Universe was the second album from Sweden's Silver Mountain, originally released in 1984 on Roadrunner Records and now being reissued & remastered by Metal Mind Productions. As with their debut from a year before, Universe continues on with the Rainbow/Deep Purple/early Scorpions/UFO/MSG inspired sound, putting them right up their with peers such as Rising Force, Europe, and Alcatrazz. Band leader and hot shot guitarist Jonas Hansson brought in new singer Christer Mentzer to take over the vocals this time around, and he's got a real good voice, in addition to new drummer Marten Hedener and original bassist Per Stadin (the Johansson brothers by this time had jumped ship to join Yngwie Malmsteen's band). Guest keyboard player Erik Neilsen rounded out the studio line-up. For this album, the songs take on a more melodic, slicker dimension, less heavy than the debut, with plenty of catchy melodies and anthemic chorusus to go along with Hansson's tasty neo-classical riffs and solos.
Opening cut "Shakin' Brains" is a memorable rocker filled with powerful vocals and impressive shredding from Hansson, and the title track is a strong anthem that sticks in your head like glue, with Mentzer really showing his stuff as lead vocalist. The more aggressive "Call of the Lords" has a metal edge, Hansson's guitar riffs raging alongside the frantic rhythms of Hedener & Stadin, while "Handled Roughly" starts out with some nimble classical guitar passages before the band turns the piece into a bombastic progressive metal epic with some killer hooks and equally astounding ensemble arrangements. If you are looking for one tune on this CD that shows how Hansson should have been a major guitar hero, this one it it! The band lurches back into neo-classical hard rock on "Why", straight-ahead speed metal on "Help Me", and dark, brooding bluesy rock with "Walking In the Shadow". The album closes with the 1-2 punch of "Too Late", a song with plenty of Rainbow & Scorpions elements, and the red hot instrumental "Niagara", the latter a great workout for Hansson and his blazing classical metal style.
Solid stuff all around here on Universe, a real fun album from a band that a good portion of the hard rock & metal fans of the early 80's scene probably failed to discover back in the day.
01. Shakin' Brains
03. Call Of The Lords
04. Handled Roughly
06. Help Me
07. Walking In The Shadow
08. Too Late