Freedom Call - M.E.T.A.L. - (9/10)
Published on August 11, 2019
I run the risk of this review becoming over-zealous because I absolutely fucking adore this band. I really can’t quite explain why, but their combination of ultra-bright saccharine melodies, fantasy-based imagery, goofy sense of humour and occasional heaviness just hits me right in my musical G-spot. As a result, no other band can make me smile half as much as Freedom Call. Twenty years on from their phenomenal debut Stairway To Fairyland (which remains one of my top 5 albums of all time), the German power metallers have reached album number 10 – an admirable feat for any act of this particular sub-genre. So what do they decide to title such a landmark record? M.E.T.A.L. … It’s safe to say I facepalmed with loving affection. It’s just the kind of ridiculous, cheesy shit this quartet are more than happy to pull off. Does it stand for anything? Does it reflect a change in musical style? Who fucking cares?! Just enjoy the corniness and don’t take Freedom Call too seriously!
I may have done the band a disservice by saying that because, when it comes down to it, Chris Bay and co. are capable of churning out some seriously balls-to-the-wall melodic power metal chock full of urgency and attitude. This new record definitely showcases their more Helloween-influenced side, containing 6 tracks of galloping German speed metal laden with luscious melodies and unforgettable choruses. The others range from fist-pumping rockers (“Sole Survivor”) through jaunty singalongs (“One Step Into Wonderland”) right down to Def Leppard stadium rock tempos (the title-track). Whatever shape the songs take, this is still unmistakably Freedom Call.
The Germans simply cannot shake their identifying factors. Chris Bay’s warm, soothing voice, for one, remains charming, charismatic and healthy. He belts out choruses with oodles of impact throughout. Lars Rettkowitz’s trademark vibrato lead guitar has become every bit a part of the band’s sound as Bay and his adding more input into the songwriting process has only benefited the band. I was incredibly upset to learn of the parting from original bassist Ilker Ersin and drummer extraordinaire Ramy Ali but thankfully, both Francesco Ferraro and Tim Breideband slot into place perfectly, and I’m sure their unique personalities will shine through in time. The synths, symphonics and other keyboard effects are sprinkled heavily across M.E.T.A.L. adding that all-important extra dimension to the music and frequently taking the spotlight to provide the main melody – such as on the bouncy “Sail Away”.
“Sail Away” is one of the more atypical cuts on the disc. Despite being rhythmically reminiscent of “Land Of Light” or “Tears Of Babylon”, it is far more poignant in melody and the choral vocals are laid on thickly to great effect. Preceding that, there’s “Ace Of The Unicorn” (what the shit does that mean?!) – another unconventional song by FC standards, despite having a typically sugary-sweet refrain and a musical reference to the band’s title-song in the middle section (can’t slip that one by me!). Speaking of ‘unconventional’: the title-track is basically a Manowar song – a martial anthem with some of the worst (and therefore best) lyrics to come from these guys. My only complaint is that this should’ve been the last song on the album. In fact, the one singular gripe I have with this record is the track order. The speedier numbers in the latter half could’ve been divided up more evenly, and the title-track should definitely be the finale. Thankfully, the flowery opener, “111”, which leads straight into the non-stop rapid-fire “Spirit Of Daedalus”, was the perfect way for FC to re-establish themselves.
Other breakneck speed numbers include the more typical “Wheel Of Time” and “Days Of Glory” which hearken right back to the days of Eternity and Crystal Empire. There’s the riff-heavy “Fly With Us” which really puts the pedal to the m.e.t.a.l. (hehe) in places, and has a chorus that soars. Then there’s the blazing “Ronin” (as far as I can tell, it’s not about the film) which contains the best chorus on the album for sure. I guess another minor fault would be the lack of heavy riffs on this record. “Wheel Of Time”, “Fly With Us” and “Sail Away” succeed in that respect, but the chugging heft that I know this band are capable of is definitely absent – a shame, considering the production quality is the beefiest they’ve managed in years – perhaps ever. Insignificant grievances aside, M.E.T.A.L stands up among the best of Freedom Call’s varied discography and among the best for power metal in 2019 in general. The fat has been trimmed since the last full-length, resulting in an all-round superb power metal record that should satisfy all fans of the genre. Well done, lads, I am a very happy Larry.