Album Review: FREEDOM CALL Beyond
Power metal is, by far, the most ignored heavy metal sub-genre in the United States. Even nu-metal has-beens like Korn boast a larger fan base than power titans like Blind Guardian and Sabaton. Occasionally power metal bands will find a large audience here in the States, but examples are few and far between. The last power metal band to gain notable exposure was DragonForce in the late aughts, but their success was due in large part to the inclusion of the song "Through the Fire and Flames" in the video game Guitar Hero III. It's a shame the style doesn't get more respect or attention because metal fans are missing out on a lot of good releases like Freedom Call's new album Beyond.
2014 marks Freedom Call's 15th year as a band, and Beyond is a suitable commemoration of that milestone. Since their first album, Stairway To Fairyland, was released back in 1999, Freedom Call have consistently released album after album of fun, hyper-melodic power metal that's only gotten better with time, and Beyond may be the band's best album yet. These Germans may not be the most creative or adventurous power metal band out there, but they're definitely one of the most enjoyable. Unless you're a total sourpuss, it's impossible to listen to this album without feeling the urge to smile (or battle a dragon while soaring on the wings of an eagle).
Beyond opens with the trifecta of "Union of the Strong," "Knights of Taragon," and "Heart of a Warrior," all of which showcase the band's flair for writing catchy, melodic hooks and Chris Bay's emotive vocal work. After this initial volley, the band keep the energy up with giant anthems like "Edge of the Ocean" and "Paladin." The lyrics on Beyond are somewhat nonsensical and goofy, but that's been the band's MO since day one. It's easy enough to ignore that songs about eternal flames, ghosts in the sky, and the rhythm of light don't really make sense when you're raising your fist to the sky and banging your head.
Beyond isn't perfect, though. At 60 minutes in length, the repetitive nature of the songs make it difficult to absorb the album in one continuous listening session. The band offer some variety in the form of the slow burning "Beyond" and the Celtic bounce of "Dance Off the Devil," but it's not enough to break the monotony of non-stop 16th note chugging and soaring keys. Tracks like "Come on Home" and "Colours of Freedom" could have easily been excised without damaging the cohesiveness of the album at all. In fact, the biggest improvement to be made on Beyond would be streamlining it by trimming off some of the fat.
Despite the mammoth running time and rote formula the songs lapse into occasionally, Beyond is still an entertaining record for fans of triumphant metal. This is an album best experienced blasting through car speakers with the windows rolled down on the way to meet your friends for beers and good times. Beyond is out now on Steamhammer Records. Watch the band's official video for "Union if the Strong" below.