When it comes to the band Freedom Call, their releases have always been a hit or miss situation for fans of Power Metal. That is the case with the group’s last album, Legend of the Shadowking being a miss among a few others scattered about against solid, well rated releases. It’s been just over two years since that full-length effort hit store shelves, and the band is laying that to rest with their seventh entry, Land of the Crimson Dawn. There’s no denying this will feed into the cheesy side of Power Metal, similar to their previous releases, but does it prove to be more of a hit than the polar opposite this time around?
The audio quality really captures the more fantastical vibe of the music Freedom Call gives off. Listening to Land of the Crimson Dawn is like experiencing an album that was lost in the eighties, recently resurfacing for today’s fans, and it just brings a tear to your eye in most instances. The upbeat sound mixed with the slightly open, yet clearly digital and modern-day recording quality captures the uplifting spirit of the album perfectly. The guitars have a rather clean sound, though tuned down moderately low so they mesh nicely with the bass guitar performance. Some of the leads and solos that hit end up a little higher pitched though, and adds a bit of a bite to the already heavy material. The drums also come through pretty well with a nice subtle click to the bass kicks, tighter sounding snares that have a bit of an echo, and cymbals that have all the proper levels with nothing too overpowering, and none of this aspect of the kit, or even the snares themselves, feeling closer to one specific mic than another part is. The clean vocals have a nice range that goes into the higher pitched approach that can hit falsetto heights, though without much of a strong push behind them to really make much of an impact. There also are times you will find them go into deeper territories for the more grounded, Rock oriented tracks, or even approach a more guttural performance.
Land of the Crimson Dawn honestly doesn’t start off with its best foot forward though. “Age of the Phoenix” is far from a bad song, and it’s rather abrupt start works well to warn the listeners of the more aggressive touch it carries. The track’s faster pace and much richer chorus with additional bagpipes make for a solid listening experience. But, this isn’t the most accurate representation of the album, as what follows are often not as heavy, but still sound as vibrant, and often end up a lot more uplifting, or just generally fun as opposed to this slightly more serious cut. That part becomes obvious the second “Rockstars” kicks in. it brings the band’s head out of the fantastical clouds, and gives a much-needed and welcomed eighties cheesy worship sound to it with some Rock tendencies that can bring an immediate smile to your face. The upbeat sound and it’s faster pace just make this a pure delight to listen to. The additional harmonized vocals in the background of the chorus, and even the slower speed breakdown towards the end with gang chants really just fit the environment perfectly, capturing the best parts of both this style, and the Hard Rock experience at the aforementioned time to weave a song that feels more like a party track than anything, and atmosphere that grows more obvious the further in you get.
The same can be said for “Back into the Land of Light.” This track is just glorious eighties cheesy goodness from start to finish, and that’s what sets this sound apart from the rest of the serious material scattered about. The guitar riffs are just fantastic, especially the leads that really have a simpler vibe to them that builds a very uplifting sense to the song, and the keyboards that have a bit of a MIDI feel to them fit it all perfectly thanks to the atmosphere. These additions to various bridges, as well as the chorus, end up great ideas and open up the song more without introducing a corny final product that will turn a listener off or find him/her searching for the skip button. This is about the time the mood just completely shifts. While everything before “Back into the Land of Light” ranged between that environment and a more serious Power Metal sound, you get songs like “Sun in the Dark” that feels more like an eighties Rock song with a Metal edge to it, allowing it to be a little more accessible to those outside the Power Metal style, but so well done with a catchy enough chorus that you’ll instantly fall in love with it. The same goes for “Hero on Video,” far lighter in comparison to the previous song, but the richer sound and tighter performance with additional deeper clean vocals that are clearly intentionally funny make it all worthwhile. There’s also “Rockin’ Radio” that finds more of a NWOBHM influence similar to Judas Priest to the band’s Power Metal influenced Hard Rock sound and anthemic aggression. Much like “Rockstars,” you can tell these tracks, and many more, are meant to be light-hearted, and if you can’t grasp it, “Power + Glory” basically sums it up that this is all meant to be fun with lyrics declaring that tonight is the perfect time for a Metal party, sporting more Irish influenced music and matching celebratory atmosphere.
Aside the issue that no review can really convey just how fun this album is, the only complaint you can actually find in the album itself comes from a nerd aspect, and one many probably won’t pick up on, but is still worth mentioning. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, “Crimson Dawn” actually becomes pretty hard to listen to as far as the main verses go thanks to the song and animated video “Amazing Horse.” The structure and vocal performance are just too similar in some spots, causing images of that video to pop up in your mind if you’ve seen it, especially of the close-up with the horse itself giving it’s stupid smile. Of course this probably bares no direct influence on the track or the vocals at all and more than likely a sheer coincidence. The darker, serious moments of this track really does save it at times from this visual, especially the vocals that aim towards guttural but just don’t quite reach those depths, but have enough of a distorted backing to them to have them fit. Other than that, there’s the song “Killer Gear,” which is only faulted by how out-of-place it ends up being. The darker tone of the track is met with a more aggressive sound than “Age of the Phoenix.” The deeper, rougher vocal performances in the chorus fit the song perfectly, as well as the simpler chords met with a steady double bass approach that just hit you one kick after another without letting up of its mid-tempo flow. The intimidating atmosphere is met with a bit of a lighter melody thanks to the additional keyboards and softer clean singing, and even some Folk Metal sounding keys that appear here and there throughout. It’s a weird concoction, but in the end it all works out.
Honestly, Land of the Crimson Dawn is a superb album. This isn’t a release that you will consider one of the best Power Metal efforts to ever be releases, let alone for 2012, but it really does stand out. Freedom Call was clearly just having fun with this album, and not only does it show, but it also affects how you perceive and enjoy it. I can’t even remember the last time I had as much with a band’s latest effort as I did here. If you’re the kind of person who’s just looking for a good time musically, then do yourself a favor and pick up Land of the Crimson Dawn. Thevariety alone will keep you coming back, but throw in the overall fun atmosphere and you have a release you won’t be willing to put down anytime soon.