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In their earlier days, Dreamtale stood as one of the most consistent bands to suffer from such massive lineup inconsistencies. Over the past 5 years, their stylistic and qualitative congruity has been matched by a constancy of all members associated that has allowed this project to be viewed as more than a revolving door of session musicians taking their marching orders from guitarist and songwriter Rami Keränen. If there is any divergene to be found in their sound, it has been a slight decrease in ambitiousness after peaking on their sophomore effort "Ocean's Heart", a brilliant concept album with a story that reflected a cold sense of fatalism very unique for the otherwise upbeat character of power metal. It is with the release of their 6th opus "World Changed Forever" that they've returned to the conceptual realm, with 12 songs tied together by a few brief narrative sections between characters, though this time told in a real world context rather than in the high fantasy realm.
In many respects, the song set found on here follows the same basic formula as the rest of this band's back catalog, accenting the keyboards to the same degree as the guitars and having a slightly progressive bent to the songwriting. There is a level of experimentation in tempo switches from time to time that are a bit more adventurous and abrupt than previously, particularly starting on "We Have No God" where the first semblance of the band's Helloween influences really come out. The melodic material follows the doubled keyboard and guitar approach often utilized by Stratovarius, but mixes up the format and doesn't just cook for its full duration. Similar twists and turns can be found on "The Signs Were True" and the album's closest thing to an extended epic "Dreamtime", both only coming off as moderately heavy given the equal standing of the keyboards and guitars, but both ultimately becoming triumphant celebrations once the tempo picks up and the chorus material ensues. The most guitar happy of the speedy songs proves to be "The Heart After Dark", which also has a couple of unexpected rhythmic quirks to it that are heavily reminiscent of Labyrinth and Vision Divine, but at the same time quite reminiscent of early work out of this band and the best of the pack.
There are a few points on this album where things kind of cool off in a metallic sense, not to mention a couple of oddly placed elements that don't seem to fit. The most blatant of the latter is a jazz ballad interlude right square in the middle of the cruising power metal anthem "We Have No God" mentioned previously. It's mercifully short, but it's one of those "What the...?" moments that tended to haunt Kerion's earlier works. The spoken sections between the characters are also a bit cryptic at times, and definitely calls for a visit to the lyrics and album notes for clarification. With regard to the coolness alluded to in the former part of the album, much like with "Phoenix" and "Epsilon" the pacing is a bit uneven at times, as the album is front loaded with mid-paced fanfare that wouldn't do too bad on rock radio, but are fairly predictable and overtly derivative. "Tides Of War" and "Join The Rain" are definitely cut from this grain, and were obvious picks for lead off single releases before the LP hit circulation. However, the ballads on here actually prove to be another high point, as vocalist Erkki Seppänen breathes some serious passion and energy into two otherwise plain sounding slower works in "Destiny's Chance" and the title song "World Changed Forever".
Ultimately Dreamtale has proven yet again that they know what their audience is looking for, and while playing it relatively safe, have managed to introduce a gradual degree of evolution to their sound that might win over a few that weren't taken by the last 2 albums. It has an impressive level of flash and intrigue when lined up alongside some of their fellow Finns of late, at times becoming almost as flashy as Children Of Bodom where keyboard noodling it concerned, though everything is done tastefully and with an eye to keeping things song-oriented rather than overtly shred happy. However, the format here is definitely cut and dry European power metal, so would be listeners with any level of aversion to Stratovarius or old Sonata Arctica need not apply.