EVILYN STRANGE – Mourning Phoebe (2013)
Rockers EVILYN STRANGE are an Anglo-Swedish combo which have been together for many years, playing in the British indie circuit and releasing some singles. “Mourning Phoebe” is the band’s full length debut, recorded and produced by themselves.
Comprising Phillip Strange on lead vocals & bass, Al Strange on drums and Swede Mikael Johannesson on guitars, Evilyn Strange is a quite ‘strange’ outfit indeed, as we can hear different styles running through their album. Phillip spoke in a recent interview; “Personally I love to mix styles and influences across an album – what’s the point in writing 11 versions of the same song?.
I said ‘rockers’ at the very beginning of this review, because Evilyn Strange can’t be pinned on a single musical style, although all are revolved around melodic rock / hard. This may turn things a bit disjointed for some listeners, but you can’t deny these guys are trying something different.
Part of this diversity should be laid on co-producer, engineer and collaborator Chris Hughes, the silent fourth member in Evilyn Strange, and the fact that most of the songs were penned by Phillip and drummer Al Strange (ex- Dog Food) separately. Al, a child of the ’80s, is also responsible for sneaking all the keyboards/synths onto the album.
The CD kicks off with the quite heavy “The Ballad Of Evilyn Strange”, a powerful track with a modern sound but inspired in the nineties. There’s a crushing rhythm section and excellent guitars by Mikael Johannesson, a quality axe-slinger which work enhances this disc all over. About the lead vocals, you have to get used of Phillip’s singing, as his register changes from track to track… particularly on this one, he sounds like Jerry Cantrell meets modern Ozzy, but it’s the only tune here in this vein. Next up is “Your Eyes Give You Away”, a dark atmospheric rocker where the vocals are much more melodic.
As said, Evilyn Strange mixes things up throughout the album, with several ballads mingling with heavier, harder rocking tunes. On the midtempo semi-ballad “Everything” the band blends early eighties The Cult (fundamentally the vocalization) with British Classic Rock resulting in an original track adorned with keyboards. The guitar solo is melodious yet plenty of force.
“All That You Do (You Do For You)” has a rougher, grittier feel and a harder edge, but to my ears the main melody is inspired by seventies Brit-pop, and again, you meet the unexpected. It’s a very good track as it’s not the typical hard-rock-by-numbers. Same can be said for “Narcissistic Bar Statistic”, where a The Mission (UK band) feel is heard wrapped by distorted guitars and synths… you like it or not, but these guys are different from the rest for sure.
Then they turn the page again; “The World Needs Someone Like You” is a classic melodic rock power ballad with an excellent vibe and superb melodious line. The vocals (and the way of sing) reminds me, believe it or not, Chris Ousey (Heartland, Snakecharmer), there’s uplifting harmonic backing vocals and a steady instrumentation. To me, the best track on the album and worth the admission alone.
Need more variation? Next, “Love Finds You” is an anthemic, kickin’ hard rocker with slidey, bluesy-flavored guitars and slamming drums, vocally the stongest on the entire recording and the guitar job is top notch. Another really good cut.
“No Mercy” follows the same path, but more melodic and constructed around a seventies classic rock skeleton, and next “Please Don’t Tell Me” returns to the melodic territory adding some acoustics to the mix, sporting a seriously ear-pleasing, hooky melody anchored by an Americanized refrain.
Johannesson’s stellar guitar-work shines again on the awesomely catchy “Just A Little”, another of my favorite tunes. This is a pure Melodic Rock song in the classic style of the genre with a driving melodic line, keyboards and a jumpin’ rhythm section.
The band’s more intimate side arrives with closer “Will You Be There? (Kate’s Song)”, the only completely acoustic number filled with beautiful harmonies (reminds me the German band Domain), an old song written by Phillip in his teens and dedicated to his passed away friend Kate.
As you can see, Evilyn Strange is like chameleon addressing numerous styles to their core. This results in “Mourning Phoebe” being a diverse and multi-faceted recording that may disorient many listeners, but challenges them all the time.
This not means the musical direction is not focused or integral, not at all, as this is a rock album with Melodic Rock, Hard and Classic Rock elements, it’s just that Evilyn Strange don’t want to repeat themselves track by track.
“Mourning Phoebe” is easy to enjoy but it’s a real grower, and gets better and better after repeated listens. The second half of the disc is more instant and familiar to regular melodic hard rockers, yet ‘strangely’ sounds cohesive to the rest of the material.
Definitively a different beast in the present Melodic Hard Rock scene, Evilyn Strange has delivered a more than interesting debut quite far from conventionalisms.
Phillip Strange – lead and backing vocals, bass
Al Strange – drums, keyboards, synths, backing vocals
Mikael Johannesson – guitars
BUY IT !