Album of the Year 2016 – Number 1
Here we are. I’ve done it, and I have finished earlier than ever before. I never doubted it, even for a second!
What was also never in doubt was the support that I have received from all of you over the last month or so. The likes, the hits, the comments, the shares…it all comes together to make this whole thing worthwhile and actually a joy to create. The banter, the conversation and the disagreements; they’re all part of life’s rich tapestry.
But best of all is the fact that some of you have discovered a new band or a new album from reading this blog – that’s my main aim and I’m delighted that I have managed to succeed.
As I have said over the past couple of posts, the final three picks caused me no end of trouble. I’m generous with my review scores I will admit but it is rare I give out a perfect 10/10. So the fact that I gave out three during 2016 speaks volumes for the quality of music that was delivered this year.
In reality, the final three albums should be joint winners as they are all so good. However, I wanted to avoid doing this because it might have been a let-down to you all and a bit of a fudge. Instead I have searched deep inside to come up with some kind of order to these excellent releases. In the end, I decided to order them based on the most important factor – how they make me feel. On that basis, I was able to decide on an order that I am content with.
If you’re wondering what my other choices have been this year, then links to all 29 other picks can be found at the bottom of this post. There are also links to my complete series from previous years, 2012-2015. If you take a look, I hope you enjoy the read.
And with that, I can procrastinate no longer; it is time to reveal my album of 2016, the record that has had the biggest and most profound effect on me this year. The winner is…
The Storm Within
“The Storm Within’ is the glorious sound that is created when five musicians come together at the very top of their game. Rikard’s keys permeate the entire album with an abundance of sounds and textures, both familiar and new. Tom and Henrik’s guitar playing is out of the top drawer, both in lead and rhythm guises. Johan’s bass is clear within the muscular mix, allowing his understated dexterity and sense of melody to provide an audible pulse to the music. And Jonas’ drumming is the heartbeat, offering a solid foundation that’s also deceptively complex and ambitious, arguably his most accomplished performance to date.
From the first notes of opener ‘Distance’, to the final moments of the closing title track, ‘The Storm Within’ is just about the perfect album for me in the here and now. It is exactly the kind of music that I want to listen to and, more so, that I crave. I have listened to this record more times than I care to admit, probably close to twice a day on average if not more. And the great thing is that it keeps getting better.
For those looking for a carbon copy to any of Evergrey’s previous releases, prepare to be disappointed. ‘The Storm Within’ is the sound of Evergrey 2016 and it is another step in their gradual evolution towards what they personally perceive to be the Holy Grail.
Onto the music itself and deliberate or not, there are more than a few nods to previous releases on this album. Be it a riff that calls to mind ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’, a string embellishment that conjures up nostalgic memories of ‘Solitude…’ or a keyboard sound that recalls the ‘In Search Of Truth’ era, these little gems do exist and they are truly wonderful.
Give it your full, undivided attention and maybe you too will consider this album to be Evergrey’s finest hour. Will it even replace ‘In Search Of Truth’ as my all-time favourite album? Watch this space. What is certain however is that Evergrey’s majestic blend of heaviness, melody and emotion means that ‘The Storm Within’ is nothing short of a bona fide masterpiece. All hail Evergrey.”
Yes, yes, I accept that this is probably the most obvious choice that I have made in this entire series. Evergrey are my all-time favourite band after all, a group of musicians that I hold dear to my heart. However, I would have been the first to moan if they released a bit of a stinker. I have gone on record to suggest that there are a few albums in their back catalogue that I like less, so whilst I love this band, I’m not blindingly biased. At one stage in the mid-noughties, I was even close to replacing Evergrey as my favourite band.
And then ‘Hymns For The Broken’ came along. With it, came a reunited line-up after years of instability and most importantly, some of the most powerful music the band had ever released. The sense of contentment and excitement within the band was tangible and I felt that Evergrey were once again back to their very best. This also worried me because I wasn’t sure whether the euphoria would be short-lived or extend to future albums.
In the middle of 2016, I had my answer in the form of ‘The Storm Within’. Oh. My. Word. You can read the full review to get the bigger picture, but ‘The Storm Within’ is essentially a continuation of what they did so well with ‘Hymns…’ whilst adding a few different ingredients – the cinematic embellishments for one – and more than a few nods to their early days. It turns out to be the perfect blend of old and new and one of the most vital-sounding albums I have heard in some time.
Strong melodies, powerful riffs, bulldozing rhythms, a pronounced progressive element and dark, emotional atmospheres. That’s the Evergrey recipe and it creates some of the best music I have ever heard. This is exactly how I want my music to sound and Evergrey have delivered yet again.
So, ‘The Storm Within’ is expertly written, immaculately performed and anthemic in the extreme. But what tips this album into the top place however, is what has happened since I wrote the review. The songs just get better and better for a start.
And then Tom Englund, the driving force behind the band and the owner of arguably my favourite set of vocal chords in any genre of music went over to Iceland to film some videos. It was felt that Iceland offered the bleak and rugged visuals to fit with the tone of the record and this couldn’t have been more apt.
Tom Englund and his wife duet on the stunningly beautiful and emotional ‘The Paradox Of The Flame’ at the very spot where I scattered my brother’s ashes near the Gulfoss waterfall. The feelings that this evoked within me when I first saw the video can never be forgotten. Goosebumps upon chills upon more chills and then tears…it was a rollercoaster of emotions and one that repeats itself whenever I am brave enough to watch the video.
It was perfect. My favourite band playing beautiful music at one of my most important places on Earth…it was like it was meant to be. I believe that maybe it was meant to be.
The result is that ‘The Storm Within’ is my album of the year for 2016…and rightly so.
In case you’ve missed any of the other posts in the 2016 series, here they are for you to explore and enjoy:
Album of the Year 2016 – number 8
Album of the Year 2016 – number 9
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2016 – number 13
Album of the Year 2016 – number 14
Album of the Year 2016 – number 15
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2016 – number 17
Album of the Year 2016 – number 18
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2016 – number 20
Album of the Year 2016 – number 21
Album of the Year 2016 – number 22
Album of the Year 2016 – number 23
Album of the Year 2016 – number 24
Album of the Year 2016 – number 25
Album of the Year 2016 – number 26
Album of the Year 2016 – number 27
Album of the Year 2016 – number 28
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 30