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Universe - Universe (Reissue)

Universe (Reissue)
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 11 June 2018, 9:38 AM

UNIVERSE started in 1982 in Upplands Väsby, Sweden, where hard rock ruled the streets. The members hailed from several different local bands. After leaving the band MOON, Michael Kling, who founded the band WC in the late 70's with John Norum, became one of UNIVERSE’s founding members. Hasse Hagman, who played in Joey Tempest's first band, along with Anders Wetterström and Per Nilsson, all came from the band TWILIGHT. Once UNIVERSE got their hands on keyboard player Fredrik Kriström and singer Kjell Wallen, the band was complete.

They played diligently for a couple of years all over Sweden. In 1985, the band released its self-titled debut album. In 1986, Kjell Wallen left the band on good terms following creative differences and was subsequently replaced by Janne Åström. With Janne as the new frontman, the band focused fully on a follow-up to their debut album. Several demos were recorded but never ended up in the right hands. The band dissolved in early 1988 and then had a short reunion for a final show in the ice hall in Upplands Väsby later that year. What we have here for review today is a reissue of their debut album, which contains ten tracks.

“Rollin’ On” has an edgy melody out of the date, and it tinged slightly in the Power Metal genre. The vocals are heavy with vibrato and sung mostly in a mid-rage, with occasional peaks. I can’t quite place who he reminds me of, so we’ll keep going. “Stories of the Old Days” has a spirited energy, driven by a fast moving riff—something you might have heard from DOKKEN in these days. Of course, many Americans at the time were blind to a lot of music from other countries. The song has a bit of soul interwoven in it as well…coming from the vocals and keys mostly. “Weekend Warrior” has a tough and more serious sound; a battle cry of sorts, with an easy moving guitar riff but leaving a little to be desired in what could have been a big moment in the chorus.

“Lonely Child” is the nearly obligatory power ballad that accompanies the genre. But the doleful sound suffers from a lack of punch. With a ballad, there has to be some extremes for it to really have an impact. “Angel” hears the faster pace return but again the sound is grounded in a lot of minor chords so you don’t get that upbeat and positive feeling that you should. The keyboard passages are strong here however. “Woman” is a bit of a mystery for me. The opening riff doesn’t connect well with the sound in the first verse, and it’s hard to tell where this is going. It sums up nicely in the chorus however. “Strong Vibration” has some more lush elements in the keys but is still a bit oversimplified. You can hear some potential in this track; it just needs some more accents and transitions. “Question of Time” closes the album. It features some guitar harmonies, and a mid-tempo groove, with an occasional scream, and a decent guitar solo.

In these days, a lot of bands were only going as far as their vocalist could take them. In this case, it’s the worst part of the album for me. I just wasn’t able to connect with the vocals. They meandered at times, and the oft doleful tone kept it grounded rather than bringing the music to life. Of course, you have to remember that it was 1985 and the band’s first effort. But, by inevitably comparing it to the other acts around at that time like RATT, DOKKEN, MOTLEY CRUE, and EUROPE, to name but a few, it falls pretty short of the mark.

Songwriting: 4
Originality: 4
Memorability: 3
Production: 7

2 Star Rating

1. Rollin’ On
2. Stories from the Old Days
3. Weekend Warrior
4. Lonely Child
5. Looking for an Answer
6. Angel
7. Woman
8. Strong Vibration
9. Burning Machine
10. Question of Time
Andreas Eklund – Vocals
Michael Kling – Guitar, Vocals
Per Nilsson – Guitar, Vocals
Hasse Hagman – Bass
Anders Wetterström – Drums
Freddie Kriström – Keyboards
Record Label: Pride & Joy Music


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