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It is very difficult not to love Dream Evil. There simply are so many factors to discuss about this band and every aspect is interesting to touch upon. So the year is 2002 and we're standing in the aftermath of the grunge period; a time that sought to break music down to its most simple form as a reaction to the big sound of the 80's. The stage is set for new bands to make their mark and leave an imprint on the musical scene, and here Dream Evil really steps it up boasting with a fantastic line-up with musicians that simply are top notch. We have the very well renowned (not as much back then) Gus G of Ozzy Osbourne fame, Frederik Nordström and Niklas Isfeldt both involved in Hammerfall, Peter Stålfors and last, but not least, Snowy Shaw. Lots of talent, lots of potential, but could they work together? Is their debut worthy of praise?
At the first stroke of thought, you'd imagine something Dio-ish from this group as their name is directly inspired from the Dio album Dream Evil, and you could say it holds up to that in a few ways: mainly the lyrics. Dream Evil can take credit for writing some of the most hilarious and cheesiest lyrics in the entire metal universe, in fact the whole album is essentially one big story about slaying a dragon (very dio-esque). A song like Chasing the Dragon really helps to cement this fact: "Something soars through the sky - It's the dragon, fly!". Songs like H.M.J and Heavy Metal in the Night take a very traditional metal stance and is all about rocking out and having fun. When the band finally decides to take a serious lyrical approach in a song like Kingdom of the Damned it just feels odd. The song has enough cheese, alright, but up until this point (and afterwards as well, mind you), you will be laughing and rocking out... but then you hit this loose brick in the road, stumble and wonder: "what is this even?". Very misplaced song for that fact.
Let's look at the music. The album is very generic by today's standards. I imagine that back in 2002 it was a breath of fresh air, but it certainly hasn't aged too well. The songs are just predictable rockers that rely on their very cheesy hooks. There's nothing exciting except for the solos. Listen to Hail to the King, The Chosen Ones and the ballad Losing You and you'll see this pattern going on and on. The song structures are just so similar, and you'd think with someone such as Gus G at the helm that you'd have some really interesting parts to spice things up a little... you just don't get that at all. Where the album really succeeds is on their slow rockers: Heavy Metal in the Night, Chasing the Dragon and the slightly fast paced H.M.J. Those tracks are balls to the wall tracks that don't mess about, and they really get your blood pumping. Here the cheesy hooks really work well and support the songs as a whole. As mentioned before, the solos are absolutely out of this world... but to no one's surprise of course. Gus G is legendary at neo-classical shredding and it really shines through. Mr. Isfeldt puts on some really great vocals and I have not to this day heard anyone with a voice quite like him. He has this strangely satisfying hoarseness when he sings in his high register. It really fits well with the choir segments he adds to most of the songs as well. The only problem I have with his vocals also goes for the music: so predictable and so safe. He doesn't experiment in the songs, or add an occasional "yeah!" or "alright!". To me it just seems a bit too professional and polished, and it takes the fun out of the metal that they're actually trying to make hilarious, therefore it feels contradictory. Also Mr. Isfeldt comes across incoherent at times, which is a terrible shame since the lyrics are really fun to listen to.
The production is phenomenal and there is no finger to be put on that. You have a nice, fat & meaty bass that just pounds away, some roomy bass drums and an angry snare, crisp guitars, ominous keyboards and the spotless vocals. Of course this is to be expected, as Mr. Nordström is an exceptional producer and his work is often hailed as top-notch. I actually wish more bands today would adopt this sound as it really makes sure that every instrument gets to shine in their raw nature.
The cover artwork is definitely the best and most suited to the album that the band has. We have this horned monster wielding a big battle sword, ready to kick some ass as he is bathed in the dragon's fire! How could you not want to buy this album while looking at the epicness that unfolds? It is over the top and therefore it really matches the contents of the album as well.
All in all, this is a fun and safe album to listen to. You will not be shocked and excited about it, but you'll have a good laugh and some music to really bang your head to (I especially recommend The Prophecy for the headbanging part). It is definitely worth to add to your collection as the album captures the work of some exceptionally great musicians in a period before their careers really took off.
The highlights are in intentional order:
1: Chasing the Dragon
2: Heavy Metal in the Night
4: The Prophecy
When you run into a metal band who’s main lyrical themes are warriors, dragons, self confidence, and metal itself, you know what this will end up being. Some uplifting power metal with nothing special to offer. We’ve all been there, finding a band that sounds and looks really cool but ends up being a disappointment.
Dream Evil’s debut begins with the song “Chasing the Dragon,” a catchy opener with soaring vocals from Niklas Isfeldt “In Flames You Burn” opens with a nice acoustic passage and blows up with bombarding drum work and heavy hooks. “The Prophecy” is a faster track, typical of the genre, but it’s still quite good. Of course, horses, steel, power, metal, and beasts are the lyrical them here. “The Chosen Ones” is probably this bands most popular song, for good reason. It’s the best on here with it’s ballad like feel and emotional tacks here and there.
“Losing You” isn’t too bad, but it lacks the magic the rest of the album has.. “Heavy Metal in the Night” is one of the anthems here, which leads me to one of the oddest songs I’ve ever listened to. “H.M.J. (Heavy Metal Jesus) is about, well, a heavy metal Jesus. Without analyzing the lyrics, this song is absolutely nothing special. However, it’s so funny it’s hard not to like. Odd, but enjoyable. “Hail to the King” is also pretty good, but it also lakes quality like “Losing You.”
The Production is strong, everything is audible, no problems there. Snowy Shaw is here on drums. I’ve never liked Snowy Shaw, very overrated drummer. However, I must admit he does a good job here. Peter Stalfors is a great bass player, actually one of my favorites. Fredrik Nordstrom and Gus G. (whose considered to be one of today’s top shredders) are both fantastic guitar players. A great duo who perform well together, all the main riffs on this album are catchy in some way. As I mentioned earlier, Niklas Isfeldt is an amazing singer. His powerful, soaring, and productive voice drives this album to a new level.
This album is catchy as hell and will be stuck in your head. The overall feel of this is monotonous and somewhat overdone, but I suppose that’s all in the fun. This is a solid record and worth checking out for sure. Just try not to take it too seriously, great purchase.
(Note: I’m reviewing the Japanese version with the tracks in the “correct” order following the storyline and with the extra track Dragonheart)
Dream Evil’s debut has often been tagged as a ridiculously cheesy, over-the-top bunch of unoriginal, fantasy-driven songs. And while that tag is correct, they have taken this often bad recipe (e.g. Rhapsody) and turned it into something worthy of repeated listens.
Everything that makes the standard power metal album is there: medium to high pitched and lean vocals, mid-heavy guitars, choirs, cheesy keyboards, lots of catchiness and a super clean production. But this album adds one more thing to the overdone formula and it’s its charm. Not the most exact explanation I know, but I can’t find a better one.
Isfeldt’s vocals are very spot on and are a good change among all the Kiske and Kotipelto imitators that plague the genre. He sings mostly in a medium to high pitch and can definitely hit the higher notes without much problem, while he retains the super clean trait. A more poppish voice can be heard in Losing You, track no. 4 in my version, which by the way is an over-cheesy ballad.
The main thing in a metal album is and should always be the guitars, and here the team made of virtuoso Gus G. and the renowned producer Fredrik Nordstrom (who also took up keyboards) is very good. The guitar tone is very spot on and heavy but not over-distorted. To this heaviness also has contributed the slight but hearable down-tuning applied, probably to Drop D or Standard D. The riffs are rather unoriginal but still well executed and these guys definitely know how to write a bunch of songs, the main riffs in “Chasing the Dragon”, “Hail to the King” and “The Prophecy” can prove this by a long shot.
The soloing is handled by Gus G. and, as has been expected of him ever since, is top notch. While not innovative or revolutionary Gus can shred in a neoclassical vein or in a more “classic metal” way, both of which are fast yet catchy.
The last factor remaining here and the one which generates more controversies are the cheese and the funny stuff. The lyrics are on the cheesy side, and tell a typical story about chasing a dragon and fighting for your king etc etc, with the inclusion of “Losing You”, a ballad about losing a girl when going to his trip to kill the dragon. Needless to say, some mozzarella might actually come out of your speakers at this point. Also, for a lesson in cheese, check “Chosen Ones” with its huge choirs and march-like drum beats, while singing about how they are heroes now after killing the dragon and returning home victorious.
The fun is also there, especially in “Heavy Metal in the Night” but mainly in “H.M.J.”, short for Heavy Metal… Jesus. These lyrics are a complete lol, and are a must-read.
There is some filler however, like “Kingdom of the Damned” or the aforementioned “Heavy Metal in the Night” which despite the funny things seems less inspired musically than some of the other tracks. The band shows here and will confirm with later albums that they just can’t produce excellent mid-tempo stuff and should stick to the fast numbers in order to avoid writing complete filler.
Highlights? “The Prophecy” along with “Chasing the Dragon” due to their extreme headbanging qualities.
If you like cheese in your daily metal, get this.
Before they got into the whole metal as a religion craze and basically turning themselves into a quasi-tribute band, Dream Evil played power metal geared towards the rank and file Dungeons and Dragons metal head. One look at the album art on their debut draws up images early Hammerfall and Nocturnal Rites releases featuring armored warriors off to some epic battle with blazing riffs and blistering Malmsteen-influenced leads as their trumpet calls. Even the album’s ending track features an orchestra tuning their instruments before exiting (put this at the beginning of the album and you get NR’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”).
Musically we get a fair mix of up tempo power metal riff monsters, mid-tempo 80s rock, Manowar true metal anthems, and even a cheesy power ballad in the same mode as Hammerfall. Originality isn’t really much of a concern with this outfit on any of their releases, but at least here they’ve avoided becoming the metal cult wannabes that try to write themselves into the book of heavy metal. Gus G’s guitar soloing is probably the most unfettered of anything he’s done outside of Firewind, which is a definite plus as his solos tend to get better the longer he goes.
The vocal approach on here is surprisingly unpretentious, mostly due to the lack of half-hearted attempts at invoking Rob Halford. Niklas Isfeldt tends to shine the best in his middle and upper-middle range, where he tends to sound a bit like a hybrid of Klaus Meine and Joacim Cans. When he hits the high notes it doesn’t sound forced and he is able to blend in well with backing vocalists during the choruses, something which a few bands don’t seem to quite be able to pull off well, particularly seasoned veteran Timo Koltipelto, who was likely an influence on Isfeldt.
When considering the songs individually, everything is compact but well realized, except perhaps the ballad “Losing You” which drags on and brings out the worst aspects of Hammerfall’s hit or miss ballad approach of late. “In Flames You Burn” is fast and catchy, almost like a better produced “Where the Dragon Lies Bleeding”. “Kingdom of the Damned” has a solid opening riff, solid Priest emulation with a touch of knight-like gallantry. My pick for the best song on here is “The Chosen Ones”, mostly for the triumphant chorus which sounds like an army of Vikings chanting hymns of Valhalla. “Hail to the King” is also pretty solid; the riffs are a little be derivative of Hammerfall’s “Legacy of Kings”, as is the case with the speed metal bruiser “The Prophecy”, which sounds extremely similar to Nocturnal Rites’ “Pentagram”.
Amongst power metal’s stronger 3rd tier bands is where Dream Evil hangs its hat, nothing original to speak of, but competent enough to rival many of their elders. “Dragonslayer” represents a less comical band that still knows how to have fun rather than sweat about sounding too much like someone else. If you want power metal with a bit more edge, Firewind and 1990s Nocturnal Rites would be where to go. However, if you do pick up a Dream Evil album, get either this one or “Evilized”, you’ll thank me later.
You know I had always thought that Dream Evil were just a laughably terrible band, that played nothing but cheesey, fluffy weak power metal. But after giving them a chance and listening to this album in it's entirety I realize these guys kick ass. I mean they have such a reputation of being cheesey beyond belief, but the music(at least on this album) is seriously good and seriously heavy most of the time. Lyrically they sound like they spent too much time in their parents basement playing D&D and listening to Sign of the Hammer, but it's all in good fun.
These guys are all great musicians as well. Some of the best, heaviest riffs I've heard from a modern band. And the drumming is always spot on. I do think their vocalist suffers a little bit from James Labrie/Joacim Cans syndrome, in that he has a pretty good voice and he's very technically sound, but he doesn't really have alot of range. And sometimes his voice is just TOO clear and comes off a little bland, but that's being pretty harsh because most of the time the guy kicks ass. And his sense for melody is awesome, tons of catchy as hell choruses to be found on here.
I'll give a quick run-thru of my favorite songs off the album:
The aptly titled In Flames You Burn kicks serious ass, probably my favorite song on the album. After a nice little accoustic intro(their vocalist sounds great here) the song kicks into high gear and turns speed metal on us. Awesome verses and an even better chorus, this is really heavy, quality power metal here. Near the end the music kinda stops and a shredding solo comes in, awesome awesome song and one of my favorite power metal songs ever.
Save Us is a nice heavy rocker like Chasing the Dragon only a little better, with a nice driving rythym. Although the vocal melody in the verses does seem a bit akward, they make up for it with great riffs and I love that part where he goes "you got to fight!" and a heavy chug comes in. Kingdom of the Damned is another great power metal song, very infectious chorus and some great riffs and melodies.
The Chosen Ones is incredibly epic, like mid era Blind Guardian in it's epicness. Very over the top, ridiculous lyrics but I love it. That solo is crazy, very inventive and with a great sense of melody. Heavy Metal in the Dark is about as cheesey as you might expect a song with that title to be. The verses have an awesome driving rythym that sounds like an army marching swiftly to battle. Some really heavy riffs and a nice vocal delivery. And Hail to the King closes off the album nicely, another heavy rocker.
I would definetly reccomend this album to anyone who likes Hammerfall, Gamma Ray, Nocturnal Rites, etc. Just good, heavy power metal(not too fluffy because it still has some balls.) Just put this album in and rock out.
Normally im not a big fan of power metal, infact i loathe it, but this is one of the few records that has won me over. I dont know why, but Dream Evil just have this brilliant, catchy and cheesy style of music that you cant say no too. Where this album does it for me is that i dont think they are taking themselves seriously in their cheesy lyrics( see Heavy Metal Jesus, The Chosen Ones, Heavy Metal in The Night) as opposed to other bads ie. Blind Gaurdian.
The instruments arent playing anything ground-breaking however they know how to write a great riff, such as The Profecy and Heavy Metal in the Night. The drums have some nices kick patterns in Save Us and are constant throughout. The vocals are my kind of power vocals, the ability to sing in a relativly normal key( ie. not 3octaves higher) however songs like Losing You do nothing for me.
All in all this is a good cheesy, mostly fast paced offering. Where as i cant stand Blind Gaurdian bands as such because of their stupid lyrics, choir vocals, hyper speeds and serious attitude, Dream Evil play a more 80's fast catchy and definatly tounge in cheek brand of Power/Heavy metal.
Based on the music, this is a fantastic album, one of the best power metal albums I have heard and probably my favorite album so far of 2002. It does have a couple of weird flaws that I will detail later.
The music is top notch, especially the great guitars with lots of fast and intricate work throughout. The singer is also very good. At no time was I left needed more musicianship.
A few of the lyrics seem to be Christian themed and certainly the song "H.M.J." (Heavy Metal Jesus) is Christian themed. However it's not preachy, I don't even call it Christian metal, it's just there. If you are a Christian you will probably appreciate it and if you are not Christian you will probably not notice it.
The songs together tell a tale, not so oddly about hunting and killing a dragon. However the songs seem to be out of order. In #1 they spot a dragon. In songs #2-5 they are fighting and chasing the dragon back to it's homeland. In song #6 they return home conquering heroes having killed the dragon. Then in song #8 they are back arriving in the dragon's homeland ready to fight it, this really confused me. I think song #6 should be at the end of the album. The song in question is "The Chosen Ones" and is the best song on the album so perhaps they sacrificed the storyline to move it to the heart of the album.
As stated above "The Chosen Ones" is the best song on the album, it's theme about the glory of conquering heroes is a recurrent theme in power metal and one that I personally cannot get enough of. "Chasing the Dragon", the album's opener is also stand out as is "Losing You" the album's power ballad. In several places the word usage on the album is odd, I think the lyricist might not have a complete grasp on the English language. The lyrical themes are of might, glory and dragons found so often in power metal. These types of lyrics usually have people loving it or hating it, I am sure you already know to which category you fall. Personally I love it.
Pointing out the couple of small flaws is just nit picking on my part, this is a phenominal album and if you like power metal you should pick this one up.