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Dragons, heavy metal and lots of cheese - 82%

Sonderby, October 25th, 2016

It is very difficult not to love Dream Evil. There simply are so many factors to discuss about this band and every aspect is interesting to touch upon. So the year is 2002 and we're standing in the aftermath of the grunge period; a time that sought to break music down to its most simple form as a reaction to the big sound of the 80's. The stage is set for new bands to make their mark and leave an imprint on the musical scene, and here Dream Evil really steps it up boasting with a fantastic line-up with musicians that simply are top notch. We have the very well renowned (not as much back then) Gus G of Ozzy Osbourne fame, Frederik Nordström and Niklas Isfeldt both involved in Hammerfall, Peter Stålfors and last, but not least, Snowy Shaw. Lots of talent, lots of potential, but could they work together? Is their debut worthy of praise?

At the first stroke of thought, you'd imagine something Dio-ish from this group as their name is directly inspired from the Dio album Dream Evil, and you could say it holds up to that in a few ways: mainly the lyrics. Dream Evil can take credit for writing some of the most hilarious and cheesiest lyrics in the entire metal universe, in fact the whole album is essentially one big story about slaying a dragon (very dio-esque). A song like Chasing the Dragon really helps to cement this fact: "Something soars through the sky - It's the dragon, fly!". Songs like H.M.J and Heavy Metal in the Night take a very traditional metal stance and is all about rocking out and having fun. When the band finally decides to take a serious lyrical approach in a song like Kingdom of the Damned it just feels odd. The song has enough cheese, alright, but up until this point (and afterwards as well, mind you), you will be laughing and rocking out... but then you hit this loose brick in the road, stumble and wonder: "what is this even?". Very misplaced song for that fact.

Let's look at the music. The album is very generic by today's standards. I imagine that back in 2002 it was a breath of fresh air, but it certainly hasn't aged too well. The songs are just predictable rockers that rely on their very cheesy hooks. There's nothing exciting except for the solos. Listen to Hail to the King, The Chosen Ones and the ballad Losing You and you'll see this pattern going on and on. The song structures are just so similar, and you'd think with someone such as Gus G at the helm that you'd have some really interesting parts to spice things up a little... you just don't get that at all. Where the album really succeeds is on their slow rockers: Heavy Metal in the Night, Chasing the Dragon and the slightly fast paced H.M.J. Those tracks are balls to the wall tracks that don't mess about, and they really get your blood pumping. Here the cheesy hooks really work well and support the songs as a whole. As mentioned before, the solos are absolutely out of this world... but to no one's surprise of course. Gus G is legendary at neo-classical shredding and it really shines through. Mr. Isfeldt puts on some really great vocals and I have not to this day heard anyone with a voice quite like him. He has this strangely satisfying hoarseness when he sings in his high register. It really fits well with the choir segments he adds to most of the songs as well. The only problem I have with his vocals also goes for the music: so predictable and so safe. He doesn't experiment in the songs, or add an occasional "yeah!" or "alright!". To me it just seems a bit too professional and polished, and it takes the fun out of the metal that they're actually trying to make hilarious, therefore it feels contradictory. Also Mr. Isfeldt comes across incoherent at times, which is a terrible shame since the lyrics are really fun to listen to.

The production is phenomenal and there is no finger to be put on that. You have a nice, fat & meaty bass that just pounds away, some roomy bass drums and an angry snare, crisp guitars, ominous keyboards and the spotless vocals. Of course this is to be expected, as Mr. Nordström is an exceptional producer and his work is often hailed as top-notch. I actually wish more bands today would adopt this sound as it really makes sure that every instrument gets to shine in their raw nature.

The cover artwork is definitely the best and most suited to the album that the band has. We have this horned monster wielding a big battle sword, ready to kick some ass as he is bathed in the dragon's fire! How could you not want to buy this album while looking at the epicness that unfolds? It is over the top and therefore it really matches the contents of the album as well.

All in all, this is a fun and safe album to listen to. You will not be shocked and excited about it, but you'll have a good laugh and some music to really bang your head to (I especially recommend The Prophecy for the headbanging part). It is definitely worth to add to your collection as the album captures the work of some exceptionally great musicians in a period before their careers really took off.

The highlights are in intentional order:
1: Chasing the Dragon
2: Heavy Metal in the Night
3: H.M.J
4: The Prophecy