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From the very first word on Dream Evil’s The Book of Heavy Metal, you know exactly what this band is all about. They care about two things, playing heavy metal and the preservation of metal.
Dream Evil is, of course, the brainchild of Fredrik Nordstrom, one of Sweden’s most prominent metal producers, having done work with In Flames, Dimmu Borgir and the Haunted. Dream Evil is basically Fredrik’s dream come true, an 80’s style power metal band who not only has all the heavy parts in place, but a certain flair for melody in their style as well. Thus, with a producer putting the band together instead of the members, Dream Evil almost seems like the metal equivalent of a boy band. The difference is though, unlike American pop boy bands, this collaboration of musicians doesn’t suck.
In their third album, The Book of Heavy Metal, they have certainly proved that they can riff, solo and scream with the best of ‘em! The album is a testament to the power of heavy metal, and the band’s obvious love for their preferred genre. The album won’t win any awards for its lyrics…
Let me hear - it loud and clear
A sound of steel that pierce my ears
This is my Achilles heel
I want an overdose of steel
A lasting first impression
right there I was crushed
By the sledge of rock (rock!)
But it’s clear that this band is truly talented and not together to write masterpieces that will be forever cherished as “classics”, but a band that just wants to get together and have a little fun with metal. A combination of songs that praise rock music, traditional 80’s style metal love songs and other similar styled songs draw a heavy influence from the works of classic rockers like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and the other metal gods from the time when metal ruled the airwaves.
The album begins with “The Book of Heavy Metal”, the album’s title track. It kicks off with a Halford-esque scream followed by a grinding, aggressive guitar riff that any metal fan needs to love. This will set the tone for the next twelve tracks you are about to hear. The song itself is simply about how the band wishes to only be remembered for one thing, to be written in “The Book of Heavy Metal”. It’s this kind of masochistic love of metal that makes DE (Dream Evil) truly “charming” in their music. The song itself is very catchy, aggressive and hokey all at the same time. If this song won’t get you hooked on the band, then I fear nothing will. For five minutes it hits you with its relentless metal assault, with a slow, driving beat, a high-soaring vocalist complemented with the aggressive roar of “In the book of heavy metal” makes for a wonderful balance that any fans of the genre should be able to at least get a little smirk out of, and it also happens to be my favorite song on the album and a nice one to use to hook your buddies into Dream Evil’s world of power metal. I know it hooked me pretty well.
The second track, “Into the Moonlight” is a traditional power metal romp. It starts with an aggressive riff and some nice complements. The song is cookie-cutter power metal at its best. Slow lyrics combined with an aggressive beat and a catchy yet beautiful refrain comprise this nice little tune. Not the best on the album, but certainly one of the tracks that will be stuck in your head when you’re done listening to the album.
On “The Sledge”, Dream Evil shows their true inklings. A short, fast, aggressive song about the band’s love of rock. This is quintessential Dream Evil. A nice headbanging rock that will have you yelling “ROCK!” in response to the refrain. It’s just a fun song, nothing more nothing less.
Two songs about how great rock music is in a row? Have I died and gone to metal heaven? “No Way” is another typical short and fast DE song, but that isn’t bad in the least bit. This song definitely has a throwback feel to it. With one of the best Ozzy Osbourne impressions I’ve ever heard with riffs and solos I could imagine being on a Megadeth album in the 80’s, Dream Evil truly shows off their devotion to their craft.
They turn it down a few notches on “Crusader’s Anthem”, harkening for a slower rhythm and a bit more technical sound than the previous frantic tracks. It’s a bass driven song that sounds like it could be taken from the Iron Maiden playbook. The lyrics are much more poignant and meaningful than the average DE song. Although at a only 4 and ½ minutes, this definitely has a more epic feel to it than the most other DE tracks with a strong, almost choral sounding refrain and a more melodic, emotional feel to the entire song.
With a title such as “Let’s Make Rock”, you should know exactly what you’re about to get. Almost sounding like a heavier version of earlier Kiss, this is another song which praises how great metal music is… do we see a trend here? This is just another simple track, but very catchy and will stick into your head long after it’s over. Surely after hearing this you’ll agree that “making rock” is a worthy pursuit.
“Tired” is the next track, and probably one of the best on the album. It kicks off with a nice solo that should have you headbanging immediately. After that, it turns into your typical 80’s love and loneliness themed song, but it’s got a great combination of quieter and heavier parts, and Niklas’ voice fits the song perfectly, along with their powerful backup vocals. The song also has some very nice guitar and bass work all through it. It really is a fine song.
The choirs of metal arise for “Chosen Twice”. Seriously, what is an 80’s metal CD without some track where a choir sings the refrain? This is one of the slower tracks, starting with a much more melancholy sound than the other songs on the album. It keeps the downtrodden feeling throughout the entire song and is probably one of the least energetic, but still aggressive song on the album. A much deeper, slower piece than most of the album. It’s really strays from the rest of the album, and is a unique track. Not one of my favorites, but something that will appeal to more prog metal crowds than the rest of the album.
“M.O.M” is your heavy metal war anthem, in the tradition of Accept’s “Balls to the Wall”. A classic progression of vocals/guitar/vocals/guitar and a catchy war cry of “Are you a man or a mouse?” and this old school metal romp is complete.
“The Mirror” is another excellent track, and definitely one of my favorites. It begins with a deceptively calm tone before the song breaks out into its metal fury. What proceeds is a plethora aggression, anger, self doubt and metal. I believe this song has more emotion in it than most of the others on the album. From the tone of Niklaus’ voice to the almost haunting guitar solo, this song is definitely one to remember.
An awesome riff starts off “Only for the Night”, but don’t be fooled, this is another one of their kinder, gentler pieces. This song is a nice mix of slow, calm, soothing heartfelt music and vocals followed by a high soaring refrain. Everything about this song sounds very sincere. It’s a very nice example of how the theme of a song doesn’t have to be aggressive just because it’s metal.
The album, in this reviewer’s opinion, ends on more of a whimper than a crash though, as “Unbreakable Chain” pulls the album to a close. After 11 tracks of the best tribute to 80’s style power and thrash metal, I don’t think this slower, calmer monster ballad does the band or the album justice. It does have a few heavy parts, but if this song had appeared early on in the album, I think it may have been more effective. Ending the album with this song just doesn’t feel like the proper final chapter to The Book of Heavy Metal.
Overall, this album is a testament to how a positive sound can come from the general negative energy of heavy metal. These guys just sound like they want to have fun and rock, and that’s where my true attraction to this album comes from. It’s just a fun album to pop into your CD player, get a few smirks from the lyrics, sing along with some of the cool ones and bang your head to. It’s not the most technical, heavy or intense album to come out this year, but it’s just good fun rock & roll.