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Pretty much worthless, harebrained shit. - 32%

Empyreal, March 4th, 2009

There comes a point in a band's career where they either have to evolve or die. There are some bands like Agent Steel who chose the first one, going from a very adequate and enjoyable Speed Metal sound into a high-octane, unleashed Heavy Metal monster with claws and fangs and a fucking machine gun over its shoulder. Others like Savatage evolved slowly, taking a few albums to really get the sound down pat, and even trudging through a miniature dark age before reaching salvation. And then we have the last category, and if you kids can guess which option Freedom Call chose with this mindfucked aberration of an album...well, you would have just proven that you do indeed have a functioning brain. So, strap in and join me for a festival of destruction and defecation on the face of musical creativity like few others you will ever see, as we enter the horrific realms of the magical faggotry that is Freedom Call's The Circle of Life..

Before you even turn the music on, you'll catch the first thing wrong with this. Most of the song titles are stolen from other bands. Yes, witness the awe-inspiring thought and creativity that went into song titles like "Hero Nation," "Starlight," "Starchild" and "Kings and Queens," all of which had been used by other bands before as either an album title or a song title (Metalium, Helloween, Wintersun and Axel Rudi Pell, for the uninitiated). They also used "Carry On," which was not only used by Stratovarius the same year this came out, but also by both Manowar and Angra in the past, not to mention the countless other bands that have named songs that. I could understand if this were going to be some kind of tribute to the bands from which they've ripped off here, but I can't find any inclination to believe that's what this is. No, I think I can be reasonably sure Freedom Call were just out of ideas and had to resort to ripping off everything in sight. I mean, sure, they're just song titles, but you cannot tell me there weren't other things they could've called their songs. This is beyond ridiculous. And that's not even the worst of it, either, as the band actually had the balls to name a song "Hunting High and Low," just like the awesome Stratovarius song that came out a few years before this. How fucking low can you go, seriously? The chorus melody even sounds similar. Even more astounding, I actually think this is the best song on the album, which is pretty sad.

Otherwise, just marvel at how frighteningly bland everything on this album is. Every chorus just leaves your head right away, and while sometimes it kind of sounds like the old Freedom Call, a lot of this is just fucking weird. They're not quite as off-the-wall as they would be in the band's next horrible rape of the senses, but it's still pretty worthy of a good head scratching. Just look at "Starlight," for instance, and "The Rhythm of Life," with their poppy nature and complete lack of hooks, and then compare them to the complete lack of hooks on opener "Mother Earth" and "Hero Nation," which are more progressive sounding songs that offer more proof of what happens when a band just stops giving a crap. "Hero Nation" actually has a chorus that shows potential, but it's ruined by terrible vomit-inducing chug riffs in between; seriously, what? These songs are so transparent that I'd be surprised if Casper the Friendly Ghost gave them the time of day. The "hooks" seriously just leave your head as quickly as they came, and these songs are as insipid and bland as they come, completely devoid of anything resembling entertainment, completely lacking of anything that would provoke positive enjoyment.

Okay, so "High Enough" is actually pretty interesting, although it does go on a bit too long and it is kind of standard and passable (or it would be on a better Freedom Call album). "Starchild" and "Eternal Flame" are listenable, but I think the problem with this is that the band just sounds so restrained here, like they're not giving it their all. The choruses on here sound like the verses on their previous albums, and I think a lot of the verses there would make better choruses than the ones on this album, on second thought. They were clearly shooting for a more modern and progressive sound here, but either they didn't want to step on anybody's toes or they just don't have the skill necessary to progress in such a manner in the first place. But hey, maybe it isn't so bad. I mean, sure, a lot of these songs are bad, but they aren't horrible...maybe there's some way I can find a...compromise...between these...oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know this album suddenly had turned into one of those beach soundtracks or whatever.

Yes, the title track, I knew I was forgetting something! This song is really only good if you want your favorite Power Metal bands to sound like lame 80s new wave ballads, with some of the worst lyrics I've ever read out of Freedom Call, which is saying quite a lot. So the album ends on a real lowlight, and what are we left with after the credits roll? Nothing good, that's for sure. The Circle of Life is one of those albums that would sound okay if it was hypothetically the only music you had ever heard, but honestly, the only other way this album could possibly be misconstrued as being worth anything is if you are related to one of the band members. This album sucks; one listen to Eternity will help discern that. Stand up for yourself, people, and demand more from your music than "adequacy" or "knowing how to play their instruments." Yes, this isn't unlistenable, but it is pretty much everything short of being that, and if you're seriously going to sit here and tell me this isn't as bad as my score says, then I recommend you raise your standards.

Freedom Call can, or SHOULD be able to do better than this sing-songy, watered down bullshit, but judging by the one that came after this, they can't anymore, and I'm putting my foot down right here. Avoid this with every inch of you.