Dream Evil - In the night 3.5/5
2. In the night
3. Bang your head
4. See the light
7. On the wind
8. The ballad
9. In the fires of the sun
10. Mean machine
11. Kill, burn, be evil
12. The unchosen one
You must know where you stand with Dream Evil by now, and their 5th CD, ‘In the night’ isn’t going to do anything to sway your view of them one way or the other. Fans of their brazenly silly take on heavy metal should gather with interest, while those of a more humourless disposition ought to run for cover.
It has taken them a while, but the 3-1/2 year wait for this CD – the longest ever between Dream Evil releases - after the excellent comeback-of-sorts ‘United’ has shown no serious visible effects on their way of doing things, and ‘In the night’ is another strong collection of songs that cover all the expected stopping points the band have established so far.
This general slowing down over the last few years – even if the rather tidy live/rarities compilation ‘Gold medal in metal’ no doubt took a bit of work to put together – maybe highlights the differences in priorities that saw Snowy Shaw depart back in 2006 (going from 3 CDs from 2002-2004 and only 2 in the 6 years since), but good things come to those who wait, and if patience is needed to keep the core of this band together then that’s the way it will have to be.
Stylistically, ‘In the night’ is probably closest to ‘Evilized’ (my personal favourite Dream Evil CD) in the sense that it has a little more variety in style than the others, and that it also is sometimes possessed of a slightly heavier, darker feel than its 2 immediate predecessors. Slightly less inclined towards the more epic songs found on ‘United’, there are a few more of a more straight-up, pounding persuasion, built on meaner riffs, such as the excellent “Frostbite”. Of particular note on this song is the solo, which is a really memorable bit of neo-classical widdling, which more than makes up for a slightly abortive chorus.
Unfortunately Mark Black, the guy who stepped into Gus G’s not inconsiderable shoes, is gone after only one recording and has been replaced with Daniel Varghamne. I’m not sure where Dream Evil keep finding these extraordinary lead guitarists, but here’s hoping they manage to hold onto this one as surely they can’t keep unearthing these unheard-of gems forever.
Needless to say, he makes a massive contribution to the CD’s successes, starting with an immediate impression on the opener “Immortal” with a stunning, doubled-up solo. Niklas Isfeldt really re-affirms himself on this song too with a commanding vocal performance, not least when he goes it alone for a brief a cappella rendition of the chorus at the conclusion. This combination of powerful, distinctive vocals and colourful lead guitar have always been among the band’s best attributes and they play to their strengths whenever they can. The other members all play their usual rock-solid roles in providing rhythm, with Patrik Jerksten continuing to impress behind the kit with his flashy fills providing moments of character in place of flat predictability.
Similar scorchers to “Frostbite” include “In the fires of the sun” and “On the wind”, which rage with an increased sense of intensity, while “Kill, burn, be evil” is a bit more familiar-sounding, a fist-pumping anthem with a massive gang vocal chorus.
Sadly, despite all its strong moments, there are also some weak points that are actually among the worst efforts the band have made to date. The filter-effect intro to “Electric” doesn’t exactly start it on a promising note, and while it eventually gets going at the chorus, the sputtering guitar playing on the verses lacks any fluidity and adds up to a real misfire.
Ballads have never been this band’s strong point, with Snowy Shaw and Gus G the only members to be any good at writing them, so it’s maybe understandable that they’ve decided to finally just go for an outright piss-take with the lyrics this time around. Such an obligatory thing to include that they’ve just gone ahead and called it “The ballad”, the music is pretty tired and by-the-numbers. The lyrics offer an occasional snicker but it is too broad an effort at humour even for this lot, and it genuinely feels like Isfeldt is just making it up as he goes along. If they were really going through the motions as much as they seem to be blatantly admitting here then they’d really have been as well scrapping the song altogether in favour of something more wholehearted.
Highlights are far more frequent than these pitfalls though, and in “See the light” they have come up with easily one of their best ever songs. Characterised by some killer 80s melodies and bursting with energy, it is capped by a truly superior chorus and another stunning bit of shredding from Varghamne, and stands out as the CD’s clear highlight. They also throw the fans of their slightly more power metal-ish early work a bone with the bonus track “The return” which, even ignoring the self-referential dragon-themed lyrics, reintroduces some of the Hammerfall gallop of their debut CD and makes shelling out the extra cash for the special edition version worth considering.
‘In the night’ may lack some of the consistency of past efforts and as result doesn’t quite match up to Dream Evil’s best work, but there are so many individually impressive moments that it really doesn’t matter. Equally resolute in their contrasting philosophies of no compromise and laid-back humour, they remain purveyors of heavy metal in one of its purest forms, and for that alone there is reason to be grateful; long may it continue.
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