Andy Read speaks with Tom S Englund,
founder member of Swedish metallers Evergrey.
The tall guitarist and frontman explains why,
despite a new line-up, new album and new record deal,
life still sucks for 50% of the time
This year marks the tenth anniversary of “The Dark Discovery”; the debut album from Evergrey. Since its release, lovers of dark, atmospheric metal across the globe have been increasingly attracted to Sweden’s undisputed Kings of Morose Metal.
Each of the band’s six studio albums have all made the Top 20 in their native Sweden. The last two reaching numbers six and three respectively. In addition, 2006’s live DVD “A Night To Remember” managed to hold the number one spot for four weeks. It was even nominated for a Swedish Grammy award, narrowly losing out to one from Abba.
Featuring 11 new compositions (plus a bonus track in the digipak edition), “Torn” sees the band with a new label, new management, new line-up, and a newly revamped sound. Frontman and guitarist Tom S Englund is excited by the possibilities for the band to continue its ascendancy.
According to Englund the slightly more experimental direction of the band’s previous release, “Monday Morning Apocalypse”, has given way to the old strengths and virtues.
"Two years ago we needed an album with a slightly different approach, and an expensive producer, just to find out how that sort of thing works. It was the right album for the time. Now we have returned to our traditional trademarks.”
The band’s new label is SPV/Steamhammer. According to them, “Torn” is a modern mix of “In Search of Truth” and “Recreation Day”. Knowing how a label’s PR machine thrives on short-hand, I invite Tom to paint a fuller picture of its content.
"How I’d prefer to put it, is that guitar-wise the new album is closest to “Recreation Day”. Mood-wise it’s closer to “In Search Of Truth”. However, it is basically just a new Evergrey album. Every one of our records has been different – at least I hope so. The last four albums have gone for a more guitar-driven sound. “Torn” is by far the heaviest album we’ve ever done. But there is also a lot more air. Every instrument has space to play its part.’
The album was actually completed way back in December but has been put on hold until the detailed negotiations between band and new label were finalised. A few years ago I attended the press launch for Powerplay of the band’s “Inner Circle” album. Then the CD was being pressed for the first time while we took off our jackets outside the studio. Little surprise therefore that Tom sees sitting on an album for a while as a positive move.
“When you’re being interviewed about a new record, you are always tempted to say things like ‘this is the best album we’ve ever produced.’ That is of course what you feel after putting all the work into it. But this time we’ve had the time to put it to one side and come back to it later on to give the songs a proper evaluation. So I really can honestly say that I am really pleased with what we have produced.”
“The initial feedback from everyone has been very positive. The most interesting thing is that everyone has had a hard time to pick a particular song as a favourite. For me it’s always changing. Six months after we finished the album, I still feel that every song is very good.”
As ever, the band plans to display their new songs in as many live arenas as possible. At the time of speaking, nothing had been confirmed.
"We’re currently rehearsing the title track, and a song called “Numb” from the new album for our launch party in Gothenburg later this month. Initial plans involve an Autumn tour of Scandinavia and South America followed by a longer tour as an opening act, perhaps in January.’ A North American tour in also in the pipeline.
According to the band’s informative website, Evergrey’s first tour was a tasty threesome with Crimson Glory and Kamelot in April 2000. Since then the band has entertained audiences at over 330 gigs, in places as far flung as Brazil, Australia, Israel, Iceland and the Canary Islands.
Evergrey took to the stage for the very first time eight years ago when they supported In Flames and Madrigal in their home city of Gothenburg. Having seen the band at a dozen shows over the years, I wonder if Tom ever dared hope for such an extensive trip around the world.
"It has been fantastic,’ he enthuses. “We’ve been able to go to so many interesting places like Serbia and South American, plus some really unheard of places in the United States. We’ve had some fantastic receptions. I’ll always remember the time that we played the Bloodstock Festival in Derby. That was a real surprise.’
"We do always try to have a look around the places we play. Usually one of the people who invited us will take us around after we’ve set up. That’s of course providing it’s not a place like Frankfurt that we’ve already been to 58 times or something.’
"The biggest problem is always the food. We had two weeks in Brazil with eight or so shows. Jonas and I had such bad stomachs. The damn tour bus had to stop and pull over to the side of the road every five minutes.’
In addition to their growing list of gigs, the band has a growing repertoire of song titles to choose from when compiling a set list. With around 100 songs on the menu, it must be increasingly difficult to fit in all the favourites. I wonder which songs Tom most enjoys performing.
"If I had to select a top three, I’d probably go for “Blinded”, “Recreation Day” and “A Touch of Blessing”. Those songs always get a massive response from the crowd. There are others we just have to fit in, like “The Masterplan” and “More Than Ever”. Then there are others that we slip in as a surprise or to try something new. For the DVD we dug out “Shocking Truth” which we’d never played live before. There are other songs that are just not suitable for a live environment.’
"We do have some pretty complex arrangements. Every song is extremely difficult to get down to the point where I can play it live. It takes us weeks and weeks to nail some songs. “Obedience” for example is a fucking nightmare to play. But when you have it, you have it.”
Never a band to overly celebrate the joys of life, a quick glance at the track-listing for “Torn”, and its cover art, shows that age has not smoothed Tom’s view of the world - or possibly his experiences of it!
"My lyrics have always been about the dark side of the human psyche. How you tackle the difficult things in your life. A lot of songs this time deal with things I’ve had to go through in the past few years. The different emotions I’ve had to face. I do try to do it in a more poetic way though.”
"We get lots of emails from people who have listened to our songs. They read the lyrics and tell me they are glad that they are not alone in the way they feel, or the things they have been through. That’s always positive.”
"Torn” is the band’s first release since “In Search of Truth” not to feature popular bassist Michael Håkansson. For a while, Hammerfall’s Fredrik Larsson filled the gap. Now a full-time replacement has been announced in the shape of former Stratovarius musician Jari Kainulainen. I invite Tom to explain Michael’s departure and introduce their new member.
"I don’t really know why Michael left,’ he admits. ‘It had been evident for the past couple of years that he was in a position where he just didn’t know what he wanted to do. He wanted to try something new, so left to join another band. But it obviously wasn’t what he wanted, as he’s now quit that band as well. There were no hard feelings and I wish him well in whatever his future holds. After all that time it was sad to see him go. But we need to have everyone in the band working with us, not against us.’
"To find a replacement we just put an advert on our website. We had demos and videos from all over the world. We invited a few people to come try out with us. But when Jari arrived, within 15 seconds we knew.’
Tom is equally pleased with the band’s new label.
"We took the time to make the right decisions. This may well be the last contract we sign, so it was important that it had to be the right deal. I think we just needed to make a change (from Inside Out – the band’s previous label). We may have become too big with them. We wanted someone who could handle us and take us to the next level."
Along with the release of “Torn” and two further albums, the contract includes the band's complete back catalogue. The label is promising top-quality reissues featuring a selection of bonus tracks.
"There is so much additional material for each album as well as loads of videos. We could theoretically re-release it on an extra DVD. Premium reissues are certainly a possibility and maybe even something on vinyl.’
With the release of “Torn”, it seems a fair bet that the Evergrey star is set to shine even brighter in the heavy metal galaxy. As for Tom, there are still plenty of challenges to come.
“I always knew this band would make it. There was no Plan B. I don’t really know what else I’d have done. I am delighted with how far we’ve come. However I’m still hungry for more. We always have the urge to go forward, as even now, 50% of the time life sucks.”
INTERVIEW FOR DPRP BY ANDY READ
2008-10-09 Sweden Rock Cruise. between Sweden and Finland
2008-10-10 Sweden Rock Cruise. between Sweden and Finland
2008-10-17 Warsaw Poland - Bemowo Park Amfitheater
2008-10-31 Nordic Rage Festival, Boden. Sweden
2008-11-22 GG, Uddevalla. Sweden
2008-12-05 Västerås - Evergrey Headline
2008-12-16 HOVET Stockholm - Evergrey supporting Whitesnake
2008-12-17 Scandinavium - Evergrey supporting Whitesnake
The Official Evergrey Website
Evergrey at MySpace
SPV Record Label
DPRP Evergrey Interview - 2006
DPRP Evergrey Interview - 2004
2006 DPRP Concert Review
DPRP CD Review of Torn
DPRP CD Review of Monday Morning Apocalypse
DPRP DVD Review of Live 2004 - A Night To Remember
DPRP CD Review of Recreation Day
DPRP CD Review of Inner Circle