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The Obsure Universe - 75%

Metal_Guderian, March 9th, 2018

This is great and obscure '80s heavy metal, from Sweden, with its '80s Atari/Amiga cardboard box style album cover; but, don't be fooled by this slightly underwhelming piece of art, if I can call it that. This is another non-English band who are clearly influenced by some aspects of the NWOBHM, with their own little progressive rock type of twist to proceeding, and it all works very well. It's, dare I say it, an absolute joy to listen to for the most part.

The first half of the album, including songs such as "Rolling On", "Weekend Warrior", and "Looking For Answers", are your up tempo new wave type, with a slightly odd ballad thrown into the middle of this battery, and the ballad doesn't quite hit the mark. In fact, it kind of upsets the albums rhythm, so just hit the skip button. And, like other lead singers of this era, Kjell Wallén doesn't sound like a native of his own country, opting to pronounce his lyrics in a very English manner. He's vocal hit the mark every time and his range is extensive, going from a mid to a higher soaring range, and his vocals are complimented reasonably well by Freddie Kriström's keyboards, which work well, sometimes, and at other times, they can be a bit too much. The other good aspect is that Per Nilsson and Michael Kling's guitar riffs, licks, and solos are a really well played, and very catchy.

The second half of the becomes a more slower affair for the most part and not in a negative way. The songs are more down tempo, with all of the licks and solos included, and lots of catchy lyrics, like "Woman", and instead of there being weak songs in the last part of the album, it remains strong, even at the end. I swear, by the last song, "Question of Time", I thought that Wallén was doing an impression of Ian Gillan from Deep Purple, and a good one at that: it sounded like Gillan on In Rock, and that's a great Deep Purple era.

Universe is not heavy or brutal and it's not the type of album you're going to bang your head to 'till your sick. It's more of a joyous album where you can sit back and admire its subtilty and good craftsmanship. It's just a shame that there wasn't a follow up album to go with this one.

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.