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I count myself amongst a sizable minority of followers of Dream Evil who were not terribly impressed with “The Book Of Heavy Metal” and all of the pretension that came with it. It struck me a little odd that immediately following the release of the album that suddenly people decided to start drooling over this band, as if what they done hadn’t already been done better by Hammerfall or Metalium 5 years earlier. Fortunately the lineup chaos that ensued after the release of the overblown fit of shallow fanfare guising as an album seemed to have shook the band up a little, and an album has emerged that is safe for the lactose intolerant.
“United” sees this band turning back the clock a few years in some respects, going for a sound that is more in line with the darker concepts on “Evilized”, while having maybe a slight helping of the mystique of “Dragonslayer” here and there. The makeup is uncannily 80s in character, the vocals still have some semblance of the Klaus Meine character of old, though Nick’s newfound love of Halford screams is still present from time to time. Perhaps my biggest gripe about this album is that newly recruited guitarist Markus Black overdoes it on the lead fills, attempting to no doubt channel Gus G’s sound for sake of stylistic consistency, but coming off as an overcompensating version of Jake E. Lee’s over the top contributions to Ozzy’s “Bark At The Moon”.
For the most part, things tend to hang out in mid-tempo heavy metal territory, as the band has taken the old school character as their dominant influence, save a few exceptions. “Kingdom At War” and the opener “Fire! Battle! In Metal!” feature a dual approach of heavy thudding verse riffs with a gritty vocal approach, immediately followed by a triumphant anthem chorus that is all but directly out of the Manowar playbook. Likewise, “Evilution” and “United” take the same approach but with a riff set more reminiscent of the rocking grooves of Accept. Things get kicked up a little bit on “Blind Evil”, which is somewhat more along the lines of a Helloween-like fanfare, really kicking up the heroic factor on the chorus. But the true high points come in when the band goes back to high speed power in the typical German fashion ala “Falling” and the Japanese bonus track “Pain Patrol”, both reminding heavily of 80s era Judas Priest.
As a whole, this is something of a middle of the road album. It’s not quite something that can be qualified as essential from a genre standpoint, though it is a decent album and probably worth the time of those who like the 80s revivalist sound propagated by a number of Swedish and German bands. Don’t expect to be wowed by the band’s prowess as purveyors of socially relevant causes or mastery in storytelling, but definitely prepare yourself to be entertained by a band that is reasonably good at what they do.