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You know, I really don't think this is half-bad. Coming from the band that made the megaton crap sandwich that is "Dimensions," Freedom Call deserves a medal for their efforts throughout "Land of the Crimson Dawn." There's still a sum of mediocre filler conquering a noticeable portion of the hour of power metal, but hey, no electronica or kiddie choirs here like "Dimensions," and I'm certainly not considering suicide as an escape from the radical storm of poop that comes with the Freedom Call works I've experienced. Anywhere but up, as they say. Here, Chris Bay delivers a nice slab of retribution that was sorely needed. Sure, it's still Freedom Call, but they've cut out a lot of crap and inversely shine light on the project's strengths, finding a natural rhythm instead of forcing one.
Were the Mayans right? Did the sky fall? Was the impossible achieved? I don't live under a rock for the most part, so I'm going to assume Bay hit some kind of a creative stride and ran with its flow. Freedom Call seems to get a lot of flack for honoring the themes of 'flower' metal—you know, the puffy keyboards, pound after pound of cheese, sappy choruses, yadda yadda yadda. Well, that's how things go here, yet I notice the riffs, melodies, choruses, bridges, guitar solos and vocal patterns are much more dynamic than they should be. I also never felt Bay's vocals were demanding in any regard until this seventh chapter in the book of Freedom Call. It generally smells like Freedom Call improved every facet of their blueprint. I'm a skeptic, yet I'm colored surprised!
Blistering tunes like "Age of the Phoenix," the unabashed sweetened edge of "Rockstars" and the taste of power metal bliss throughout "Valley of Kingdom" strike a habitual harmony within Freedom Call; they aren't trying too hard or moving against the stream, but actually utilizing their appropriate form. Not too shabby. "66 Warriors" and "Space Legends" give Freedom Call instrumental wings, both very addictive and cunning tunes. There are some real dumps though: the awful "Hero on Video" is just a goddamn mess, and "Rockin' Radio" shows glimmers of a band that ignored the pitfalls and problems of "Dimensions" and instead decided cranking the agitation past eleven was a fantastic idea. Redundancy is not a foreign idea to the Freedom Call tribe, unfortunately.
Not surprisingly, some songs are just mediocre and dull, but "Land of the Crimson Dawn" still has a chunk of noteworthy, beefy tunes. A masterpiece? No. An above-average album? That's debatable. A listenable record at its worst? Bingo, and that's exactly what Freedom Call needed. As they also say, credit is earned when credit is due, and Freedom Call deserves some goddamn credit. Chris Bay not only penned a massive record stuffed to the brim with power metal, but managed to make the girth of his efforts look relevant and prosperous. So Freedom Call, it looks like you were able to slightly reel in an estranged fan in some regards. Good work Freedom Call, you've definitely earned a few high-fives and a pat on the back.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Yes! This is exactly what I've been waiting for from Freedom Call ever since their 2002 outing "Eternity". Don't get me wrong, none of their albums between that one and "Land of the Crimson Dawn" were bad, however I could never shake the feeling that they just didn't quite live up to their potential on "The Circle of Life" and "Dimensions". Where the earlier featured way too many song names that we've already heard countless times before - such as "Hunting High And Low", "Carry On", "Mother Earth" and "Starchild" - without actually delivering the goods in terms of songwriting subsequently, and the latter didn't really have any songs that would capture me for a longer time, "Legend of the Shadowking" was already a step into the right direction, and with "Land of the Crimson Dawn", the Germans have finally managed to get back on track to being what - in my mind - is the real Freedom Call.
Is it happy metal in its purest form? Is it flower metal? You're damn right it is. But in the case of Freedom Call, you can never make the mistake to think that they are all too serious about themselves. And why should they be? You can tell these guys are having fun with what they do, and they are not afraid to laugh at themselves a little. And, truth be told, if you can stomach a little cheese and cringeworthy keyboard sounds, "Land of the Crimson Dawn" sure is a whole lot of fun. The opening triplet of "Age of the Phoenix", the tremendous and funny hymn "Rockstars" and the title track itself are all better than about 90% of the material the band has put out on the aforementioned records before this one.
But thankfully, Freedom Call don't stop there. "66 Warriors" is a thumping track with a unique flair, "Back into the Land of Light" is arguably one of the best songs on the album and takes us directly back to the "Eternity" album, in more senses than one; and even the first single "Hero On Video" isn't all that bad, though there are certainly better songs on the album.
"Killer Gear" pays tribute to all us nerds who love to play our online games like World of Warcraft, "Rockin' Radio" is dedicated to lead singer Chris Bay's own radio show, and last but certainly not least, "Power and Glory" is dedicated to the band, the fans, and everyone who makes a heavy metal show fun to attend.
With "Terra Liberty" and "Sun in the Dark", the band even strikes a few serious chords for a change - though none of them are ever minor, of course. Wouldn't be Freedom Call if they were.
So for all those who have been sorely missing great hymns like the incomparable "Warriors" from their "Eternity" album, the new Freedom Call output is just for you. There's tons of double bass, tons of happy keyboards, tons of singable choruses and hooks - and from start to finish, this is just a really enjoyable album, if you manage to not take it too seriously.
Freedom Call has been something of an obsession of mine for over 10 years. Call it fanaticism or by some other pejorative term, something about the light to the point of happy-go-lucky sound that bridges the gap between Helloween and Saxon just clicks with me every time. They’ve always tended to accent the rock elements of the latter while somewhat avoiding the grittier speed metal qualities of the earliest parts of the former (which can be seen in greater concentration with the likes of Iron Savior, Primal Fear, and Grave Digger). To put it as plainly possible, this band plays late 80s power metal for people not of that generation, and surprisingly they don’t quite garner the same popularity amongst core Helloween fans from the “Keepers” era, despite the fairly strong similarities.
In the time since their inception, a lot has changed for this Nuremburg outfit. All the original co-founders minus front man and songwriter Chris Bay have exited, including long time drummer and Gamma Ray kit destroyer Dan Zimmerman, whose function in the band’s overall sound is about as consequential as Thomen Stauch’s was to Blind Guardian’s. But in spite of this, there has been no consequential shift in overall sound, though the quality of the entire package has ebbed a bit since the closing of the band’s early days. Something, call it a mystique, that was carried in the band’s powerful “Taragon” series was lost since they closed out the story and moved away from conceptual albums (save “Dimensions”, which was completely unrelated yet came off as an attempt to rekindle that old magic with a new line up), and in its place is a still impressive, yet obvious shell of the late 90s when Italy, Finland and Germany brought power metal back to prominence on their side of the Atlantic.
Perhaps this mystique that has been lacking can be underscored by a disconnect between the often epic sounding album titles in the mold of “Legend Of The Shadow King” and the character of the lyrics contained in songs that tend to be unrelated to such lofty topics. And this has largely been a pervasive issue with chunks of Freedom Call’s albums going back to the confused Stratovarius-like “The Circle Of Life”. A handful of largely unrelated electronic and lighter, almost alternative rock sounding influences start popping up out of an otherwise consistent mesh of blinding speed and soaring choruses. It’s more of a slight Persian flaw than an outright deal breaker, but it is noticeable. The equally lofty sounding title “Land Of The Crimson Dawn” sports a similar story to its 2010 predecessor in many respects, though the drum production is a bit less raucous, and a bit more of the semi-inspired ideas appear to battle the otherwise fully inspired ones.
Make no mistake; this latest incarnation is recognizably a Freedom Call album, despite the lack of any of the original compatriots that molded this band’s formative sound. Familiar feelings of triumph and fist-raising glory permeate the majority of its contents, particularly when things stay on the fast side. Be it the overtly catchy and fairly short “Age Of The Phoenix”, the equally catchy yet longer and more drawn out “Rockstars” and the blast from power metal’s late 90s past “Valley Of Kingdom”, the mood is upbeat and celebratory, walking a thin line between the seriousness of “Eagle Fly Free” and the comedy of “Rise And Fall” (“Keepers Part 2” has always been the most influential album on the character of this band’s sound, with some of their latter stuff with Andi Deris having a lesser influence on a couple of select exceptions). These songs do somewhat want for the denser guitar and keyboard dimensions heard during the days when Sascha Gershner was still handling guitars alongside Chris, but Lars Rettkowitz is definitely not the weak link in this fold and proves to be equally (if not more) capable of cutting loose in a tasteful fashion when his solos take the reins.
The small handful of problems that plague this album are actually quite familiar to anyone who has followed this band since “Crystal Empire”, and it largely deals with an inconsistent balance of humor and seriousness that is similarly found with some of Helloween’s and Gamma Ray’s works. When dealing with out and out rock oriented anthems like “Hero On Video” and “Rockin’ Radio”, an analogy to a number of bluesy, arena oriented pictures comparable to Saxon’s less metallic work come into view, definitely enjoyable but quite different from the band’s signature power metal sound. Others like “Sun In The Dark” with its heavy groove metal meets Symphorce tendencies and “Power And Glory” with the quirky bagpipe accompaniment come off as confused and fairly skip worthy. The only experiment on here that really pans out well is the longer title song “Crimson Dawn”, which employs elements of this band’s previous works, most specifically “The Quest” in terms of its scope of ideas, but also “Hymn Of The Brave” in terms of its generally upbeat, anthem-like quality. All in all, among the better songs on here, and a nice blast from the band’s past that was lacking on the past 3 albums.
Ultimately this falls into the same category as “Legend Of The Shadow King”. It’s not the greatest thing that the band has put out, but it is definitely a continual up trend from the band’s experimental hiccup “The Circle Of Light”. The only thing holding this back is an avoidance of creating an entire album of really gripping songs in the mold of “66 Warriors” and “Terra Liberty” and insisting on missing in rock radio interludes that would be more suited to a Pink Cream 69 album. Nothing is outright lousy, but some of the parts in this mostly good puzzle don’t fit well with the rest. Maybe it’s just my continual loyalty to this band, but I still love this band, even if only the central personality remains from what was one of my absolute favorites from the late 90s German power metal resurgence.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 6, 2012.