Freedom Call - Land of the Crimson Dawn (SPV/Steamhammer)

Chris Bay and Co are messing with Ferrum Templor's head!
Release Date: 
26 Jan 2012 (All day)

Stoic German power metallers Freedom Call certainly never give up, Despite being seemingly doomed for all eternity to dwell in the bottom half of the second division of Teutonic power metal acts, they stick to their task, releasing albums year in year out whoever is interested or not.

It wasn’t ever thus; a fourteen year old Templor saw this band at one of the early Bloodstock festivals around the time of 2002’s Eternity album, when they chewed up and spat out the disinterested crowd with a sparkling set of melodic power metal that was a joy to the still wet ears of this young headbanger. But since then they don’t seem to have been able to make any headway, and …Crimson Dawn, the bands ninth album, seems to underline that feeling.

Singer/guitarist Chris Bay is still at the heart of all that’s good about this band, but when he’s singing the utterly awful Rockstars you find yourself wishing he wasn’t. Elsewhere the likes of Crimson Dawn and Age of the Phoenix sound half realized, perhaps victims of the band’s decision to opt for a less opulent sound production-wise this time around – or perhaps they just aren’t very good songs. At this point I’m more tempted to think it’s the production letting things down, because 66 Warriors is restoring my faith in the band, such is it’s gonzoid Manowar-style charm. But even this song sounds half finished by Freedom Call standards, and it takes the gloriously parping Back Into the Land of the Light to restore some faith. This – despite the dodgy production – is what the kids want from this band. Catchy in excelsis, it bears all the hallmarks of classic FC, and Bay puts in a fantastic performance on this one. It’s the first point on the album that’s genuinely exciting to listen to, and banished any ‘shall I turn this off and go and listen to something else’ thoughts just as they seem to be filling your brain to the exception of anything else. Featuring a spine-tingling guitar coda you’ll be whistling for months to come it is, quite frankly, the dogs’.

Sun in the Dark is nowhere as good a song, but it’s straightforward nature means it doesn’t suffer as much from the stripped down production so you’ll find yourself actually rather enjoying it. Hero on Video is the sort of power metal-meets-80s-synth-pop nonsense that this band always does so well, but Bay’s thunder has somewhat been nicked in this field and done better by Tobi Sammet, so the effect this song has on you seems to be slightly diluted for some reason. Valley of Kingdom (sic) overcomes all to actually join …Land of the Light in the classics department, it being a glorious synthesis of vocals, keyboards, guitar and drums that really does hark back in good style to the days of Eternity.

Killer Gear is not something I really want to hear again, and neither is the facile Rockin’ Radio, a song that really should never have made it out of Chris Bay’s head, let alone onto an album bearing the Freedom Call name. Utterly awful, embarrassing nonsense.

Terra Liberty digs the band out of the hole it’s found itself in, a grungy piece of heavy metal that fuses pomp and muscle excitingly and leaves you wondering what the eight minutes previous to this track were doing on the record. Still life is all about tests, isn’t it? And this record certainly seems to have been constructed to test the patience of all but the most fervent FC fans. Eternity is similarly top drawer, slowing the pace a little and easing off on the double kick mayhem without sacrificing any power, and Bay puts in his best vocal performance of the album thus far. By now, my head is swimming listening to this record – it’s definitely very good in parts yet with enough faux pas to have you tearing out your hair far more regularly than is good for the scalp – should a record cause this much joy and consternation? I really don’t think it should.