Everon are back! Er... have they been away? Well, not exactly, but fate didn't have a lot of good in mind, which kept the band quiet for some time. But here's their new album: Fantasma! It's the band's fourth album, and the first with guitarist Ulli Hoever, replacing Ralf Janssen.
Opening track "Men Of Rust" blasts into your ears with that lovely Everon power. Not mere bombastic power, but melodic power, a full sound, where so much is happening that you need full and undivided attention. Have Everon become heavier, I ask myself. Sure sounds like it, and it isn't too strange considering the path they went from Paradoxes to Flood to Venus. It's this heavy Everon that I like best! It's more than just being heavy that makes Everon the unique band they are, of course. It's also the diversity, the alternations of musical bits that make you wonder where the hell they got the ideas from. So many musical jigsaw pieces, and they simply fit perfectly. Easy pieces with a sensitive guitar and piano, or the heavy pieces, with distorted riffs and keyboards following the way set by the rhythm section as the driving force, and all covered with a lot of Philipps' thin and still powerful vocals.
At the beginning of "Perfect Remedy", I thought the song was going to be a bit like "Black River" or something off the first album. It brings back memories off Paradoxes. The way it slowly builds up towards the middle of the song, where it falls back to the delicate opening music - very Everon.
"Fine With Me" is like a short and fast rock song, but in the Everon tradition. No simple, straightforward rocker, but think of "Cavemen" from Flood. Wow, how many things they can let happen in such a short time... This song shows more than other Philipps can write lyrics in places I would not necessarily expect words. This makes the music sound fuller, more complex, and more exciting. The union of music and vocals is really tight.
Alternating the heavy with more sensitive pieces, next song, "A Day By The Sea", is a semi-ballad. Lots of piano, but too much is going on and building up to a greater sound to let it be a ballad. Great moving middle section with a marvellous guitar solo here.
The title track is divided into five parts, but it is the longest track in Everon history. Of course, songs like this start slowly, but only after thirty seconds, things begin to rock in the Everon way. Nice riff there, which reminds me of that break in "Marching Out", by the way. It goes without saying that this is a very diverse track, but not because it is composed of different parts. A part like "The Real Escape" is very diverse in itself as well. A soft, almost fragile first half with classical guitar and, oh beautiful cello. The second half, fading into "Whatever It Takes", picks up the rocking start of the whole suite.
"Battle Of Words" is an instrumental that undoubtedly will replace Prelude in the live set. It's another diverse song, even with its limited length. Especially in this song you can hear what a great drummer Christian Moos is. No technical showing off, but sounding almost relaxed even in the heavier parts. The first half of this song contains a guitar solo in the typical Everon style: fierce, sharp, and very melodic.
Did I say I like the heavy Everon best? "May You" is a very sensitive piano ballad. What a great voice that man has... Philipps sings this song with his wonderfully warm and emotional voice. In the second half of the song, the rest of the band joins in, but the beauty of the song remains. It's a ballad, and it's a beautiful one. And a song like this makes me realize why I love Everon's music so much: it's all about emotion, it's soul food. There's a lot of technical playing, bombastic pieces, sharp guitar solos - and it's all about the heart, not the mind. And that's, at least to me, what music is about.
I don't mind the splitting of songs like "Under Skies... / ... Of Blue" (from Flood) and "Right Now... / ...Til The End Of Time", but I think "Ghosts - Intro / Ghosts" could have done without. But what the heck - I realize that this is the first point of criticism... Ghosts combines many of the ingredients heard before. Kind of an encore to a wonderful album. Quiet bits, a heavier (although not as heavy as this band can be) chorus, again a very moving guitar solo. And the lyrics say: "carpe diem!"
What a wonderful album! I simply think that if you don't own this album, you're missing out on something great. Definitely Everon's best album to date, and this is going to be a classic one. Whatever their influences might be, the result is a unique blend of melodic, symphonic, and progressive rock. Not in the centre of the musical style as set mainly by Genesis, but more towards the edge. Maybe like Yes - you love 'em or you don't, not a lot in between. In case of Everon - I love 'em.
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10.