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Life, This, and Everything - 77%

Tanuki, January 20th, 2017

If you've ever pondered how insignificant you are compared to the universe, here's your chance to get even. The 80's Swedish heavy metal 'boom' - at some liberal use of the word - saw very few bands rising to stardom. Universe is among the more obscure examples from this movement, making their only full-length album about as illustrious and widely known as the all-female remake of Bloodsport. A fitting analogy too, as Universe is about as 80's as you can get. Take the band logo that looks more like a company that makes blank VHS tapes, for instance.

Universe appears to be influenced primarily by the New Wave of Not Quite Metal, sounding like a slightly less delicate Praying Mantis or Phenomenon-era UFO. With this comes mellow tracks of varying tempo, and a melodic, passionate singer Kjell Wallén, who unsurprisingly ends up sounding like fellow Swede and Europe frontman Joey Tempest. Alongside him are guitarists Per Nilsson and Michael Kling, who perform mostly original riffs enhanced by a generous amount of licks. I say mostly because I can't help but notice 'Strong Vibration' sounds an awful lot like Dio's classic 'We Rock'.

'Weekend Warrior' and 'Looking for an Answer' capture a catchy NWOBHM sound, with which I have a torrid love affair. Distinguishing them from traditional British heavy metal - for better or worse - are Freddie Kriström's efforts behind the keys. To be fair, I'm not sure if he's responsible for this, but 'Burning Machine' contains a god-awful flanger effect that gets more intense as the song continues, until Wallén sounds like a Decepticon getting his testes squeezed. On top of that, keyboard interludes are frequent and sure to make you wince with how obscenely 80's they are. In fact, listening to the keyboard solo in 'Strong Vibration' from the speakers of a Mercury Capri Black Magic might actually send you back in time.

Like a lot of 'traditional' heavy metal bands around this time, I detect a certain apprehension in their heaviness. Drummer Anders Wetterström is never more than a slightly irate metronome, and bassist Hasse Hagman is often totally inaudible. Making matters worse are tracks such as 'Woman', which sounds like an impoverished version of Crimson Glory's 'Queen of the Masquerade', and 'Lonely Child', a power ballad which I presume was recorded shortly following a gas leak in the studio.

But overall, Universe is an enjoyable album, authentic and hopelessly quaint. It's the quiet, mild-mannered one of the metal classroom, peacefully content with their 'Meets Satisfaction' results. They may have achieved so much more had they pushed themselves a bit harder, but is that the only thing that matters in the universe?

Standout tracks:
Stories from the Old Days, Angel

Related Listening:
Overdrive - Metal Attack
Griffin - Flight of the Griffin

A Rare 80's Metal Gem From Sweden!!!! - 96%

razorfistforce, April 3rd, 2007

UNIVERSE-Universe LP (Sonet-1985) Oh yeah, this is how Euro-metal is done! UNIVERSE were totally a band that very few heard at the time(especially outside of Europe) but that deserved to be exposed to the greater metal world. Conjuring up all the majesty of debut-era Europe and 220 Volt, UNIVERSE unleashed this classy and hook-filled Euro-metal masterpiece onto Sweden. Unfortunately Europe kinda beat UNIVERSE to the punch in regards to getting signed to a major label forcing UNIVERSE to reside on the small Sonet label. In a fair metal world, following Europe’s Wings of Tomorrow LP, Columbia or whoever would have simply dropped Europe and let UNIVERSE take over! Fortune was not in UNIVERSE’s future however, forever rendering them in footnote in the brilliant tapestry of Euro-metal history. From the opening notes of the album however, the discerning listener knows they are in for a classy ride. UNIVERSE has that same spaced out and crystal clear production sound that is employed by 220 Volt on their first three LPs and also as exemplified by Wizz on their Crazy Games album. UNIVERSE guitarist Michael Kling does everything just right and the delicate balance between tasteful keyboard shading and sheer guitar power is never compromised. Vocally UNIVERSE gets high marks as well avoiding the heavy-accented approach of many other European groups. When listening to UNIVERSE one is reminded of truly how great those first couple of Europe albums were but also of the fact that Sweden was filled to the brim with metal maestros ready to put nearly every melodic American or British act to shame.