Hot off the Press

Freedom Call | Land of the Crimson Dawn

by Mark Allen
Staff Writer

German melodic power metal outfit Freedom Call return with a new album that instantly rates as one of the best power metal releases of 2012. Okay, the year is less than a month old, so maybe that’s not saying much, but it really is hard to imagine any melodic power metal fan being disappointed with this offering. Freedom Call even add a cool new component to their sound by incorporating much more of a hard rock vibe on several tunes, giving it potential for cross-genre appeal. Vocalist Chris Bay acknowledges in the press release that “the new tracks simply have more of that rock ‘n’ roll feel.”

Still, fret not, power metal fans; this is, first and foremost, a power metal album. The galloping guitars, double kick drums, swirling keyboards, chanting gang vocals, golden production, songs about battles and swords and eternal glory…it’s all here in all its welcome familiarity. When it comes to this style, Freedom Call have never cared to be pioneers, comfortably content to cruise along on the wings of the power metal formula, secure in the knowledge that they play the formula well.

So Freedom Call are old hats at this stuff, capable of doing it in their sleep, while sitting on the john, or while watching Action Figure Therapy on YouTube. So let’s talk about the new: the hard rock influence. Why is it there? Maybe those songs just organically developed during their writing sessions. Or maybe Chris Bay had a nostalgic moment for his old band Moon’Doc and realized he missed belting out swaggering hard rock tunes. Whatever the reason, slotted in between the bombastic power metal hymns are some straight up hard rock anthems. “Rockstars,” for example, comes out of the gate like a cattle-prodded thoroughbred and races hell-bent for leather to a giant, harmony-soaked chorus. “Sun in the Dark” serves up a headbanging rhythm with hooks so massive you could hang a dragon from them…if, you know, dragons actually existed (mother-in-laws don’t count). “Rockin’ Radio” is about…well, you can pretty much guess what “Rockin’ Radio” is about. It’s not about sunshine and rainbows and unicorns, that’s for sure.

It’s an odd dichotomy that somehow works. Like peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. One minute you get standard issue power metal in “Valley of the Kingdom” with its tale of warriors raising their swords and marching to battle under the arc of a rainbow and ridiculously over the top choir backing vocals, followed by a riff-raging hard rock juggernaut like “Power + Glory” with ‘80s-esque lyrics about joining the heavy metal army. It’s simultaneously a bit strange and a bit brilliant, with the distinct ability to be accessible to two schools of thought within the heavy music universe.

Frankly, Freedom Call sound freshest when running wild in this hard rock territory. Maybe that’s because their power metal tends toward the derivative, even if it is expertly and enthusiastically played derivate. That said, the best track on the album is pure black-blooded metal, and that would be “Killer Gear,” sporting a dark, menacing edge. It builds with brooding tension to a ripping, attitude-laced chorus packed with backing vocals that are near death-metal in their intensity and any headbanger who doesn’t think it sounds bad-ass deserves to have their heavy metal membership card revoked.

This time around, the band gave themselves the freedom to experiment (at times) with a less metallic, more hard rocking sound. The result? One of the best entries in their discography and much better than their more recent output. Purists may cry foul at the inclusion of the hard rock hooks, but there is still a plethora of power metal left to satisfy. Freedom Call are cracking open—or should that be cranking open–new territory for themselves and the result could be the dawning of a new age of versatility for the band.

Genre: Melodic Power Metal

Chris Bay (vocals, guitars)
Lars Rettkowitz (guitars)
Samy Saemann (bass)
Klaus Sperling (drums)

Track Listing
1. Age of the Phoenix
2. Rockstars
3. Crimson Dawn
4. 66 Warriors
5. Back Into the Land of Light
6. Sun in the Dark
7. Hero on Video
8. Valley of Kingdom
9. Killer Gear
10. Rockin’ Radio
11. Terra Liberty
12. Eternity
13. Space Legends
14. Power + Glory

Label: Steamhammer / SPV


Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10