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Anyone who’s read a few reviews for their stuff can see that Freedom Call is one of those love ‘em or hate ‘em bands. Here is their debut album, Stairway to Fairyland. Judging by the title, song titles, and album art we can reasonably (and correctly) anticipate a power metal album filled to the brim with catchy, sing-along, overblown anthemic choruses, fantasy lyrical shenanigans, and more cheese than a jar of Cheez-Whiz. For the power metal fans out there like who think like me, this sounds like it could be promising. You probably won’t headbang to it and it probably won’t leave you in awe, asking yourself “how is this the work of human beings?”, but it’s a load of fun. For metalheads who don’t like power metal, you won’t like it. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea by now, then get out of here and forget about listening to the album because that’s exactly what you’re getting here.
The album has its silly moments that might make you chuckle a little bit, but overall this is something that power metal fans don’t want miss out on. Freedom Call is goofy as hell, but it’s unashamedly goofy, and that’s part of the charm. Anybody who has ever watched them perform live should know that (look up their performance of “Land of Light”…it’s pretty hilarious, but forces you into a good mood). They know what they like and they know what their listeners like. We’ve all got that 15 year old nerd inside who would like to get out of here and get to some fantasy dimension on the other side of the universe, and Freedom Call is playing for that guy (or gal). They’re not playing for death metal fans, just like Nile isn’t in business to attract Rhapsody of Fire fans.
The first track, “Over the Rainbow”, is very nice, starting off with a bit of dark-sounding, sorta spoken narration. If I understand correctly, this album tells a fantasy story about some people who go somewhere (presumably Fairyland). It doesn’t really matter, because the story is probably poorly developed in what was written in the span of ten minutes, but the story isn’t really what matters. The music still takes you to Fairyland whether you know what’s going on there or not. Like lots of other power metal bands, the lyrics are vague and manage to conjure up some cool images and emotions without saying that much. The lyrics just supplement what’s already there in the music. All the songs on the album work to create a colder environment, is a bit atmospheric, and is lots of fun. Onward! What we really care about is the music, and it delivers! Back to “Over the Rainbow", it’s fast, catchy, upbeat, and has great melodies, so if you’re a power metal fan, you shouldn’t be complaining. The album powers onward with plenty of speedy numbers that mix it up with some slowed down, heavy sections (as heard in “Tears Falling”, for example). Two mid-paced numbers, “Hymn to the Brave” and “Tears of Taragon”, work very well and make for some diversity without venturing into the dreaded realm of ballads.
Nearly everything on the album will stick in your head and you’ll doubtless be singing along if you like this kind of stuff at all. I say that with total confidence. The tunes (and instrumentation, as generally required by the power metal genre) are superb and work together really well to bring you right into the middle of the magic.
“Shine On” is the highlight of the album for me and is a real gem in the power metal genre. This is how it’s done! It starts off with a ballad-type section with some Christian sounding lyrics with a small bit about a child in a “virgin’s hand” (or as Chris Bay mispronounces it, “wirgin”…remember they are a German band!) Then the track kicks into gear with a great verse and an absolutely amazing chorus. It’s also got a little bit of a slow, heavy guitar riffing section which isn’t exactly thrilling but works well making the track a little darker before jumping into the triumphant chorus again to create some contrast.
All of the songs are quite good without any tracks falling into the weak category. However, the last third of the album isn’t quite as good as the first two thirds. “Holy Knight” has got some heavier, Gamma Ray-esque riffing, which isn’t all that surprising given that Freedom Call is something of a Gamma Ray offshoot. “Another Day” is the last song on the album. Two things are especially prominent on this song. The chorus is excellent and it also has what is possibly the worst lyrical moment in power metal history (it’s probably tied with a couple of DragonForce and Rhapsody lyrics). “Sky forces ride horses”? Seriously? Is this some kind of a sick joke? Aren’t these actually men writing these lyrics? And what are they doing with horses up in the sky anyway? It would make a little bit of sense if Earth forces were riding flying horses to get to the sky, but they’re already up in the sky! Unless the only way they were able to get there was by riding flying horses…but who said the horses were flying horses? Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. It’s a good song anyway if you ignore that part. I imagine that if the guys have any intelligence or sense of poetry at all (which I believe they do), they were chuckling to themselves when they wrote that lyric because they were fully aware that it was absolutely awful and hoping we would realize it and be able to laugh about it as well. They’re just having fun.
I personally liked this album a lot and apparently some other reviewers dig it too, so if you’re into power metal, by all means, check it out! It’s a worthy debut and a good chunk of quality cheese. Enjoy!
Highlights: “Over the Rainbow”, “Tears Falling”, “Shine On”, “Hymn to the Brave”, “Another Day”.