There’s something comforting and warm about good After the Burial albums. Maybe those aren’t the first words that come to mind for many listeners, but it’s undeniable that the band evokes a more personal response than the average metalcore act. This became even clearer when core member Justin Lowe passed away under tragic circumstances, which must have been a very heavy blow to the members. Many fans were invested in not just the music, but the people behind it. And it was undeniably felt when the first album after Justin’s loss, Dig Deep, made his absence sting that much more. So Evergreen was the test of whether the band would continue to feel hollow, or recover and keep the memory alive. It’s pretty safe to say, upon hearing it, that the band pass with flying colors.
Creating narratives to explain patterns is convenient, but not always true. That being said, it makes for a good story in a review, so we’ll go with it anyway. Trent Hafdahl and Justin Lowe, founding members and guitarists of the band, have always felt like the creative force behind everything. They used to put out playthrough videos, and their personality shined through in both the humor but also their musical writing. After the Burial always felt like a band trying to establish a delicate balance – one between the primal response to fast, heavy chugs, and the emotional pull of mellow, melodic riffs. Both Justin’s solo material and Dig Deep made it feel like Justin was the sentimental core of their sound. In that sense, seeing Evergreen hit that balance again feels bittersweet. It’s definitely not the same without Justin, but it also doesn’t feel lacking. Dig Deep was very one-note, feeling rather monotone. Evergeen brings the beat that made their previous material tick back.
Wolves Within is one of the more underrated albums in the genre, eclipsed by how fantastic Rareform was. It’s a varied album, having ridiculously heavy tracks, catchy and fast anthems, ballads and the whole nine strings. Evergreen follows that up quite nicely. There’s the staple simple heavy song with a chuggy main riff that’s off-kilter with its timing. There’s the fast riff-fest, the slow-and-low groovy song, the ballad that opens with clean guitars, the song that ends in a long, melodic solo section. Anything an After the Burial fan could possibly want is here. The production is perhaps the best they’ve ever sounded too. It’s refreshing to see the band back in form, no caveat, no “but”. Evergreen is great.
In the end, Evergreen is everything a fan could hope for. After the Burial are firing on (almost) all cylinders again. It feels like a return to form as established on Wolves Within, and is another great addition to their catalog. There’s absolutely nothing new here for people who aren’t interested in the band, but After the Burial is a band that many people are passionate about, and this album is for them. And it’s for the band, showing that they can overcome the loss of a brother and carry the spirit on.