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More of an insult than a tribute - 49%

Bloodstone, April 16th, 2005

Dear lord, there is so much wrong with this release, I don't even know where to start. Dream Evil have gone from unspectacular but decent power metal on the first two albums, to...this. I can't find ONE single word that would make it justice. It's superficially the same sound as before, but the songwriting has sort of stepped up to the "next level", and taken a complete nosedive at the same time.

To go more into details of why this album ends up being such a disaster, what the band attempts to do on here is, obviously enough, to show the world how much they appreciate the heavy metal genre, and this through covering several various aspects of it (omitting ONE extremely important one - more on that later) through 12 songs. Yes, "classic" heavy metal, that is - the one that was most popular back when there weren't like 400 diffent sub- and sub-sub-genres of metal to keep track of. There aren't that many albums released today that can actually be called that, as most that come close usually get labelled speed/power metal by me and many others - I'll give the album some points for that. That early, primitive "we don't give a shit" attitude is definitely there (which is good), comparable to a band like Accept (especially in the back-up vocals).

However, what could've been a solid platter of classic, fun and screaming heavy metal for everyone to raise their fist and yell at, is marred by a mountain of shortcomings, including just about every single bad aspect of modern power metal. One of my main beefs is the production - this stands in such high contrast to the "classic" songwriting and attitude the band is going for. Holy shit, and I thought Hellfire Club had bad production...in fact, this has to stand as the canonical example of boring, stiff, lifeless and limp-wristed modern-styled production that so many albums suffer from these days, except none as bad as this.

Actually, the guitar PLAYING isn't quite stiff and overproduced enough to suffer from what I'd like to call the "Condition Red-syndrome" (Iron Savior album); however, the guitar TONE is, while "heavy" like everything else today, just so ridiculously lifeless, indistinct and flat-out boring. It reminds me a lot of that Jon Schaffer tone, that, even coming from an Iced Earth fan, even of the later stuff, I've always found to be his band's main Achilles heel. But at least he could write good songs. Anyway, this just sounds way too overblown for its own good, while at the same time sounding as though recorded with a mega-dose of valium. It's really, really distracting.

Maybe to "distract" the listener from noticing the "been there, done that" riffage? Good grief, just listen to "M.O.M." (I won't say what it stands for and spoil everything for those unaware - there's a chance you may giggle a bit when you find out;)) - imagine the simple "Billie Jean" keyboard riff turned into a really boring "groovy" metal riff. Actually, comparing this band to the king of pop wouldn't be anywhere near fair, so just forget what I just said.;) It just sorta popped to mind after hearing it a few times. The much-heralded title track - same thing here. I can't be bothered to figure out which Priest song it reminds me of (maybe "Heavy Duty/Defenders of the Faith" to a degree); I can only be assured that whatever song that was didn't sound this entirely insipid. The verses are pretty cool and memorable ("I siiiiigned a contract with the devuuuuhhl!"), but for the most part it's just slow, formulaic, by the numbers and just flat-out silly. Sorry, but "breathed" vocals were never any good and this band isn't about to change that with this chorus (and many other similar ones on the album). "IHHN THHHE BHHOOK OHHF HHHEAVHHY METUHHHL!!!!" I'd rather listen to Primal Fear's "Metal Is Forever", and that's saying a lot.

I might have gone a bit easier on this album if it wasn't for it's MAIN glaring flaw: THERE IS NOT A SINGLE GREAT SONG ON HERE. That's right. Moments of inspiration are very assorted, but at no point throughout the album do I even think: "oh man, if the rest of the album was like this, it would be a masterpiece". None of those occasional amazing flashes of brilliance that keeps it from being a permanent dust collector. There are maybe two "pretty good" songs on here; those are "The Mirror" and "Only for the Night". The former is somewhat catchy and upbeat despite being formulaic beyond belief, and the latter I think may be a tribute to Dokken - the riffage, the chorus (a really nice one), the lead work, most ingredients are there. I'm far from the biggest Dokken fan in the world, but hey, better than most of this album at least!

Come to think of it, there are a lot of other musical references to other bands on here. From the occasional borrowed riff to just general songwriting and style, this almost seems like a cover album at times. In that "Tribute to the Gods" (Iced Earth) sense of taking a bunch of heavy metal/hard rock classics and putting them through heavier but far crappier production and less distinctive muscianship, unfortunately. I can't remember exactly which songs, but "No Way" is total Zakk-era Ozzy worship and "Let's Make Rock" lifts that extremely recognizable intro drum fill of "Balls to the Wall", plus the verse riff of Saxon's "Dallas 1 PM". Still doesn't make it any good, though; not with this songwriting ("LET'S MAKE ROCK!!", wow, where have I heard that before), not with this production and musicianship.

Yes, there is tons of variety...as StillDeath pointed out, it barely seems as though ONE band wrote all these songs at times, but here, it just makes for a loss of focus. It's all heavy metal, but that's rather vaguely put. However, there is ONE important aspect of heavy metal that the album somehow manages to completely forget - the FAST number!! What the fuck, the album never rises above "2 Minutes to Midnight" speed?! The downtuned distortion is clearly meant for groove rather than speed, but gimme SOMETHING resembling at least "Freewheel Burning", please? Clearly, Painkiller or early Helloween is not visited on this album. And as you can expect, the ballads blow - "Unbreakable Chain" in particular.

And oh yeah did I mention that vocalist? The slightly Europe-esque verses of "Chosen Twice" is how it dawned upon me who he is most comparable to - Joey Tempest. But let just get the facts straight here: I'm nearly the biggest fan of Europe in the world, just as much as I'm a fan of Joey's voice; I just can't get enough of it. That said, however, THIS band's vocalist completely and utterly sucks. His voice is far more annoying, thin and nasal, completely lacking the crystal-clear qualities of Tempest. At least he imitates Halford pretty okay when called for, but who doesn't these days?

Mind you, that it's not the constant flow of complete cheese, that comes through in the attitude and lyrics, that bothers me. It's not like they're serious with their fellate of heavy metal or anything - I just wish they could be more business with the actual songwriting, so that it doesn't end up as merely a quick joke that may stir some giggles among a few, never leaving a true lasting impression. That should be the case, anyway, but instead, everyone seems to be all over this release but me. Hell, that's why I'm writing this review in the first place. However, contrary to popular belief, I'd like to say that I can't say I find this album particularly "unoriginal", which is why I like to call it "the next level" when comparing it to the first two albums - sure, the songwriting is never fresh or interesting and quite often directly lifted, the production is typical, modern and boring, yet still I am unable to say it reminds of any other album in particular...this album just crashes and burns in its own little way, apparently.

An overall *listenable* album, but pretty boring and uninteresting for the most part, and very flawed even at that. There are so many better choices out there; don't bother with this one I say.