Freedom Call – Stairway To Fairyland
In the eyes of the world, Freedom Call lost most of its shine in the steady decline following Eternity. With the imminent release of comeback album Beyond, we at Black Wind thought it time to dive into the band’s tumultuous discography to track how we got there and back again (A Hobbit’s…oh, nevermind).
One glance at the cover art and album title and you’d think we’re dealing with the power metal version of My Little Pony here [Editor’s note: Don’t kid around, that’s a very real thing, you know…]. Freedom Call has always embraced a boyish naivety and boundless optimism prompting prejudices of “pussy metal” and what-not from bulky eighties old school sages who make up the majority of Manilla Road’s fanbase. If you’re looking for heaviness and riffs you’re at the wrong address, but if you’re searching for some great drumming and an upbeat attitude, look no further. This is more The Sound Of Music than Black Sabbath, and the hills are quite alive indeed.
Nevertheless, Freedom Call definitely is a product of heavy metal tradition. We know where Helloween came from, and from them came Gamma Ray. Freedom Call is the next link in the Teutonic power metal chain. It’s Kai Hansen light. Similar restless energy, a taste for the theatrical, and an overall joyous atmosphere. Big choirs chanting big things. Liberty and strength, “Freedom for us all!” A line both bands share, as they did their drummer Dan Zimmerman back then, as well as a song title: “Shine On”. Also, future Helloween guitarist Sascha Gerstner was there. The glorious unite indeed.
One element sets Freedom Call apart from the flock: the trumpets and what they represent. None of their songs should be without glorious victorious brass sections or stand-in celebratory instrumentation that lauds classic hymns like “We Are One” and – what’s in a name? – “Hymn Of The Brave”. The template may be Gamma Ray’s, but the interpretation is Freedom Call’s, and one they’d turn into their trademark one day.
“Over The Rainbow” starts as a song Kai Hansen could have penned or guested on, but Chris Bay’s own high-pitched vocals give the chorus its unique dimension. Bay may not be the most technical singer, but the man’s voice is instantly recognizable. On “Fairyland”, he’s smoother than a glass of Glenmorangie, whispering about oases of light like he has just eaten ALL the Skittles. Triumphant trumpets sound aplenty on “Tears Falling”, a song that’s about as tear-inducing as eating a sugar plum.
Freedom Call does briefly hit a melancholy note on “Shine On”, but only for about as long as the haunting lead. By the time you’ve found a handkerchief, a box of Kleenex, or an old (or recent) newspaper, the refrain rolls in like a horde of unicorns on skates. “Graceland” is the more stately neighboring country of “Fairyland”, with a chorus that’s a lot more sober. After this and the equally mid-paced and fair(i)ly unremarkable “Tears Of Taragon”, “Holy Knight” is a breath of fresh air. The main riff is pure Land Of The Free-worship, the chorus is FREEDOM and the spirit indomitable. One of my favorite Freedom Call-songs, and a trick I’d like to see them repeat. “Another Day” presents the final gallop of the horses, and finishes the race on a high.
Stairway To Fairyland is a power metal classic hands down. It’s clear where the band came from and where they wanted to go. From here it would only go upstairs, then downstairs and up again, but that’s a fairytale for another day.
4.0 // 5