Evergrey are gearing up for their new album, A Heartless Portrait: The Orphean Testament, scheduled to arrive this Friday (20th) via their new label, Napalm Records (pre-order here). We caught up with bassist Johan Niemann on the latest effort and their return to the road celebrating not one but two new records within the past two years.
How close were the recording sessions from last year’s Escape of the Phoenix to the new album, A Heartless Portrait: The Orphean Testament?
It’s about a year. Almost exactly. I would say, yeah, pretty much. We had nothing else to do because of the pandemic. Usually when a record is is done, you know, touring follows. But obviously because of the pandemic, there was no touring to be done. So we thought, what are we going to do? We’re going to sit around and wait for something that might not happen. Or do we, you know, get back to work? And, you know, continue to write songs and, you know, work while we’re, you know, we’re we’re still inspired So that’s what we did.I mean, we had a couple of shows here and there, but, you know, obviously. No. No touring.
How has the transition been since the signing with Napalm Records?
It’s been really good. I mean, it’s hard to say because we’re still very new in this transition period. We haven’t really noticed any real differences so far. I mean, I’m sure there are differences, but it’s too early to tell. I mean, they love the stuff, and that’s the main thing. That’s the most important thing.
How would you compare the new album to your prior effort, Escape of the Phoenix?
I think we took more chances on this one, musically. At least that’s what it feels like. Maybe the last record was, I mean, I love it, and it’s great. But maybe it was a bit one dimensional. I just feel it sounds like we were more inspired this time around. At least to me in the way.
The new album does have more of a cinematic approach, it has a heavier and more obtuse sound than Escape of the Phoenix, which was more of a slower, downer direction but both are very good with two different styles.
Yeah, definitely. I agree with that. That it was a bit of a downer, it was.
What are some of the main themes you guys were trying to go with the album?
Well, you know, it’s the usual. Tom’s view on what’s happening in the world and, and this state of the world, in general.The feelings of alienation and the polarization between people. It’s not a fun place to be. There’s a lot of that. And obviously it’s his personal view on those subjects.
With the new album, I know tours are happening or not with COVID testing in different parts of the world. Do you guys have any touring or livestream plans?
Yes, actually we do in May. We’re supposed to play Finland for like three shows. We have a couple of festivals booked in the summer and then we’re supposed to do a European tour in September, October. And that was supposed to have been, you know, two years ago for Escape of the Phoenix, which obviously didn’t happen. We will be touring with two records, basically.
That’s going to be interesting with the setlist.
Yeah, I mean, we have been discussing a lot and trying to come up with a good solution on how to do things. Because there are a lot. Obviously, we want to focus on the new records. But yeah, it’s always difficult, you know, trying to balance the new stuff with the old stuff. I mean, there’s a lot of people coming to our shows who are, more or less, new fans and a lot of people haven’t heard, In Search of Truth or The Inner Circle, but of course, there are people who really like the old stuff. So it’s a difficult balancing act. It wouldn’t be a problem if we had two records only released, but, you know, having whatever this is 13 or something. It’s difficult. I can’t imagine, you know, bands like Iron Maiden who have tons of records over you know, or Bruce Dickinson, who would say, OK, which songs do we play? You know, it’s, it’s. difficult..
Is there anything else that you wanted to say or add about the new album?
It’s hard to say because we’re so close to the music. It’s hard to be objective. But I think there are things on this record that we haven’t done before, and there might be some surprises. To me, it’s not the typical Evergrey album. If there is such a thing as a typical Evergrey album. I don’t know. But I think we’ve taken some chances that we couldn’t have taken on previous records. So if you want to hear Evergrey maybe doing something different, this is probably the record for you.