We then started to get miserable within Evergrey, but we didn’t really notice. It just degenerated day by day, and we became worse and worse without realising that we were all of a sudden unhappy.”

And then it comes to that crunch moment when your eyes open a bit more. “Yeah, exactly,” the guitarist agrees. “Then you wake up one morning and say ‘Stop for fuck sake. What the fuck am I doing?’ You realise suddenly that yesterday I hung out with friends and didn’t even think of Evergrey, and all of a sudden I was a happy person. Isn’t that the way things are supposed to be in my fucking professional life? Especially when I create music, travel around the world, meet different cultures and play in front of great fans everywhere. If you don’t appreciate that, then something is wrong. That was it, and then I told Henrik ‘We’ve gotta talk. I can’t play with you anymore, and I want you to tell me that you’ll leave Evergrey because I won’t have to kick you out – because I will.’ That’s what I said. He was my best friend. ‘I don’t want this to die man. Get the fuck out – I can’t stand you anymore.’ We spoke for two hours, but we both knew, me and him. We knew when we called each other and set that date for a meeting. We knew that that would be the end of his time in the band.”

Lyrically speaking, Glorious Collision inevitably references Evergrey’s internal struggles of late. “The lyrics I wrote beforehand,” Tom begins. “It’s quite obvious what ‘Leave It Behind Us’ is about; it’s about the fact that we had these ten years, and we should leave it at that – let’s not fucking ruin that. It’s like a divorce album (laughs). ‘You’ is about being betrayed, and ‘Wrong’ is about me being wrong when I thought I was right. ‘Frozen’ is about when you become used to routine thinking and that apathetic part of life, while ‘Restoring The Loss’ is about when we started to get back to life. Then we go into other songs and other similar feelings and ideas.”

Classic rock elements surface on the album. “We didn’t care; if a Def Leppard guitar riff came up, we’d fucking play that if that suited the song,” the singer insists. “If it benefited the song, that would be in there. Take the song ‘Out Of Reach’; the verses in ‘Out Of Reach’ are extremely hard rock I would say, but with my vocals and the dramatic keyboards or whatever you want to call them it becomes an Evergrey song in the end. Yeah though, the influences were what I was thinking about, especially on that song, which is like a fucking AOR song.”

A large part of Evergrey’s appeal is arguably Tom’s vocals, a strong asset for the Swedish metal act. “My vocals are definitely one of the greater trademarks of Evergrey of course, but then again you should know that I never even considered myself a vocalist up until The Inner Circle album,” he notes. “I always said ‘I play guitar… Oh shit, and sing as well.’ For me, to begin with it was always more of a way to get from A to B to get the song to where I wanted. I never listened to great vocalists and thought ‘Ok, that’s what I wanna do.’ For me it’s never been about that, so I guess I have some sort of talent in making my will come through not necessarily by being the best vocalist in the world, because I’m not. But I’m good enough (laughs).”

Sombre, melancholic moments juxtapose themselves against harder, metal-type moments on Glorious Collision, not that such passages are intentionally composed. “Honestly, I don’t think,” the axeman asserts. “It just becomes what it becomes, and I think doing this for ten years has also given me some sort of advantage over many other bands when it comes to the multi-faceted aspect you’re asking about. I just make music; if it turns out to be a very slow song like ‘Free’ which is totally acoustic and orchestrated, then that’s what it becomes. But if you… I don’t know man. For me, it just happens. I don’t sit down with a plan, or sit down with a writing schedule or sheet music in front of me. Everything is in my brain, and in the end it becomes greater during the writing process.”

So it’s very unconscious? Natural? “Yeah, I guess (laughs), or very conscious but in an unconscious way,” Tom guesses. “It’s there, you know? I just have to close my eyes, and it comes to me. If you played guitar for me, I would within two minutes have ten different ideas on how to improve it and what should be added to it in terms of drums and bass and keyboards and vocals, and if there would be vocals or whatever. My mind is like that 24 hours a day, so I even think about that when I sleep which is extremely, extremely tiring. I wake up totally exhausted.”

But that means you’re totally suited to write music because if you didn’t feel that way, then maybe it would be time for you to leave music behind. “Yeah. We’ll see. Maybe it’ll come to a point where I can’t take it anymore, and I become too fucking old to deal with the mind activity (laughs). Yeah… I also love it. This is what I do man, and I don’t know how to do anything better than that, so… (laughs). So until I find something that will replace the music, I think I will do the music.”

A music video was filmed for the track ‘Wrong’, directed by Patric Ullaeus of Revolver Film Company (who’s previously helmed videos by Dimmu Borgir, Lacuna Coil, In Flames, Sonic Syndicate and Lacuna Coil). “Patrik is a good friend of mine – Patrik and me are exactly the same,” the axeman feels. “I would say he has exactly what I was just talking about. It’s really funny that you mention that because he is exactly the same way but when it comes to film. We are working on different projects together which are more movie theatre based. A movie, that’s what we’re working on. We have been working on it for a year. We had some major works that got in-between us, but we’re not in a rush. It’ll probably something with supernatural ideas and what not. We have a story, but I can’t tell you too much.”

Glorious Collision was released on February 22nd in North America, on the 25th in Germany, and on the 28th in the rest of Europe, all through Nuclear Blast Records.

Interview published in February 2011

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