Of the literally hundreds of excellent metal bands hailing from Sweden, Evergrey is one of my favorites. The band's trademark mix of thrashy power metal, progressive metal, and gothic subtleties gives them a unique identity within the crowded prog metal genre, and the powerful and distinct vocal delivery from Tom Englund never fails to amaze me. On their 1998 debut, The Dark Discovery, the band's morose and edgy progressive power metal sound is firmly established, but it lacks the refinement that made some of their future efforts so outstanding. Evergrey's entrance into the musical world is flawed in many regards, yet the band exhibits a high level of promise that - thankfully - would be fulfilled over the course of their next few observations.
For those unacquainted with Evergrey, this Swedish act performs a style of progressive power metal with a thrashy, American-sounding edge and dark gothic atmospheres. Their sound has moved in a more commercial direction in recent years, but earlier efforts like this one have quite a few progressive overtones. The Dark Discovery is undoubtedly an original album given its time period, and the band's semi-straightforward and morose sound was a refreshing change of pace from the countless Dream Theater and Fates Warning clones that populated the prog metal scene in 1998. Most of the songs here linger in the four to five minute time frame, and these powerful and melodic mini-epics are all really well-composed and quite diverse. Some songs may take a few listens to draw any distinctions between, but a gothic power ballad in the form of "For Every Tear That Falls", for example, helps add some nice variation and memorability to this already solid album. Although the band would take their unique approach to new heights over the next few years, The Dark Discovery is a worthy listen for any fan of Evergrey.
In terms of complaints, the album's real shortcoming is in its tremendously weak production. The guitars sound muddy and unclear, the drums sound distant and blurred, and Tom Englund's otherwise spectacular vocal delivery is obscured by a poor mixing job. This is just a really amateurish sounding album in terms of production and delivery; in addition to the weak production, the band's technical skills weren't quite as sharp as they would soon become either. It's a bit of a shame, actually, because this is a very impressive album from a compositional standpoint. Still, the production does not ruin The Dark Discovery, and its assets are plentiful enough to warrant a listen from any progressive power metal aficionado. Though I'd recommend starting with a masterpiece like In Search of Truth if you're new to the band, The Dark Discovery is a recommended listen to any Evergrey veteran.