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Hey, who’s up for a little game of word association? I’ll go first, shall I? I’ll say a name and you say the first thing that pops into your head... OK, here goes: Freedom Call...
Did you answer with "happy metal"? Well then, you are a winner! Cos those happy German power metallers are back with their 5th full-length CD, entitled ‘Dimensions’. Now anyone who knows Freedom Call will know the type of metal they play. Typically, fast and happy with lyrics that could make them a borderline Christian metal band. With poppy CD titles such as ‘Crystal empire’ and ‘Stairway to fairyland’, it’s no wonder why Freedom Call have been given this "happy metal" tag. Happy sounding they may be, but still, Freedom Call are entertaining and a very good metal band. Some hate them due to their sound and yet some like them... due to their sound.
After the very good previous CD, ‘The circle of life’, members Cedric Dupont (guitar) and Ilker Ersin (bass) left the band, and were replaced by Lars Rettkowitz and Armin Donderer. Dupont was only in the band for just ‘The circle of life’, while Ersin had been an original member of the band. Arriving in 2005, the band has had time to gel together and the end result is what we hear from ‘Dimensions’.
One thing that immediately stands out in this release would be its creativity. Since ‘Eternity’, Freedom Call has incorporated different elements into their sound and most of them for the better. It has given the band a more rugged, edgy feel, to go along with their "happy metal" banner. This came out more in their previous CD, ‘The circle of life’. But of course you can’t have Freedom Call without their trademark “happy metal" sounding tracks. Bottom line: ‘Dimensions’ contains both those mentioned elements, but pushed to another level.
As I stated earlier, ‘Dimensions’ is rather creative throughout the CD. Most of the songs are good, while some just make you cringe. I think Freedom Call has looked towards another “happy metal" band for some kind of inspiration; Italy’s own Rhapsody Of Fire. Now, don’t get me wrong, Freedom Call is in no way copying Rhapsody Of Fire’s “Hollywood” style of epic power metal, instead they have just taken some of their more bombastic elements, such as choirs and atmospheric pieces. That infused with Freedom Call’s typical sound, does make for one entertaining CD.
Where ‘Dimensions’ falls short, however, is just the over-the-top, way too happy choruses you hear on some of the tracks. Musically, the CD sounds great, but it’s just some of those awful choruses which stops you from enjoying the entire song. The cringe-fest reaches it’s peak with the last 3 tracks on the CD, “My dying paradise”, “Magic moments” and “Far away”, which are (in my opinion) the weakest tracks on there (especially “My dying paradise”), and a rather poor way to end the CD. Still, fans of Freedom Call will enjoy their more trademark sounding tracks, such as “Innocent world”, “United alliance” and “Queen of my world”, which are all pretty good and are in the same vein as past tracks such as “Carry on”, “High enough” ('The circle of life'), and also “Flying high” and “The eyes of the world” ('Eternity').
The most bombastic and creative track on the CD would have to be “Light up the sky”, which has a Rhapsody Of Fire epic feel, mixed with possibly a hint of the beginning structure of Queen’s classic song “Bohemian rhapsody”. The song is very good and one of the most memorable tracks on the CD. There are 2 other tracks on this release which I consider to be the best, and they would be the comical and boppy “Mr. Evil”, and the simple yet very affective “Blackened sun”. Both songs aren’t your typical Freedom Call songs (soaring guitars and vocals, with fast double-bass pummeling), so because they are different I think it makes them stand out.
Overall, I feel that ‘Dimensions’ is a logical progression for Freedom Call, bringing some new and different elements into their sound, but still keeping their trademark core sound. They will never lose their “happy metal" label, but I really think that it has worked for them. This CD is a solid effort and fans of the band will most certainly enjoy it. But those who cringed with some of the more happier tracks from their past releases will find themselves in the same predicament with this release, but will enjoy the more toned down tracks.
Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com
I love Power Metal. I really do. I love the overblown choruses, the happy, oft-majestic nature of the music in general, and I especially love the fantastic atmosphere and feel of every individual band that plays the style. Call me a fruitcake, but I would rather have a double-bass fueled Helloween clone over a mallcore-infested grooveathon any day, and I think most of you would agree at the end of the day. And that is why it pains me so very much to sit through fifty minutes of puked up, half assed attempts at songwriting like the magical musical buttfucking that has been titled Dimensions.
I mean it is seriously amazing how bad this is, and how much it needs to ride on the coattails of bands that Freedom Call started out as being equal with, like Helloween and Gamma Ray. You want obnoxious songs, uncertain experimentation and embarrassing attempts at being artistic? You want riffs so tired that they might as well be in hibernation? You want songs with falsely cheery dispositions and candy-coated melodies that will make you reach for the barf bag faster than Nocturnal Rites can sell out again? It's all here; oh, boy is it all here. Let's...let's just try and get this review over with once and for all.
I don't think the band was really trying, and I'm going to flat out admit that right here. This is very inept and shamefully misled material that doesn't even attempt to sound good at all. I know I say that a lot, but it's really true here: there isn't even one attempt at making quality, enjoyable music on here, at all. I think this band actually needs some kind of award; even Skylark seemed to be trying. These assholes just seem to be throwing their hands in the air, saying 'fuck it' and writing whatever the fuck came to their heads first, whatever would inflict the maximum pain on the listener. So we get this terrible Power Metal album with all sorts of outside elements added in, including electronica, 80s pop and even a FUCKING CHILDRENS' CHOIR.
...Alright, seriously, what were they thinking? You can't just...throw whatever you want into an album and expect it to be good. It's like the band's collective musical vomit, it's just puerile! Ideas are repeated ad nauseam, except there are no good ideas here, except there are no ideas here at all. A childrens' choir? You'd have to be high to think that's a good idea. Everything on here that even comes within an acre of being listenable or good is ripped off from a better band, and even sometimes stealing their old material - like "My Dying Paradise," which has pretty much the exact same hook as "Island of Dreams." Eh, at least they picked one of their best songs to anally rape. The band's own "original contributions" are nothing short of nauseating sing-songy faux-experimental diarrhea that will make you want to castrate yourself.
Everything here is just so sloppy and poorly constructed that it's impossible to take seriously even for one second. Nothing sounds honest or endearing in the least. The band has reverted to musical infancy and doesn't even sound like they could play their way out of the demo stage, if they weren't already established as a popular unit. How about Chris Bay's vocals? He still sounds like he used to, except here he's just singing the worst vocal lines you've ever heard in your life. They're really obnoxious, really syrupy and really overbearing, always taking up too much of the song...but hey, it isn't like the music is any better:
After a two minute introduction piece (...seriously?), "Innocent World" kicks up, a perfect example of how to rip off Helloween and sound as weak as possible, and yes, it does have a childrens' choir at the end. Blow me. "United Alliance" is a song that Freedom Call obviously pulled from one of their old album sessions. It also has the most uninspired German Power Metal riffing ever. And then we get to witness the four minutes of ear sodomy the band titled "Mr. Evil." This song is no friend of mine, with its poppy structure and unbelievably annoying hook. It is so bad that I'd honestly rather listen to some deathcore or gayed-up J-Rock with nipple piercings and mascara and the whole deal. "Mr. Evil" is a sleazed up ball of crap with no enjoyment value at all - just listen to that "oh-whoah-oh-whoah!" part on the chorus, how can any functioning human being find that enjoyable? It's asinine, is what it is.
And it never gets better. It's a miraculous concoction of relentless sucking like none I have ever witnessed before. It's a tough competition as every song tries to outdo the last one in pure horribleness. Just listen to "Light Up the Sky" - probably the worst Power Metal song ever written; I am dead serious. It's painful! Grotesquely, inhumanely painful! That dragging, wailing chorus, the sickeningly sweet keyboards, the lack of real structure to the song...good god, it's atrocious! It's actually hard to even describe how absolutely fucking awful this is! It's not even the worst, though, as we still have to sit through the sugary sweet pile of puke titled "Words of Endeavour," the idiotically "dark" "Blackened Sun," which repeats itself too much to be worth anything at all, the heinous title track and the unbelievable garbage that is "Magic Moments." Disgusting; just about the worst song this band has ever written. "Far Away" closes the album with a limp-wristed chorus that sounds like something a joke band would write and some truly fake sounding melodies that are simply too happy sounding and silly to be genuine or heartfelt in the least; it's pitiful.
Wow. That is a new record for absolute worthlessness. I mean...wow. I literally have nothing at all left to say about this album. I'm just...speechless. But I need to wrap this one up, so let me try and conjure up my best summation of this album's worth, or lack thereof:
The fact that people bought this album at all is legitimate proof that there is a Satan somewhere. It's got just about everything you could ever imagine being bad about music rolled up into one odious package, save maybe some mallcore howling and disco-funk aberrations - but I'm pretty sure the band will have those on their next album anyway, so I'm probably speaking too soon. Dimensions is an album that can make humanists turn into nihilists in the blink of an eye. It is an album that is ugly on both the inside and out. Think of it as the musical equivalent to taking a bath in a sewer. It is a massive insult to common dignity and intelligence so grotesque that I'm surprised the band hasn't had to ward off any assassination attempts yet - not that I'd really be opposed to that. There are a few moments that aren't as bad as the other stuff on here, and there are one or two choruses that would be good if they had better songs to wrap themselves around, but that's like saying there are one or two moments in a scat flick or in a High School Musical movie that aren't disgusting, it doesn't really hold up logically and it doesn't justify Freedom Call making this album. Frankly, I don't get why the band called this album Dimensions. The only dimensions here are how much annoyance every single song brings you, and if I had to judge this album based on that...the score would be through the fucking roof.
Creator of the famous television series “The Twilight Zone” Rod Serling once stated that “Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.” The implications of this statement are many, but more interesting is the phenomenon undertaken when certain fictional writers/performers elect to merge these two rather different genres. Sometimes you encounter stories that begin from the standpoint of a fantasy genre and later non-existent technology that is more likely to be encountered in reality are added in, and that appears to be the case with regards to Freedom Call’s latest effort. The overall storyline presented here is somewhat of a composite story of “The Fifth Element” and, to a degree, “The Chronicles of Amber”. All one has to do is take note of the image of a blackened sun and a villainous yet comical character named Mr. Evil, and you see similarities with the source of evil and the goofy yet insidious Mr. Zorg from the 1997 Sci-fi movie in question. Likewise, anyone who has read the Chronicles of Amber will take note of the tarot cards on the album cover displaying all the previous albums and the concept of people hopping from one dimension to another.
Needless to say that I was very much disappointed with their 4th album, as were many of their fans to varying degrees. This was due to them abandoning their traditional sound on their previous albums of chorus emphasized anthems in favor of some experimental synthesizer injected stuff. Likewise, the subject matter of the lyrics was literally all over the place, ranging from poor attempts at philosophical discourse to comical buffoonery on par with Helloween’s “Pink Bubbles Go Ape album”. Most of these problems have been pretty well rectified on here, as the concept album medium has always served to keep the band consistently on message, and the musical content is closer to the original format of the older albums. There are still some remnants of the last release to be found on here, as well as some shifting of influences away from their traditional sound towards something similar to recent Helloween releases, most notably in the case of “Magic Moments” and “Mr. Evil”, but otherwise this is a welcome return to form from a band that has been a bit less active in the studio since their peak in 2002.
The album starts off with an intro piece that is mostly instrumental, not quite as short and dramatic sounding as the Crystal Empire intro, but will surely make for a good show starter when they hit the touring road again. The narration is a bit more stoic sounding than the one found on “Tears of Taragon”, bringing to mind the narration at the beginning of my favorite classic Sci-Fi/Fantasy flick Krull. “Innocent World” and “United Alliance” are clear throw-backs to the older style, featuring rapid yet simplistic guitar riffs and leads, not to mention the two most triumphant choruses on the album. The dimensions (no pun intended) of the arrangement sound more synthesized than the older albums, though the background trumpet themes are back in full swing. “Mr. Evil” is heavily similar to the typical Helloween radio single, almost a composite of “I Want Out”, “I Can”, and “Mrs. God”. The vocals are a bit comical at times as Chris Bay is using his lower range a lot, but the music pretty well fits the image of the character seen on the album jacket, which looks like the demon cousin of Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazzard.
The remaining speed tracks on here are also reminiscent of older Freedom Call with some hints of Gamma Ray and Angra influences. “My Dying Paradise” and “Queen of my world” cook consistently the whole way through, the former sounding like an even more catchy version of something from the Matos era of Angra, the latter having some strong tendencies towards Gamma Ray’s Powerplant album. “Light up the sky” reeks of several older Freedom Call songs, “Shine On” and “Eyes of the World” being the most obvious. Throughout each of these the sound is consistently in line with older Freedom Call, plenty of emphasis on the chorus, and lots of guitar and keyboard layering in the “Stairway to Fairyland” tradition. The only real difference is that Chris Bay seems to be using his high range a bit less than before, which is a bit of a drawback as his lower range is not really as powerful or triumphant.
The remaining music on here is a mix of solid lower tempo music and a few minor misfires. The title track is the strongest of the remaining, featuring a keyboard line that will stick with you, and the best guitar solo on the album. Lars’ style is somewhat similar to the newest Heavenly axe man Oliver Lapauze, utilizing a heavy amount of scale runs and sweep lines, in addition to some off kilter harmonic gimmicks that are less commonly used. He rivals former Freedom Call guitarist Sascha Gershner and surpasses Cedric Dupont in technical skill, and provides a very different contrast to Chris Bay’s simplistic melodic ideas. “Blackened Sun” is a slow atmospheric song loaded with guitar effects and keyboards, highlighting some of the better moments on “The Circle of Life” and is appropriately placed towards the center of the album. “Words of Endeavor” is an acoustic ballad that had some potential, the main line sounds similar to “Kingdom Come”, but unfortunately it doesn’t really pick up until the end and ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. “Magic Moments” and “Far Away” are the closing tracks and end the album on a somewhat mixed note. The first starts off with an excellent organ solo in the same vain as the beginning of “Over the Rainbow”, but unfortunately opts for this half-cocked swing beat song rather than something heavier or faster, not to mention the comedy goes a bit overboard in the lyrics. The closer seems to attempt to emulate “The Wanderer” off the Crystal Empire album and end things on a positive note; the bagpipes are a little bit overpowering, but the song itself is pretty well done.
Overall, I’m happy with the changes made here. It’s not quite up to the level of the first three albums, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. The storyline of the album has a lot of potential provided that there are some specific characters brought out in the next chapter to make the story deeper. I’m not sure if Chris and Dan read my original review of “The Circle of Life” or not, but it seems that they have changed nearly everything lyrically that I thought was wrong with the release. Lars and Armin are equal to the skill of the original line-up that gave us the amazing “Crystal Empire” and if the songwriting just gets a little bit more focused then the next album should be an instant classic. Some may not like the Helloween moments that have been added in to the mix, but they are not as overdone as many have made them out to be, and the bulk of the songs on here are consistently speed oriented, which is what the veteran Freedom Call fan would expect from one of their albums. I recommend it to anyone who liked “Crystal Empire” or who wonders what Gamma Ray would sound like with more keyboards and a cleaner sounding vocalist.
Germany is world renowned for its power metal; Helloween, Blind Guardian, Edguy, Primal Fear and Iron Saviour, to list a few. Freedom Call have been around since 1998 and can safely join this list of names, with band members who have appeared in bands like Gamma Ray and some who have gone on to other bands, including Helloween. With four full-length releases to their name, the band return with a fifth power metal album to feed their fans and win some new ones along the way.
With Dimensions, the band has sought to combine their old sound with a new one. The formula is hit and miss, depending on the individual listener. The first part of the album is certainly inferior, yet after that the CD dabbles in typical Freedom Call styles with no hybrid result, although there are still some certainly memorable styles contained therein. Several songs of this album seem to be attempting a more accessible version of Helloween’s materials, especially songs such as ‘Mr Evil’, which hardcore fans might find to their distaste. The song ‘Innocent World’, one of the highlights of this release, even has vocalist Christian Bay echoing Andy Deris.
The typical upbeat power metal sound manifests itself with the jumpy bass lines in ‘Light Up The Sky’ and the catchy memorable choruses in tracks like ‘Magic Moments’. Fortunately, the final track ‘Far Away’ ends on a good note, sounding like strong modern power metal with a slight hard rock feel. Freedom Call certainly did accomplish their hypothesis of conjoining an old and new style but it was not as successful as it could have been. Dimensions is still worthy of a listen by power metal fans.
Originally written for www.rockbeast.co.uk
During a time when I was shifting to an adult, I did my best doing “adult” things, like staying up late and watching TV at midnight or whatever. Conan O’Brien’s show quickly became a regular view as it was (and still is) hilarious, yet I remember one instance when watching the program that remained so strange I could never forget it no matter how many years had passed. The skit presented a bald man slamming empty water jugs together while screaming, “I AM NOT ANNOYING!” again and again until being booed off stage; he had a good ten seconds of doing his best: pestering other people beyond words. It was then I realized some folks actually find irritating entertainment their gift to the world, but our jug-slamming friend isn’t alone in his crusade to bother others.
Take for instance a few individuals bent on making you feel uncomfortable with their horrid instrumentation and disturbing positivity: Freedom Call. When not skipping through flower fields, these Germans show off sub-par studio recordings filled with fluff, yet nothing can match the redundancy of Freedom Call’s fifth bowel movement entitled “Dimensions.” Sure you could say they’ve done a few good things before, but this here is simply unforgivable. When entering the world of “Dimensions,” I see nothing more than a group of tools shoving a pop-influenced agenda while chipping away at patience’s threshold until it lies in pieces.
Power metal focusing on poppy vocals adjacent to strong keyboards is often labeled flower metal because of its lacking force and all-consuming puffiness, and that’s exactly what Freedom Call aimed for here. Throughout every moment of this disc, Christian Bay’s overly-bombastic singing devours nearly all audio space while a serious of riffs, bass lines, and percussion patterns lightly drive at a changeless pace until the number on your CD player rolls over. But when that happens, Freedom Call backtracks right into a one-way street of rehashed power metal driven by Bay’s deafening voice and light keyboards. Power metal can have a few fairly generic qualities, yet these guys have gone about to make a pop-influenced disaster more predictable than a hooker’s STD checkup. It’s rather confusing how inconsistency is so common, because we’re offered a total shredding apparatus entitled “United Alliance” right after the album’s first two songs, and it’s actually a very decent track overall; sadly, that’s where interest begins to expire. Freedom Call’s remaining chorus-based thumps are like White Castle cheeseburgers: feeble, cheap, and a major acquaintance with indigestion.
When discussing annoyance, one must understand “Dimensions” is the pinnacle of such an issue as it pumps displeasure like a heart does blood. Firstly, the production places Bay’s terrible vocals at rocketing volumes over other musical qualities dramatically, which results in him yelling in scratchy tones and heckling pitches. Alas, chorus repetition also grinds down tolerance with its highly-predictable nature alongside many degrading issues such as useless backing effects; it’s just too annoying for anyone to withstand. Now add in other unneeded crap like a children choir and you have a suicide aid that’s been proven effective by countless power metal fans looking for good music, but found insanity instead.
So yea, this record is definitely a nasty sack of badgering crap in which recycled riffs, repetitive percussion, and nail-scratching-chalkboard vocals pop up for fifty minutes without decency in sight. Sure “United Alliance” kicks ass, but everything else lacks enjoyment in all areas; it’s a minimalism parade on hyper pills. If there was a party hosted by power metal albums, I can guarantee “Dimensions” would be the one uninvited guest that eventually gets knocked out by “Land of the Free” while “The Dark Ride” and “Nightfall in Middle Earth” urinate on its feet. So if Freedom Call shows up to your home with this junk, do what any form of dignity would do: slam the door right on their flowery faces.
Freedom Call’s 5th full-length release “Dimensions” confirms my worries that started to grow after hearing their previous album “The Circle of Life”, which was a lackluster and terribly disappointing follow-up to their unquestionable carreer highlight “Eternity”. That album was a masterpiece that I really didn’t think Freedom Call would be able to write, but after the release of it and the following tour and live DVD it seemed like the band lost most of their creativity. Just like the previous album, “Dimensions” is nothing but a bunch of songs that would have been considered filler on “Eternity”.
Freedom Call underwent some line-up changes after the release of “The Circle of Life”. Guitarist Cedric Dupont and bassist Ilker Ersin left and were replaced by Lars Rettkowitz and Armin Donderer. Their influence is minimal though, because the music on this album is a natural progression from “The Circle of Life”. In other words, it’s the same Helloween/Gamma Ray worship spiced up with a healthy dose of keyboards, choirs and high-flying choruses. Donderer’s bass is very low in the mix and he just follows the guitars, while Rettkowitz and guitarist/vocalist Chris Bay churns out the same catchy but technically unspectacular riffs and soaring leads that are a trademark for Freedom Call and most of the melodic power metal genre. The production overall leaves little to be desired. The guitars are polished and crystal clear as usual, and the drum sound is absolutely thundering, which isn’t surprising considering who’s sitting behind the drum kit. Not only is Dan Zimmerman a very talented drummer, he’s matched by few power metal drummers when it comes to getting a great sound out of his drums. The snare might be a little too loud in the mix, but that’s a minor complain.
The huge problem with this album is the songwriting, which is rarely better than decent, and just like reqiuem99 I didn’t become a fan of Freedom Call because they made decent music. There are no real standout tracks to be found here and the best song wouldn’t even have made the top 5 best songs on “Eternity”. “My Dying Paradise” has a nice epic feel and a great chorus, album closer “Far Away” is ridiculously catchy and “Blackened Sun” is also rather epic-sounding, but something is simply missing. The songwriting is pretty consistent throughout the the album, with the possible exception of “Words of Endeavour” which is a pretty boring ballad that doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s far from bad, but for a band that used to write power metal anthems such as Warriors, Metal Invasion and Hymn to the Brave this just doesn’t cut it.
Another thought that struck me while listening to this album was that the band seem to struggle with the question “where do we go now?”. On Eternity they took their approach to melodic power metal to it’s peak, it was the kind of album you only write once in your life unless you’re a legendary band such as Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. On this album the band seem to have understood that some changes were needed, but they don’t really know how to change, and the result is quite confusing at times, both musically and lyrically. There are some songs on here that are quite lighthearted even by Freedom Call standards. “Mr Evil” is pretty much a melodic rock song that would have been the obvious single if the band had chosen to release one. “Far Away” is another simple rock song and “Magic Moments” has a bouncy beat that remind me of some dance music from the 80s. None of these songs can be considered metal. Chris Bay’s vocals on these tracks are more rough and bordering on sleazy at times.
On the other hand, we have songs such as “United Alliance” which has quite aggressive riffing and drumming (again, by Freedom Call standards..) and lyrics that a group of loin cloth-clad americans has been (in)famous for since the early 80s (“Metal is our religion, our music is louder than hell”). Compare that to “I wanna take you to my rockin’ paradise!” from “Far Away” and you’ll start to wonder whether their next album will be heavier and more straight-up metal or a melodic rock album.
In conclusion, “Dimensions” is a decent but unsatisfying release from a band that can do much better. It’s not even better than “The Circle of Life” and I’m starting to worry that Freedom Call has run out of steam. If you want to get into this band, start with their first three albums. The complete lack of standout tracks makes “Dimensions” mandatory only for die-hard fans.