Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Album Review: Freedom Call - Master Of Light

As the year winds down, we can now assess the trends of how music has unfolded. One of the easiest for me to see is that this was a terrible year for power metal. In fact, the only album I can think of from the style that has made a dent with me is Avantasia's "Ghostlights", and I think it's safe to say that they have branched out well beyond the confines of the genre by now. That leaves us in the position of wondering if power metal is in its second death spiral. There was one after the Helloweens of the world ended their glory days, and it didn't come back into vogue until Hammerfall and Edguy really broke through. Freedom Call has been chugging along this whole time, making bright and uplifting music, but can they prop up an entire year of disappointment?

The album gets off to a rocky start with "Metal Is For Everyone", which continues the long-established trend of songs written about metal being awful. I keep saying this, but it doesn't seem to sink in; if you have to talk about how great metal is, or how metal you are, you're trying to convince of something that isn't true. It's a terrible lyrical conceit, and the song itself isn't any better. It uses the cliches of metal in place of better writing, and it comes off sounding cheesy, and not in the tongue-in-cheek sort of fun way.

Things get better when Freedom Call remembers what made them an enjoyable band in the past. When they stick with making positive, cheery metal lush with sing-along choruses, they shine. Their shorter, snappier numbers are still exactly what you would expect, but in the good way. When you put on a power metal album, you want to hear some speedy, happy music with big melodies. Freedom Call can deliver that, when they aren't trying to do something more grand. The pluralized title track is an example of what I'm talking about. It takes an extra minute or two, and tries to be a dramatic epic, but there isn't any immediacy to the track, and it feels a bit subdued, which is the opposite of what they wanted to achieve.

I get that after as many albums as Freedom Call have made, there's a yearning to do something a little bit different and change up the routine. I totally respect that, but I think more often bands that take risks need to have some additional perspective and understand whether those new attempts have worked or not. In the case of Freedom Call, there is a path forward here that would have worked. When the band adds in orchestrations, those moments are dramatic, epic, and tend to elevate the songs. If they had decided to become more of a symphonic band, I think it could have given a fresh coat of paint to their music.

Look, there's nothing wrong with "Master Of Light", aside from the horrible cover art. They make solid power metal, and in a year where that has been in short supply, it's nice to hear a band that keeps doing what they do best. I'm not overly fond of the detours like "Ghost Ballet", but there's enough here to make a solid album. Freedom Call has always been solid, and they are again here.

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