Freedom Call – Crystal Empire
Stairway To Fairyland introduced Freedom Call as princes in Gamma Ray’s service. On their sophomore effort, the band returns as kings of the Crystal Empire. The transfer from imitation to innovation has been made, and the trumpets triumphantly hail the arrival of a band fully formed.
Crystal Empire is not only an improvement in establishing the unique Freedom Call sound – happy power metal at is happiest – it’s also a boost in confidence. Chris Bay and his cohorts have broken out of their shell and the shadow of their compatriots. “Freedom Call” is a self-referencing statement the Germans have carved out their place in the power metal spectrum. The cry of barren souls will forever resound in the hearts of the fans. A hymn for the ages and a staple of any future live set.
On the similarly rousing “Rise Up”, the source of the band’s power is again apparent, what with the surging chorus and the echo of Kai Hansen’s voice. Vocally, Freedom Call has made a huge step forward. Bay’s leads and all of its backing is performed at no less than an expert level. “The Quest” features a bridge that could have been pasted in from Land Of The Free, but the refrain is pure, unadulterated Freedom Call. “The Quest” is slow, mesmerizing, and with a nod to “the eyes of the world”, another of which can be found on the song’s twin brother “Heart Of The Rainbow”.
These two sides of Freedom Call’s coin are equally at play. Heads are the frivolous adventures of “Farewell”, wild throughout, “Call To Fame”, gallivanting through wonderland, and “Palace Of Fantasy”, an ecstatic visit to the titular place. The vocal layering on that last track would make modern Theocracy jealous. Tails are the less direct but more intuitive tracks, including the plodding grandiosity of “Pharaoh”, the gentle breeze of the “Ocean”, and the last hurrah of “The Wanderer”.
The Crystal Empire is in perfect balance, where its predecessor was occasionally close to repeating itself and losing the listener’s focus. Then again, it was merely the Stairway To Fairyland and now Freedom Call has ascended. Next step: Eternity.
4.25 // 5