Freedom Call – Embrace the Silver Romance

Sunday, 5th May 2024

Photo: Patrick Eiserbeck

Entering the silver anniversary as a group, Freedom Call strives to maintain a level of power metal consistency that will continue with their latest record Silver Romance. The quality of positive, uplifting vocal melodies next to speedier riffing and engaging tempos allows their followers to escape into this fantasy, magical realm – singing along to the fervent material. We reached out to guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist Chris Bay via Skype to discuss how this record process because of the pandemic differed in many ways from previous discography, the return of drummer Ramy Ali to the group, leaning on second guitarist Lars Rettkowitz for production skills this time around, thoughts on the power metal scene, their own ‘happy metal’ tag, a key moment in the 2010s that established Freedom Call as being their own entity, and touring plans which hopefully include a return stateside appearance.

Dead Rhetoric: Silver Romance is the 11th studio album for Freedom Call. What can you tell us about the development of this material and how the recording process went this time around? Did the lengthy break from live shows due to the pandemic allow you to dig deeper into the finer details more than previous albums?

Chris Bay: Oh yeah, definitely. First, I have to say, I got interrupted with touring for the previous album, the M.E.T.A.L. record. There were some shows left that we couldn’t play because of the pandemic, territories like South Asia, we had shows in Tokyo, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand that were not possible. We had a short break, like every one of us. The restart was quite difficult to me. I’m usually used to moving stones from one point to the next point, touring, organizing things around touring, and everything was over.

The songwriting process took a while. Re-arranging songs, composing songs, we pulled ourselves together and said let’s start going to the studio. We entered the studio to record the drums in 2023, and then it was running unexpectedly quick. We went faster and faster, and now we can present our new baby, our new masterpiece the Silver Romance.

Dead Rhetoric: How did it feel to have Ramy back in the studio with the band – I know he spent a few years away from Freedom Call?

Bay: You can see that he had a short break, he got two new members in his family, two babies. He got married and then built up his house, it was more like a short break. It feels amazing, because we are not just band buddies but friends spending time on the private side of things. It feels like a brotherhood that is still there.

Dead Rhetoric: The songwriting this time was spread out between yourself, Lars, and Rami – and you also encouraged Lars to take on mixing duties. What do you believe you achieved as a result of this fresh outlook that was beneficial to the final outcome?

Bay: That was the plan. It was not the reason we weren’t happy about the work and the result of the previous albums. It was the idea that we wanted to do something a little different. We didn’t have a topic regarding the concept of sound or the arrangement of the new album – we just did it. Lars is an amazing studio technician, a very good producer as well. The cooperation between Lars, myself, and Rami – I think it was worth it to try out in a different style. We will see if this will continue for the way in the future.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released three videos/singles to date for the record. How much of a challenge is it to decide what you want to premiere first to preview these records – and what are your thoughts on the appeal of video in the social media / internet platforms versus the visual medium importance during the MTV age?

Bay: Oh yeah, I very much agree that this is a hard decision – especially for the artist. To decide which songs would be the best to make for the first videos. It’s the first impression for the listeners, for fans and friends. It was a decision in between the record label and the band. The first two singles, we want to present two typical Freedom Call songs – and the response from the people has been incredible. A lot of messages were like, ‘yeah – Freedom Call is back! This is fresh, the early style came back with these fantasy topics.’ I think it was a good decision, and it’s a nice preview to the new album.

Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to the lyrical content, being a part of the band since the beginning, is it a challenge to come up with fresh topics or new ways of expressing yourselves?

Bay: Yes. I’m careful with brand new topics or new directions. It’s not only about the lyrical side, it’s also about the musical side because you are always criticized about always doing the same shit, it would be nice if you change a little bit the direction of Freedom Call. And I’m totally convinced to say – no. Freedom Call is Freedom Call – and if you are longing to listen to different music, then listen to a different band. Where there is Freedom Call written on it, there is Freedom Call in it. What we are doing is just being honest and being authentic. It could be the reason why you are repeating (yourself) over the last twenty-five years in your arrangements, your compositions. Listening to AC/DC, listening to Motörhead, they are all doing the same things, and they are authentic and still go over well with the fans.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you assess the development of Freedom Call over the years? Are there specific albums or touring/festival appearances where you knew you were making an impact with your music and elevating yourselves to a bigger, wider fan base?

Bay: One of the most important turning points of Freedom Call that took place, I remember building up this band with a former member of Gamma Ray, Dan Zimmermann. That was always a conflict of interest between Freedom Call and Gamma Ray, but we didn’t have any troubles. Around 2010-11, we toured with Gamma Ray, and it was only performing with Gamma Ray that we had a stand in drummer. Then Dan left the band, and it was an important point because we were freer and always chained with Gamma Ray or the side project of Dan Zimmermann. This moment, the album Legend of the Shadowking, and the next one Land of the Crimson Dawn, we really learned to stay on our own feet and go on our own way. We were underlining at that point that Freedom Call is doing happy metal music.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the term ‘happy metal’ that’s been coined by the band themselves since your inception? Do you feel you’ve gotten your fair share of praise as well as criticism because of this, and how do you handle it?

Bay: Firstly, I have to say I’m feeling very happy about it! (laughs). It’s not just a creation, or a calculation, or finding a new brand of metal music because we are not the first that invented the wheel again. We are a happy band, we are writing happy melodies, cheesy lyrics, singalong songs like this, and a lot of friends and fans appreciate this. Especially with the situation in the world, I think there are a lot of reasons to be in a bad mood, what you can find in your life that will boost your mood, makes you happy, is appreciated. I agree in the heavy metal scene, not all the people think this way. For the true metal people, don’t smile, never laugh about this, just wear black shirts. We do not take ourselves too seriously about that. We take care of our music, that’s a very important part of our lives.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of heavy metal on a global scale currently? Are there specific things that please you – and what needs to be improved upon (if anything) to make things better?

Bay: Heavy metal, especially this power metal scene, is really underground music. This is the reason why it makes it worthwhile to support it and follow it, because you do not have all these radio/mainstream fans. The fans really go to the concerts, they go to the festivals, they are buying physical CD’s, vinyl, and things. It’s more of an honest business than the pop business. It was and will be an underground business for the foreseeable future.

Dead Rhetoric: Even within your home country of Germany and parts of South America, do you believe power metal is still mainly an underground support movement?

Bay: It’s an underground scene, but in Europe, especially Germany, that’s a very good territory for metal. Also in Scandinavia, Finland, Sweden – they are very good for power metal, and the Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, they are celebrating power metal. There are good territories to survive as a happy metal, power metal band in Europe.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel being a part of the Steamhammer roster since the very beginning? What do you enjoy most about the label and their approach with Freedom Call?

Bay: Oh yeah. I’m more an artist than I’m a very hard businessman. It’s much more important to me that I’m feeling safe, that I’m feeling well supported over the years. Steamhammer and SPV, there’s a lot of friendship over the twenty-five years. I’m calling it emotional intelligence, or an emotional business. It’s not only to just make money, it’s also that you have a good atmosphere in your business so that both sides are very fair and you always are feeling that you are working like a team.

Dead Rhetoric: What hobbies, interests, and passions do you like to pursue away from music when you have the free time and energy to do so?

Bay: I like to do some sports. From my childhood on, I am living in a beautiful area here in Germany where we have a lot of hills, forests. I have two mountain bikes in my garage that are getting destroyed from time to time. I like to run, and that’s it. Music is not just our business or a job to work on it, it’s a passion and a 24/7 thing. I go to sleep with music in my mind, waking up in the morning and I have some melodies, beats, or music in my mind.

Dead Rhetoric: Now that you are in your mid-50s, is there anything you would change about your approach and attitude when it comes to your career during your twenties and thirties – either personally or professionally?

Bay: That must be the wrong information as I’m twenty-one! (laughs). Every one of us who looks back in life, you can find some periods or some decisions you never would repeat or do again. You have to live with it because you can’t change it anymore, it’s done. I don’t think I would try to work a 9 to 5 job. I would go the same way, being a musician it’s a really nice job. I think I would miss a lot so no; I wouldn’t want to change anything.

Dead Rhetoric: How fortunate do you feel having family members with great singing abilities like your grandfather and mother to draw from when it came to your vocal abilities? Were there specific things they taught you that you apply to your delivery and technique today?

Bay: Yes. They were guilty that I decided to become a rock musician. It was the side of my mother’s family. It was never a big theme to talk about this, singing together around the Christmas tree or the classic things. It was growing quite early, when I was six or seven years old, I was longing to play the guitar – it was not my parents wish. It was my personal decision, and fortunately I got the right influences from my grandfather, the opera singer and from my mother – she supported me a lot. My father was an engineer, and he would ask me three times a day, ‘hey Chris – when are you going to start to study science?’. I said no, I want to become a rock star – and he was not happy.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the schedule for anything related to Freedom Call over the next twelve months to support the new record?

Bay: Firstly, our tour will start quite soon in May, the Silver Romantic Metal Nights. I’m a busy bee, working in the studio and preparing a lot of stuff, things to organize around the tour, travel. It will take the entire year through 2024, and we will continue in 2025. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to come to the United States again. It’s a long time (since) we were at the ProgPower Festival in Atlanta. I am working on some more solo stuff during the pandemic, because I had a lot of time. But first, Freedom Call has 100% priority, and when there is some time left and I am in the right mood, maybe I can continue with my second solo album.

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