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Pretty Damn Good... - 89%

Lataerez, July 26th, 2004

All right. I picked this one up on a whim, something I do occasionally. I'd heard Great Deceiver, nothing else. But, like Wolf's Evil Star or Stratovarius' Intermission, it was a choice move.
It took me a while to actually listen to it, if you know what I mean. It takes a few times to get into a disc usually, and this one took me about a month - I was catching up on my listening.

Anyway, the disc. The opener, "The Great Deceiver", is a fantastic tune for heavy-prog listeners. Tom Englund's vocals really charge this song with the disgust veiled in the lyrics while the guitars and keyboards mesh together beautifully; add in the drumming of Patrick Carlsson and Michael Håkansson's bass, and you have a fantastic opener. Sometimes it's hard to understand Tom's lyrics, but other than that, it's still a fantastic song. Unless you've heard it about fifty times, after which it's a bit boring.

Next up is one of my favorites, "End Of Your Days". The same deal as the last song: heavy bits, but with a nice, softer section followed by a strong solo on Henrik Danhage's part. Add in the lyrics, especially in the softer part. This is a fantastic tune, and one of my favorites so far.

The third track, "As I Lie Here Bleeding", is also a favorite of mine. The intro is magnificent, as is the first verse, both musically and lyrically. The solo, a switch off between Danhage and Englund, is up with some of their best, falling short of "End of Your Days" and "Visions"'. The backing vocals help this track's sound.

"Recreation Day" starts with a heavy riff, but moves into a softer sound for a verse, until the chorus, when the thunderous guitars and drums return with vengeance. The guitar solo is nothing spectacular, but a smooth piano solo follows this and rounds the song off as the guitar returns for another solo, which is better than the first. The construction of the backing vocals again contribute to the track.

"Visions" is a fantastic song simply for its solo, by Tom Englund. In fact, I consider it the best solo on the album. This song is only faulted by the almost droning chorus vocals, which fit the song. But it's still kind of boring, until you hit the solo. The rest of Englund's vocals are fantastic, if that's any consolation.

"I'm Sorry" was the one song I avoided for a while because I'd read that it was a cover of a pop song, something I'm still not entirely sure about. But I've listened to it quite often since then, and love it. The video is damn good as well. The mix between piano, guitar and strings (provided by Rikard Zander's synth no doubt) really catches you off guard if music pulls at your emotions easily. The lyrics have much angst in them, but at times, they're extraordinary: "I painted a picture of you/Your soul was red and your mind was blue." This one is a must listen.

Next comes "Blinded", another top knotch song. Zander's synth after the first chorus just plain rocks. Possibly the highlight, if not the change in vocals and music just after the post-chorus verse. The reversion to the original sound is well executed, although a bit rushed. And the solo is, once again, not exactly a bright spot in the song. The chorus vocals rock, and this song live just rapes you.

"Fragments" starts off with a strong intro, but slips a bit in the verses. The strongest bit is the resounding "I am here. I am lost I am weak and bothered…". Yes, even though it is somewhat reminiscent of Visions. But the solo is definitely an improvement over "Blinded"'s. One thing I'm fascinated by is Englund's sudden scream-vocal just before the last chorus. It seems out of place, almost nu. But I welcome it anyway.

"Madness Caught Another Victim" caught me completely off guard as I listened to it, as I wasn't expecting an acoustic song on this disc. The guitar, when played during the choruses and the intro, is fantastic, I'll give it that. But the lyrics are dry. The vocals are weak aside from the chorus when the guitar backs it up. An all right one, but it lacks the Evergrey feel. Maybe because there are no keyboards…

The song "In Your Darkest Hour", has a weak intro for once, but a strong chorus. Well, actually, it's more that the chorus doesn't fit the rest of the song very well. But the chorus' use of keyboard is effective. The one other problem I had was the piano and drum only part of the song - when Carina Englund (at this time still Kjellberg) adds in "Great Gig in the Sky"-esque vocals. Again, this part is boring. But if you can handle it, then the fantastic keyboard/guitar chorus awaits on the other side. Vocals are fairly good, as are the lyrics.

Finally, we have "Unforgivable Sin", which starts strong and stays strong. In fact, listening to it right now reminds me of The Inner Circle. The myriad vocals in the chorus are great, and the duet bit between husband and wife really kicks ass. I love the recurring riff, and the only thing I find a bit wrong with this one is how the rhythm guitar seems to jump onto not-so-pleasant chords every once in a while. We say goodbye to the disc with yet another piano bit, one that I rather like.

It's been called rushed, this album. Some parts, yes. But even so, this is a fantastic starting disc for those curious about Evergrey. Highlights are "End of Your Days", "As I Lie Here Bleeding", "Recreation Day", "Visions" and "I'm Sorry". Add "Your Darkest Hour" to that as well.

Overall the production was a bit flimsy, and at times, the music and lyrics lacked. So I'll give this album an 89%, simply because there are some choice tracks. But it cannot beat The Inner Circle.