This is some uplifting heavy metal right here, folks. Not obscenely happy, like two bear cubs wrasslin’ in a field of daisies, just seriously uuUUPLIFTING power metal/hard rock, delivered with some incredibly infectious guitar work, courtesy of founding member/lead guitarist/chief songwriter, Mikael Dahl.
Over the past fifteen years, Mikael Dahl’s Crystal Eyes has produced four demos and five full-lengths, all coasting just beneath many U.S. metalheads’ radar. During this decade-and-a-half of near obscurity, Dahl has employed the services of more musicians than can be counted on two hands, including a one-time-only session vocal arrangement with Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon/Heed) for 2005’s Confessions of the Maker. However, because of the record’s relatively flat reviews (especially from fans of Heiman), instead of finally vaulting the Swedish troupe into the spotlight, the endeavor ended up leaving many fans of the genre wondering if it was finally time for Dahl to take his project behind the woodshed for an Old Yeller ending. Rather than bending knee, Dahl re-rallied his troops and hired on yet another vocalist in order to give things another run. The result, Dead City Dreaming, may just be the record fans of the genre have been waiting for.
This record is tailor-made for traditional metal/hard rock enthusiasts who crave pant-loads of melodic guitar-work and strong, mid-to-upper range vocals. Each of the ten songs displayed showcase the impassioned pipes of newcomer, Søren Nico Adamsen (whose vocal style is quite similar to Daniel Heiman), and Dahl’s mightily impressive fretwork. And as mentioned earlier, this record is incredibly infectious and terribly uplifting, without ever straying too far into the bubblegum, giggly, goofball-metal spectrum akin to mid-era Helloween or latter-era Edguy.
The opening title-track and its follow-up, “Into the Light,” set the album’s gait perfectly; relatively simple, mid-to-fast paced songs with edgy riffing and triumphant choruses. Dahl’s penchant for hard rock-guitaring ala Michael Schenker and Vinnie Moore is exceedingly apparent in much of the record’s riffing, and especially during the solos, but it really stands out on the record’s rockiest tune, “The Quest Remains”.
The album’s crowning achievement, however, hits with the bombastic fifth track, “Battlefield”, which starts off sounding similar to Wolf doing Iron Maiden before eventually breaking into the record’s most traditional sounding headbanger, with a chorus that’ll stick in you brain for days. Things close out with the epic, “Halls of Valhalla”, a tune that (strangely enough) features Dahl on “guest” vocals, and really leaves one wondering why the man bothered going outside the fold to find a vocalist in the first place.
Dead City Dreaming is not without its faults, however. The third track, “The Narrow Mind” is a little too snappy/happy in its song structure and chorus, and songs such as “Dawn Dancer” and “Roads of Loneliness” feature the kind of cringe-worthy lyrics that really make you wish some of these bands would sing in their native tongues.
During a time when my musical diet leans heavily on brooding doom, black metal and death metal belched from bog-beasts, Dead City Dreaming blew through my brain like a fresh summer breeze through an ancient crypt. In fact, this record has been a sheer delight to spin over the past few weeks, and I rarely use terms such as “delight.” While certainly not intended for everyone, Dead City Dreaming is the perfect escape for those looking for some toe-tapping, uplifting heavy metal.