The Inner Circle

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Boy, does this band have a great guitar sound. Big, thick, and richly nuanced, they occupy a space somewhere between the mindless heaviosity of metal and the pseudo-intellectual grandeur of prog rock. Tom Englund's voice is similarly flexible, moving from a guttural roar one moment to an operatic, chesty bellow the next. Tilting things a bit to the prog rock side is the fact that this is a concept album, a song cycle based on the story of a person who is lured into a religious cult, stripped of his personality and self-respect, and then rejected and left alone again. The songs are tied together by a thread of spoken word sermonizing by a voice that represents the cult's leader. While it's not always clear to what degree Evergrey are criticizing mindless fanaticism and to what degree they're simply ridiculing religious belief of any kind ("Led to believe in a truth that was false/Truth builds on greed and the faith of the weak...Stupid of me to believe in your hypocrisy"), this isn't a mean-spirited album. There's a gentle, almost tender beauty to several of these songs, and the others build to the kind of big, cathartic climax that fans of Queensr├┐che will likely find irresistible. Not bad at all.

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