Although they first joined forces nearly twenty years ago, Swedish death metallers Evocation fell off the radar in 1993, not long after the release of their demo The Ancient Gate – which came as something of a surprise to fans, since that promo kicked serious ass and broke major ground for the genre, along with some notorious live shows and widely-circulated bootlegs. Thankfully the unit officially reformed in 2005 and immediately set about making up for lost time with two epic albums in as many years: Tales from the Tomb in 2007, and Dead Calm Chaos the following year. Their new album Illusions of Grandeur will be arriving in time for Halloween, but first let's dig into those earlier releases, which arrived this week for the first time in North America.
While the band's original home base of Gothenburg is considered to be the epicenter of Swedish metal's golden age, ushering in a genre-blending blend of more melodic and experimental metal styles, Evocation still spent many years in search of a signature sound that would lift them above and beyond those influences. They finally solved the tricky equation in 2005, working as a five-piece under the independent label Cyclone Empire. The result was the crushing 2007 studio album Tales from the Tomb, the first indication of a slightly more melodic approach tapping into some of the iconic “Gothenburg sound” pioneered by bands like In Flames, but with far more emphasis on the menacing aggression of early Swedish death bands like Entombed.
Tales from the Tomb runs the heavy spectrum from the doom-filled “Phase of Fear” to the monstrous dropped riffage of “Blessed Upon the Altar” and the steadily escalating intensity and tempo changes of “Chronic Hell,” plus the soaring melodic passages of “From Menace to Mayhem” are a clear tip of the hat to the Gothenburg sound, while they also pay proper tribute to Entombed with a solid cover of their late '80s classic “But Life Goes On.” Despite the homages, they also demonstrate how far they have diverged from the conventions of old and new Swedish death metal with a new recording of their '92 demo cut “Veils Were Blown,” and vocalist Thomas Josefsson demonstrates true demon-summoning skills in the ferocious track “Feed the Fire.” The whole evil package is topped off with supreme artwork from the legendary Dan Seagrave (be sure to check out his gorgeous cover for With Roots Above and Branches Below by The Devil Wears Prada).
Still high on creative momentum in the wake of Tomb's success, the band hit the studio immediately for the following year's Dead Calm Chaos, still under the Cyclone Empire banner. Featuring guest appearances from guitar legend Anders Björler (At The Gates, The Haunted), and guitarist/vocalist Dan Swanö of prog-metal legends Edge Of Sanity, the follow-up retains the dark energy of its predecessor, drawing in equal measure from somber, doomy grooves like “Boundead” and the old-school death of “Truth Will Come Clear,” but there's a beefier, more anthemic vibe to many of these cuts, peaking with the demonic double-tap of “Protected by What Gods” and “Antidote.” The variation in song styles suggests that the band is still open to experimentation while still keeping boots firmly planted in the Swedish metal underground; like any individual artist, they build their own distinct technique upon the foundation of the old masters, and Evocation are well on their way to becoming iconic figures in their own right.
Rightfully gaining popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, Cyclone Empire arranged with Metal Blade to distribute Evocation's third album Apocalyptic in North America last year with impressive results, including the raw and powerful single "Psychosis Warfare," featured in the clip below:
The wider exposure led the label to pick up the same distribution rights to the previous two albums... which brings us pretty much up to date, with the band now signed to major label Century Media and their fourth album Illusions of Grandeur slated for US release on October 23rd. More info on that one coming soon!