Freedom Call – Land Of The Crimson Dawn
Cheese. It comes in many flavors, including the standards like cheddar, Swiss, and mozzarella, but one of my favorite types is a rather unique one. Created in Germany in the late 1990’s, Freedom Call is about as cheesy as a power metal band can get, but that’s also a big part of their appeal, as their grand and epic choruses are some of the very best in the genre. In my opinion, their speedier songs are about as fun as music can get. Their career highlight came in 2002 with Eternity, where everything the band stands for was on full display. It showed a band who clearly knew what they exceled at, playing at full energy and delivering one epic moment after another. Sadly, the band has failed to even do anything remotely comparable in recent years. Between the more forced attempts of Dimensions (where some songs are so overdone they become cheesy in the worst possible way), and the sudden change to a darker, more hard rock influenced sound on Legend Of The Shadowking, it seems the cheese has been poisoned lately. Could they fix things with their latest effort? Actually, yes.
This time around, the band has come the closest they ever have to matching their all time best, with the right mix of their typical speedy anthems and the experimentation they’ve done on recent albums. Only this time, most of the experiments actually work out, so there’s nothing as painfully stupid as “Under The Spell Of The Moon” or whatever that last song on the last album was called (it’s so awful I just blocked the name out of my memory). Perhaps my only major complaint is that the band seems to have a bit of an identity crisis at this point in two different ways. First of all, their lyrical themes often disagree with the music they’re playing (just look at the lyrics to “Rockstars” before listening to it and tell me you expect to hear something that bombastic, with epic choir vocals and everything). The other item has to with the actual sound, and that’s that I can’t seem to tell what musical direction the band wants to take at this point. In some ways this is exactly the return to form I was hoping for, then something like “Killer Gear” comes on, and I’m like “How the heck did something like this get on the album?” Basically, it seems like the band is unsure if they want to fully return to their glory days, or just move on.
Anyway, as far as the songs go, things get off to quite the impressive start, with “Age Of The Phoenix” kicking things off exactly how I was hoping it would. This is a fast and fun anthem of a chorus that easily would have fit on the aforementioned Eternity. “Rockstars” (despite the terrible name and equally nonsensical lyrics) follows suit, while “Crimson Dawn” is mostly similar, but introduces some harsh vocals in the middle, which somehow seem to fit in alright. The album just keeps on getting better with “66 Warriors” and especially “Back To The Land of Light”, but at this point I had to remind myself that five songs into the previous album, I couldn’t have been any happier, so I wasn’t getting my hopes up just yet, in case another disaster was about to occur.
Well, things certainly take a turn for the weird with “Sun In The Dark”, which starts off with some odd sounding chugging riffs before Chris Bay does his best James Labrie impersonation, making me think for sure the album was about to go downhill. Luckily however, the chorus ended up saving the song on first listen (I eventually grew to like the whole thing, though it does feel out of place, and fits into my whole concern about an identity crisis). But if you want something just plain silly, look no further than “Hero On Video”, probably their most accessible song ever. This song has a very strong pop feel to it, along with some ridiculously cheesy lyrics and a hilarious hook (it involves a constant repetition “bang bang”). At first I thought the song was terrible, but after a while I grew to appreciate the extreme level of cheesiness it reaches, and it became one of my favorites.
The second half of the album is a bit weaker on the whole, mostly because the two weak links of the album can be found right next to each other: “Killer Gear” isn’t a bad song, (though that chorus is really strange) but it has some more of the harsh vocals that don’t seem to work this time, while “Rockin’ Radio” just plain embarrassing. I was already cringing when I heard a cheap voiceover of a fake radio host going on about something or other, and then the song just getting worse until I heard one of the most irritating hook lines ever: a goofy voice saying “We don’t play rap or hip-hop, we play rock n’ roll! (later replacing “hip-hop” with “techno”, for an even more annoying line). Musically, the song isn’t any better, as it’s fairly lame and generic.
That one song is so bad that it initially made me forget that 12 of the 14 songs here range from very good to completely unforgettable as far as this style of insanely fun and cheesy power metal goes. I was so distracted at first that I couldn’t remember some of the second half highlights, like “Valley Of Kingdom”, the stupidly named but quite energetic “Space Legends”, and the ridiculously fun and catchy closing number, “Power & Glory”.
So in the end, the cheese has mostly been purified again, and while at times the album is unfocused (and happens to have easily the worst Freedom Call song ever), for the most part Land Of The Crimson Dawn represents the exciting return to form I was hoping for. It proves that the band isn’t finished just yet. Now if only they would cut back a bit on the experimentation.
Travis Green’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5