There are few things in music worse than a power metal band that puts in a half-hearted effort. Dozens of record store discount bins and single-digit viewed Bandcamp pages are loaded with album covers promising over-the-top metallic tales of adventure, mythology and epic battles, only to disappoint with a perfectly competent yet sparkless work of music that fails to indulge in the genre's true spirit.
Luckily, FREEDOM CALL is a band that consistently dives headfirst into the deep end of the genre, and triumphant rises up from the waters surfing on waves of heavy metal glory. There has been much changeover in the bass and drum positions throughout their twenty-year existence, but the duo of guitarist Lars Rettkowitz and founding member/guitarist/vocalist Chris Bay remains steadfast in their ability to deliver over-the-top power metal with the sense of fun, revelry and reckless abandon that has drawn many rabid followers to the genre. The group's tenth album, "M.E.T.A.L.", is another love letter to whimsy, warriors, mythological creatures and heavy metal.
As if the title itself isn't already an antidote to the fun police, FREEDOM immediately envelopes the listener with grandiose layered vocals and glorious guitar solos on album opener "111 – The Number of the Angels". There has never been restraint in the band's approach to power metal, and they make it clear early on that they are not about to start executing that practice now. "Spirit of Daedalus" follows that up with a speedier approach that will tide over folks waiting for the new DRAGONFORCE record, but it is the one-two punch of the following two tracks that really kick the festivities into a high power-metal gear.
It is an easy play for a great heavy metal band to put together an anthem that simply serves as an ode to the power of heavy metal. When it is done well though, it is memorable. FREEDOM CALL already etched their name into the book of great heavy metal songs about heavy metal with "Metal is for Everyone", the opening track to 2016's "Master of Light". The group has added another awesome anthem to that list with the title track from this, their latest record. The spell-along aspect of the lyrics are tailormade for fan participation, but the fist-pumping power of the track along with the band's proud declaration to "stand tall for heavy metal" lifts the song above a lazy pander.
Those that are drawn to the fantasy aspect of power metal will find allure in "The Ace of the Unicorn". The keyboard-laden ode to the much-admired creature asks hard questions such as "Did you take the steps to fairyland?" and "Did you ride the rainbow to the end?" Very few people of earthly presence have accomplished either of those things, but the high energy of FREEDOM CALL's call to action here — and on subsequent tracks — are words of inspiration to keep trying.
Symphonic orchestrations, a phalanx of power metal guitars, and a strong sense of lyrical adventure have made FREEDOM CALL a reliable source of heavy metal energy from their early days. "M.E.T.A.L." sees the whimsical Bavarians continuing to fly high over rainbows, powered by their mastery of that combination.