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...Dream Evil finally makes a really great album after the loss of Gus G and Snowy Shaw, two extremely talented musicians whose shoes weren't easy to fill. After two albums that were enjoyable yet rather lackluster overall, this is like a breath of fresh air, like coming up to the surface after a long time under the ocean. 'United' is surprisingly consistent for this band, which is a real shocker, considering how bland some of the songs on past releases were. Snowy Shaw is not around to dominate the songwriting this time, and maybe that's part of the reason for the change in Dream Evil's sound. The band has hearkened back to their speedy power metal roots here instead of going further down the 80s rock road, and it's a welcome change! Several songs here are amongst the best Dream Evil have ever done, all of which can stand up against catchy, melodic masterpieces like "Chasing the Dragon", "Heavy Metal In the Night", and "Save Us" from the debut. I think that's what this album was trying to accomplish. 'The Book of Heavy Metal' was a departure from their former sound, and this album, while not breaking ground, is an attempt to regain their footing and show that they can still pump out killer shit like the songs from the debut. And I daresay it succeeds in this respect.
The amount of really solid heavy metal here is stunning, and Dream Evil have created a very good album chock full of energy. This is very much the true sequel to the 'Dragonslayer' album, with no overly dumb lyrics (not to 'Evilized' level), and no butt-rock influence. Just about 50 minutes of poignant and energetic heavy metal that's bound to get your fist pumping. From the blazing "Fire! Battle! In Metal!" to the anthemic title track, and to...several other shining metallic crackers that show how damn good this band can be when they want. "Blind Evil" and "Falling" are volleying displays of heavy metal arrogance with a few of the catchiest choruses this band has ever done (and that's saying something!). "Evilution" and "Let Me Out" are darker, grinding tunes with some pretty damn cool lyrics for Dream Evil, very nice stuff. At the end we get two comedic tracks very remniscent of Edguy's newer work, "Doomlord" and the cover of Elena Paparizou's "My Number One." The former has an insane Swedish rant in the middle of it (I wish I understood what he's shouting about) that reminds me of Edguy's "Catch of the Century", and the latter is embarassingly catchy, finding it's way onto my single playlist quite a lot.
There are a few filler-ish tracks here, like "Higher on Fire", but these aren't nearly as numerous or as bland as the ones on previous albums, with catchy choruses or riffs to back them up. And there are only two absolutely terrible songs, one of which being the lone ballad "Love Is Blind", which doesn't sound like the other DE ballads, but...worse, actually. Skip button fodder. "Back from the Dead" is just abominal, and I'm not sure how or why the band made a song this bad. It might be an attempt to be epic, but it fails horribly. Is this like some sort of sign that Dream Evil automatically suck when they try new things? I'm glad they didn't experiment too much on the other songs.
The musicianship here is slightly different from past albums, due to the lack of manic guitar shredding of Gus G. and the skin-pounding fury of Snowy Shaw. New guitarist Markus Black is certainly a formidable force, but his soloing feels more restrained, not as wild and acrobatic as Gus's. But then again, Gus is a prodigy, not many people can match him. Same story for new drummer, Pat Power (dear god, that is fun to say, what a great name). He's rather weak compared to Snowy, but he does an adequate job all the same and there's nothing at all to complain about. Snowy Shaw is a veteran, and not every new drummer will have that level of talent. I'd say both of the new recruits are doing an excellent job thus far, and Dream Evil certainly shows no signs of showing down. Hell, even the lyrics are better this time! This is quite a solid and delightful album, and essential for fans of the band (as it is their best output since the debut). Highly recommended.