DREAMTALE has been a band that has been lumped into a rapidly growing group of Finnish Power Metal acts whom are simply labeled as STRATOVARIUS clones. Ironically they were the last band that I thought of when listening to the guitar solos, which are much more smooth than Timo Tolkki’s sometimes brazen melodies and more melodic than his high speed shred fests. I didn’t hear much of STRATOVARIUS when I heard the vocals, but heard something a bit more reminiscent of RUSH, though obviously without the same vocal range. The riffs are more reminiscent of GAMMA RAY, although the highly active keyboard lines and the female vocalist also bring in comparisons with bands such as ORATORY and NIGHTWISH. Quite frankly, there is only one conclusion to reach when faced with the critics whom label these guys as STRATOVARIUS clones, and that is they are suffering a rare form of selective deafness.
To be fully accurate, there are some STRATOVARIUS influences in some of the themes, and there is also a bit of Yngwie’s influence in the main theme of this album’s epic “Heart’s Desire” (the song “Devil In Disguise” off of Eclipse comes to mind). We’ve also seen a fair share of influence from FATES WARNING, particularly when you listen to some of the acoustic tracks on here, not to mention a slight QUEENSRYCHE tinge in the way the intro theme of “The Dawn” transitions in and out at various points in the album. And of course, comparisons to TAROT are also likely as two of the more powerful songs on here are sung by their vocalist Marco Hietala.
I elected to review this album last, even though it was the first one that I bought, because upon my first listen I knew I was dealing with something extremely massive. In fact, if there had been a bit more consistency in the vocals on this album, I would have rated it higher than “Ocean’s Heart”. But alas, this album suffers from what I have now dubbed the “Coming From The Sky“ syndrome. For those of you not familiar with the album, it is the debut by French Power Metal band HEAVENLY, whom are currently in my top 10 list of favorite bands. On that particular album, Piet Sielck of IRON SAVIOR and Kai Hansen of GAMMA RAY provided some lead vocal tracks to aid the band in getting their debut off the ground (Piet Sielck also produced that album). Although it was a decent album, Kai and Piet stole the show on the song they sang on, and dwarfed most of the other songs where vocalist Ben Sotto was singing lead alone.
The syndrome here is actually even more severe than on the HEAVENLY album, as guitarist/vocalist Rami Keränen has given lead vocal duties for the majority of the longer and more distinctive songs to two other singers. The result is that Rami’s vocal contribution to the album is overshadowed by Marco’s larger range and more powerful voice, and by Sanna Natunen’s beautiful and somewhat vulnerable sounding voice. This is a highly forgivable flaw as the album still is an amazing accomplishment, but the lack of consistency from track to track that results from this brings it down below the stellar accomplishment that was “Ocean’s Heart”. Rami does have a good quality of voice, probably better than many other singers in his genre, but unfortunately he lacks the dynamic range necessary for the genre, and the results are vocal melodies that are overly clean and have few dramatic moments.
The songs on here are quite excellent, and in many instances bear a strong resemblance to some of the classics that appeared on “Ocean’s Heart”. The absolute best songs are “Heart’s Desire” and “Farewell”, both of which are longer than the other 10 tracks. The former is sung by Marco and is mostly down tempo, containing some amazing guitar work and some unforgettable melodic lines. The latter is sung by Sanna and is a slower song, but not quite a ballad. It sees the return of the primary theme that appeared on the first song to close the album out on a note of musical nostalgia.
Other stand out tracks include “Call Of The Wild”, which features the most powerful chorus on the album, in addition to Rami’s best vocal performance. “Dreamland” and “Refuge From Reality” are both high speed cookers with very catchy melodic guitar riffs at their respective intros. Both also feature some amazing duelling solos between the guitars and keyboards. “Silent Path” is another one sung by Sanna that is mostly a relaxed ballad and carries its strength in the vocal performance and the rather poignant lyrics. “Where The Rainbow Ends” is another one sung by Marco that sounds almost like a mid-tempo HELLOWEEN anthem. And the rather deceptive ballad/Speed Metal hymn “Dancing In The Twilight” features Rami’s voice in a more exposed state, singing only with a piano accompanying him. He pulls it off well, and his voice stays consistent as the fast guitar riffs and drum beats kick the song beyond the speed of light.
The remaining songs on here are well done, but function mostly as supporting songs to pace out the album. They are good in their own right, but not quite distinctive enough to push themselves out of the colossal power of the mentioned tracks. I wanted to give special notice to the bonus track “Secret Wish” as for a bonus track, it is a cut above the rest (the same was true for “Ocean’s Heart“ bonus track “Wasteland”). Pretty much another high speed rocker, although it features a very different overall atmosphere from the other songs, owing mostly to the stops and starts that it seems to go through tempo wise.
In conclusion, this is top notch Finnish Power Metal, taking its cues mostly from the German style while also incorporating some influences from Yngwie Malmsteen and a few other Scandinavian acts. I highly recommend it to fans of SONATA ARCTICA, HELLOWEEN, NIGHTWISH, TAROT, and anybody who likes a lot of fast songs with loads of hooks. I proudly endorse it as a stand out album amongst a growing field of Power Metal acts.
(Online December 24, 2011)