Freedom Call – Land of the Crimson Dawn (SPV Records)

Sunday, 24th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

German power metal has trademarks known far and wide to the international scene. Helloween may have upped the Iron Maiden gallop ante, but in their early years, Freedom Call were well known for their heart-pumping double bass, Chris Bay-led choir choruses and these keyboard parts that scream happiness… or Velvetta cheese depending on your outlook. Shedding their love for the pumpkin men (and early Angra) has been a slow transition, taking the accelerator off the tempos by 2002’s Eternity for a few songs and gradually incorporating more traditional metal oriented-sounds to balance out the conventional high octane tracks.

Land of the Crimson Dawn (their seventh album) represents their first studio experience without co-founder Dan Zimmermann (his Gamma Ray work consuming the majority of his musical time). Fret not Freedom Call aficionados, as Klaus Sperling (ex-Primal Fear, Nitrogods) comfortably helms the percussion duties without losing any power or groove sensibilities. At this point in their 13-year recording history, one may wonder if this quartet have any other new wrinkles to add to their style in the hopes of creativity and appeasement for themselves and their faithful followers.

Opener “Age of the Phoenix” bounds off your speakers with a slightly cultural/ electrical folk feel, the multi-part vocals and consistent churning guitar work not dissimilar to recent Gamma Ray offerings with Lars Rettkowitz bringing out all the tapping and speed skills in his soloing arsenal. The merry marching material continues on the epic “Crimson Dawn” – one of those mid-tempo arrangements where the vocals and keyboards volley against the guitars and drums as if you are watching a major theatrical production.

As you delve deeper into the 14 songs, you do discover Freedom Call are taking a somewhat simplified and more basic hard rock approach on “Hero On Video” as well as “Rockin’ Radio” which would be similar to Edguy, adding in a lot of Los Angeles 80’s influences which remind me of Autograph or Poison in their prime. The slick, over the top harmonies and ratio of keyboards to guitars may be adeal breaker to older Freedom Call fans, but I find the mixture gives your ears more variety (and showcases a looser side of their personalities to boot).

Proudly proclaiming their happy melodic metal stance, Freedom Call may not ascend the ranks of their immediate influences but have created a decent headlining club following through the years. Land of the Crimson Dawn should provide a few more songs for their fans to enjoy…and evoke some sing-a-longs and dueling air guitar escapades as a bonus.

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