Well, I have absolutely no idea what Freedom Call are trying to do anymore. Like, not even a clue. Everyone knows that they USED to play your typical over-the-top, cheeseball power metal, and were actually quite good at it. No, their music never had balls, but at least it was fun, catchy, and everything else that makes the European power metal scene so guiltily addicting. Unfortunately, their seventh studio album has none of that. In fact, it doesn’t really have much of anything. I’ll explain…
What makes this such a frustrating listen to me can be summed up pretty simply: there are fourteen tracks (which is too many, but that’s not the point), and yet only a handful can even be considered power metal; the rest are full of halfsy experimentation that’s more indicative of a band that’s out of ideas than one trying to move in a new direction. Now, this would be less of an issue if this wasn’t the third straight album in which Freedom Call were getting stuck somewhere between Euro power metal and radio pop rock, but it is. Just take a listen to “Rockin’ Radio” and tell me that the DJ voice and lyrics aren’t completely lame. “66 Warriors” sounds out of place at best; why are choirs even being used anymore? To cover up the lack of substance? I mean, they don’t even add anything. And, for a real treat, check out “Sun in the Dark”: a groove metal riff. Freedom Call, with a groove metal riff. That should seem like a good idea to no one, and not surprisingly, it doesn’t work at all.
Then, of course, there’s the one outlier: “Back Into the Land of Light,” with the triumphant horn intro, the sickeningly catchy guitar melody, and the anthemic chorus that makes you want to play it over and over again. You know, what you’d expect from a power metal album! But here, it sticks out like a sore thumb, as if to say, “Yeah, we still know how to write this type of music, and we might want to get back to it eventually”. To me, that screams lack of direction, as does the rest of this album. This brings us back to my main point: that Freedom Call have been stuck in this transitional phase for several years now, and while this track is good, it does nothing but muddy the album’s focus, having just as little place as the rest of the uninspired material. There are a few better tracks toward the end of the album, too, but by then it’s far too late to lift it back up from the depths of boredom-land.
Everything else about this album is fine. The production is fine (the vocals might be too loud, but Chris Bay is a good singer, so whatever). The art is fine. The song titles are not lifted from other bands (a la Circle of Life). It’s all set up for Freedom Call to make a heroic return to the world of power metal, but the band still doesn’t seem quite ready for that.
Bands change their sound. I get that. I encourage it, even; I would have been just as confused if Freedom Call just released Stairway to Fairyland for the seventh time over. But here’s the thing: the experimentation on Land of the Crimson Dawn isn’t even interesting. It doesn’t sound like the band is taking risks, or is even genuinely interested in trying something new. Rather, it seems like Freedom Call is simply going through the motions, releasing a new album because Steamhammer told them to without having the faintest idea of what to put on it. Mediocre at best, again.