Freedom Call is a band that has been under a lot of scrutiny in the metal world for a while given the previous few albums, especially thanks to the bloodshed that was the rather poor reception of the previous album, Dimensions. Well, it seems that the band got up and dusted themselves off for another go with their follow-up album, Legend of the Shadowking, their sixth studio full-length to date. It seems this time the band is going for a slightly different direction musically, however, by incorporating a bit of an old-school Heavy Metal feel, and some Hard Rock to the mix to create an album that, at times, is highly enjoyable, yet still has its share of generic and rather bland tracks.
Legend of the Shadowking is an album that is deeply rooted in the often reoccurring ideals of aggravating consistency, and the lacking thereof. This release features some great material, some of which the fans haven’t heard in ages from the band, such as the starting track “Out of the Ruins.” This song is the definition of Freedom Call and really will get the blood of Power Metal fans pumping with great guitar riffs that create a cascade of well composed Power Metal some may consider fantasticalcheese metal. However, the next track, “Thunder God,” is when things will start to become confusing, and the band seems to transform into an early Heavy Metal/Hard Rock act while striving to perform the song as if Meat Loaf had crossed this style’s threshold, then goes right back into the Power Metal expected from the band as soon as “Tears of Babylon” kicks in. But, “Thunder God” really isn’t the only time this happens. While the band does incorporate some synthesizer usage throughout the album, it doesn’t really become as painfully misplaced as it does during “Kingdom of Madness”, which is another track that finds the band trying to incorporate a Hard Rock feel sans-Meat Loaf vocals until the end. Instead, it seems Freedom Call actually tries to blend in a Glam Rock/Metal sound to their music, even incorporating an odd echo to the vocals that is low enough just to be heard and sound different from the rest of the album.
Aside the obviously out-of-place and more experimental tracks like “Thunder God”, there is just a good amount of uninspired and bland cuts that this album sports. Legend of the Shadowking features fourteen tracks in length, with “Ludwig II – Prologue” being merely a spoken word segment, leaving thirteen tracks of actual Metal to listen to, which poses plenty of filler opportunities. “Merlin – Legend of the Past” is the first example of this, being a rather generic Power Metal song that fans of the style will sit back and argue they have heard before somewhere (an issue that happened to me but cannot place a specific reference), as if the band ripped someone else off with only the lyrics being changed, which aren’t even too impressive either. It seems to be that every other track on this release acts as filler, and some times really just disrupts the flow when it feels out-of-place. The only track that kind of breaks this concept is “Dark Obsession”, which isn’t that bad a song, but really seems to incorporate more of a Gothic Rock vibe. The female operatic vocals in the background of this song, however, are a nice touch that suits it well, but only seems to prove the more Gothic aspect, pushing for a Hard Rock ballad interpretation of the atmosphere you’d find in a Cradle of Filth album, which carries over to the introduction on “The Darkness”, an enjoyable song with a rather simplistic approach to the music.
But, even with all that said, this doesn’t mean that every other track on this release is horrible. Some songs do feel out-of-place, but the only songs here that will really leave you wanting more from the band are “Merlin – Legend of the Past”, and “Dark Obsession”, as these tracks are all just rather generic and often predictable. “Under the Spell of the Moon” comes close to being another generic filler track, but there’s a little more substance to it to make it a song you will hear once and never want to visit again. “The Shadowking” could use a little more attention as well. The song itself is not too bad, but there’s just nothing all that exciting to make the listener revisit it, being just a slower paced track with generic guitars, drums, and vocals that really don’t do much. Finally, “Kingdom of Madness”, as mentioned earlier, is definitely not one of the band’s more enjoyable performances, and is just doesn’t fit with the rest of the release. The same with “A Perfect Day,” which has horrible vocal distortion and often sounds like it was inspired by psychadelic sixties music that you would expect to hear on the beach somewhere.
When you break it down, there’s still a good amount of filler tracks, but at the same time this album has some fantastic Power Metal that fans of Freedom Call are going to simply eat up. If you can look past the ones that really add no value to the album, or could skip them in some way, then there’s still a good amount of material that makes up a full-length. Unfortunately, with these additional tracks in place, Legend of the Shadowking becomes more of an endurance test after a while, and will leave you lurching forward to the better tracks after your second time through the album, if not your first. If you happen to get the chance to sample this release, it’s worth hearing some of the better songs, such as “Out of the Ruins”, which is just a very strong Power Metal track that encompasses exactly what makes this style of music great, as well as “Tears of Babylon” and “Resurrection Day”, both of which are very infectious cuts that will be stuck in your head for a good while. Legend of the Shadowking is clearly a better work than Freedom Call‘s last effort, which is a good sign, but there is more work to be done before Freedom Call can reach the level of praise they once had.