Over fifty years after the British Invasion, American progressive rock bands are still relatively few and far between compared to those hailing from other shores. Those originating in Tennessee even less. However, Evership’s new “The Uncrowned King” does have more than one thing in common with another Tennessee-based artist: a concept double-album of symphonic prog along the lines of Pilgrim’s Progress. Hmmm…sounds similar (or should we say Similitude) to a certain 2017 release. Must be something in the water down there. Not to worry, the search for truth is universal and there’s plenty of room in the prog universe for these parallel projects to co-exist. More importantly, Evership have already established themselves as a prog tour de force thanks to their first two excellent releases over the past five years. Their somewhat fanciful flights of prog are rooted in solid musicianship and more hooks than Paul McCartney can cast. So it is with anticipatory open arms that we welcome the first Act in this two-Volume series.
Evership are driven by visionary Shane Atkinson (keyboards, drum, vocals) and singer extraordinaire Beau West. With the support of bassist Ben Young and guitarists John Rose and James Atkinson, Evership has all of the ingredients to realize Atkinson’s ambition. The inspiration at hand is the book “The Uncrowned King” by early 20th century author Harold Bell Wright. This allegorical story unfolds through West’s voice as he describes the pilgrim’s search at the Temple of Truth, a quest where the journey is just as important as the destination. Opener “The Pilgrimage” sets the stage with sweeping orchestration and grand melodic ideas sung by West with a voice like a breeze. It’s a pretty classic prog template for opening a concept album, truth be told, and fans of Kansas, Styx, ELP and the like will feel right at home.
One element of the story includes the “visitations” of the Four Voices of Life who relate the story to the pilgrim in his journey for Truth. Think of it as Dickens’ visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Each of these Four Voices play out through four songs of their own – two in this Volume and two in the subsequent Volume yet to come – and thus track two of the album is “The Voice of Waves”. Unfortunately the measured buoyant delivery of this Voice slows down the pace of the album just as we were ready for it to pick up steam, but it’s a fairly short interlude and we can’t get to third piece “Crownshine/Allthetime” fast enough. Launching into an epic guitar theme halfway through the song, along with fiery organ soloing and more melodic storylines thrillingly delivered by West, there’s plenty here to enjoy. The bulk of the album’s songs run well over 9 minutes apiece and by and large that is Evership’s sweet spot.
Layered vocals open up “The Tower” to clever effect, with the tone of West’s voice occasionally bringing to mind Elton John at its most expressive, especially combined with the piano hits in the main riff of the song. “The Voice of the Evening Wind” is the mellowest song on the album but this comes at the right time in the sequencing to be a welcome, ambient pause. Wind chimes and classical guitar mix with ethereal keys but it is guest singer Poem Atkinson who weaves the magic to cast the listener in a spell. While one would normally miss West’s presence, here the younger Atkinson has plenty of vocal charm, making it a winning cameo. The lengthy “Yettocome/Itmightbe” follows, deep in the cadence of 70s rock heroes such as Queen if they traveled to even further proggy realms, the second half offering especially memorable hooks. “The King is dead!” is proclaimed at the outset of “Wait” as the protagonist realizes all that has not be answered or completed yet in his quest. Ultimately this turns into an appropriate final track to leave us hanging on for Act 2, feeling incomplete and still full of questions.
Although the production on the album is an improvement from their previous release, there still are some limitations sonically which may not do justice to the full range of instrumentation performed. Still, it’s reassuring to find such skilled composition and execution at hand, intently focused on conveying an intriguing storyline. For those weary of concept albums, “The Uncrowned King” may not be the best entry point to Evership (the first two albums can handily satisfy that need) but there’s no shortage of quality writing or performance on this album. For those up to the task, this journey is certainly one worth taking.
Released by: Independent
Released on: May 21st, 2021
Genre: Symphonic Progressive Rock
- Beau West / Lead vocals
- Shane Atkinson / Keyboards, drums, vocals, percussion, theremin
- James Atkinson / Lead guitar (3b,4,6b)
- John Rose / Rhythm, classical, acoustic & lead guitars (1,3a,4,6a,7)
- Ben Young / Bass
- Matt Harrell / 12-string guitar (1)
“The Uncrowned King – Act 1” Track-listing:
- The Pilgrimage
- The Voice of the Waves
- (a) Crownshine / (b) Allthetime
- The Tower
- The Voice of the Evening Wind
- (a) Yettocome / (b) Itmightbe
The spirit of symphonic progressive rock lives on in Evership, whose first two albums combined excellent voice and musicianship with compelling songwriting. Third album “The Uncrowned King - Act 1” employs these strengths into a concept album regarding the search for Truth. For fans of Kansas, Queen, Elton John, Styx and more, this is a group not to miss.