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Solid D&D metal. - 77%

hells_unicorn, December 14th, 2007

Before they got into the whole metal as a religion craze and basically turning themselves into a quasi-tribute band, Dream Evil played power metal geared towards the rank and file Dungeons and Dragons metal head. One look at the album art on their debut draws up images early Hammerfall and Nocturnal Rites releases featuring armored warriors off to some epic battle with blazing riffs and blistering Malmsteen-influenced leads as their trumpet calls. Even the album’s ending track features an orchestra tuning their instruments before exiting (put this at the beginning of the album and you get NR’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”).

Musically we get a fair mix of up tempo power metal riff monsters, mid-tempo 80s rock, Manowar true metal anthems, and even a cheesy power ballad in the same mode as Hammerfall. Originality isn’t really much of a concern with this outfit on any of their releases, but at least here they’ve avoided becoming the metal cult wannabes that try to write themselves into the book of heavy metal. Gus G’s guitar soloing is probably the most unfettered of anything he’s done outside of Firewind, which is a definite plus as his solos tend to get better the longer he goes.

The vocal approach on here is surprisingly unpretentious, mostly due to the lack of half-hearted attempts at invoking Rob Halford. Niklas Isfeldt tends to shine the best in his middle and upper-middle range, where he tends to sound a bit like a hybrid of Klaus Meine and Joacim Cans. When he hits the high notes it doesn’t sound forced and he is able to blend in well with backing vocalists during the choruses, something which a few bands don’t seem to quite be able to pull off well, particularly seasoned veteran Timo Koltipelto, who was likely an influence on Isfeldt.

When considering the songs individually, everything is compact but well realized, except perhaps the ballad “Losing You” which drags on and brings out the worst aspects of Hammerfall’s hit or miss ballad approach of late. “In Flames You Burn” is fast and catchy, almost like a better produced “Where the Dragon Lies Bleeding”. “Kingdom of the Damned” has a solid opening riff, solid Priest emulation with a touch of knight-like gallantry. My pick for the best song on here is “The Chosen Ones”, mostly for the triumphant chorus which sounds like an army of Vikings chanting hymns of Valhalla. “Hail to the King” is also pretty solid; the riffs are a little be derivative of Hammerfall’s “Legacy of Kings”, as is the case with the speed metal bruiser “The Prophecy”, which sounds extremely similar to Nocturnal Rites’ “Pentagram”.

Amongst power metal’s stronger 3rd tier bands is where Dream Evil hangs its hat, nothing original to speak of, but competent enough to rival many of their elders. “Dragonslayer” represents a less comical band that still knows how to have fun rather than sweat about sounding too much like someone else. If you want power metal with a bit more edge, Firewind and 1990s Nocturnal Rites would be where to go. However, if you do pick up a Dream Evil album, get either this one or “Evilized”, you’ll thank me later.