Magnus Karlsson – Free Fall
Reviewed by Arno Callens.
If we did headlines at Black Wind Metal, I’d title this review “Magnus Karlsson’s Magnum Opus”. Not just because of the obvious wordplay, but because Free Fall is a testament to the prolific career of the Swedish guitar wizard. At the same time it’s very much its own thing, which goes to show you mister Karlsson should consider changing his name to Maximus instead (A Latin joke? Why, yes it is!).
Where to begin with an album that has no dud among its twelve tracks? Stylistically this falls somewhere in between the otherworldly melodicism of Last Tribe and the saccharine breeziness of Allen/Lande. Really, if this album is missing anything, it’s Jorn himself. Allen kicks off, though, in what is fast becoming power metal law. DGM and Timo Tolkki are just the first in a wave of many. “Free Fall” is oddly one of the record’s weaker ones, and the real meat comes with the Ralf Scheepers-headed “Higher”. Karlsson knows how to write for Scheepers since his ongoing stint in Primal Fear, and he brings out a softer side of the man. It always amazes me how versatile Scheepers really is when you take him out of Primal Fear context (see Shadow Gallery’s “Strong” and Dragony’s “Burning Skies” for some examples, and I always liked him in Gamma Ray as well).
Illustrious guests abound as we are treated to recent Masterplan-addition Rick Altzi on “Not My Saviour”, a catchier cut than you’ll sadly find on all of Novum Initium. Altzi really belongs more in the melodic heavy metal/AOR-world than anywhere else. David Readman (excellent on Adagio’s first two) turns up for “Us Against The World”, and Mark Boals (the man in the Iron Mask) lifts up the already uplifting “Our Time Has Come”. The real cherry on top of the mountain of cherries on top of the pie is the return of the much missed Rickard Bengtsson to Karlsson’s side. Power metal aficionados probably still mourn the passing of Last Tribe, but “Last Tribe” brings the magic back for one last time and even without the nostalgia, it’s still a cracking track. “Dreamers And Hunters” gives Cloudscape-voice Mike Andersson a display worthy of his talents and so we have a cast of guests any inhabitant of Avantasia or Avalon could and should be rightly jealous of.
But let’s not forget the man himself. Not only is Karlsson still as adept a songwriter and musician as ever, with luscious leads and catchy choruses up his sleeve to spare, he can sing a good bit as well. He takes to the mic on “Heading Out”, “Ready Or Not”, and “On Fire”, and in no way do these songs represent a dip in quality, which only earns the man more points than I already gave him credit for. For your summer fix of vibrant melodies, spirited performances and endless replay value, Free Fall is my recommendation, and a superb anthology of everything Magnus – oh to hell with it – Maximus Karlsson has done in a career worthy of remembrance. A solo album that doesn’t suck? Does Lance King know about this yet?
4.0 // 5