Freedom Call - Crystal Empire

Year of Release: 2001
Label: SPV/ Steamhammer
Catalog Number: 085-72122
Format: CD
Total Time: 39:57:00

Freedom Call is a metal band out of Germany, whose style seems to owe a lot to Angra, even if the similarities aren't deliberate. This is mainly down to vocalist Chris Bay sounding a lot like ex-Angra vocalist André Matos, such that the melodic vocal lines of "Freedom Call" sound like some of those used in "Metal Icarus."

The band have a very polished sound - Daniel Zimmerman's drumming is taut and precise, Sascha Gerstner's guitar playing warm and lyrical - and the band knows when to bring the instruments up front and when to let them sit back and let the vocals take the lead. Those vocals contrast between Bay solo and the band in power-chorus mode.

Crystal Empire is the second full-length album from Freedom Call, following on from the story begun Stairway To Fairyland (1999). "Farewell," seems eternally cheery, like revelers in a mead hall psyching themselves up for the battle ahead. We get this same feeling in "Call To Fame," where the newly enlisted minions are declaring their allegiance to the hero of the story - this comes after our hero has journeyed to Egypt in "Pharao." Guitar phrases from Gerstner have a strong Middle-Eastern feel, but never more so than in "Palace," which comes near the end of the album. This might seem at odds with the cover artwork on that has a Nordic-Asian appearance - a Viking Samurai? Not all that difficult to imagine - Norway to Denmark and into Germany, east across Northern Europe, southeast through Kazakhstan and into China?hop across the East China Sea to Japan. Long trip, of course, undertaken over many years?at least 500 years ago it would be. Anyway, if we look at some of the iconography - such as the crescent symbol on the warrior's staff (on his helmet and in the Freeman Call logo, though here it is very stylized) - we see a resemblance to the crescent on the Turkish flag (also on the flags of Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Uzbekistan (as of 1994)). So, if there are Nordic and Japanese elements?well?this is an album review, not history-geography lesson.

The epic track on the album is the 7:33 length "Quest," though at 7-plus minutes, seems short for an epic. It opens with Ferdy Doernberg on tinkling piano and Bay on vocals, but this soon becomes bombastic with crashing drums and chugging guitars. These are the two dynamics here - lyrical and powerful, understated to epic. There is once section where I thought of Metallica and specifically of "Master Of Puppets" where Bay here phrases the word "master" with the same curling end that Hetfield does?this is a rather brief section of the piece. Keys and guitar swirl about each other as the song marches towards it's conclusion, almost literally, as the rhythm takes on martial overtones.

Panting keys begin "Ocean," which at first appears to be a slower paced track - the "lighter" track at live performances, but when those fluttering drums kick into gear, you know this isn't a sentimental track. Except that, in a way, it is. Here the armies are longing for home. "Over the mountains?over seven seas?I flying on emotions?soaring on the breeze" goes the second refrain of the chorus - you can't help but want to sing along. In fact, this was a goal of the band, according to the biographical notes -- to write their "material with live shows in mind; i.e. we try to ensure that even fans who hear a track for the first time understand the inner logic of the song?"

The album closes with "The Wanderer," a track "based on a waltz time and keyboards that were orchestrated in a deliberately classical style?" In some ways, the highly classical arrangement doesn't fit in with the rest of the album, given it slightly slower gait. And yet, it does make for a fitting end of the album. In the mix you can hear chiming bells - signaling victory or death?just where is he wandering? (The lyrics were not included with this promo edition). At the end of the live show, you can imagine the audience members locked together in arm over shoulder embraces, all swaying side to side to the rhythm, singing in chorus (with the chorus of voices) ? beers raised in salute with the other hand, sloshing over in the jostling.

Innovative and unique they're not, but this really is a very good album, and Freedom Call is a very good band. For those seeking more heroic symphonic metal to listen to along side their Rhapsody, Kamelot, etc. CDs, you need to check out Freedom Call.

Intro (0:30) / Freedom Call (5:31) / Rise Up (4:04) / Farewell (4:04) / Pharao (4:41) / Call Of Fame (4:14) / Heart Of The Rainbow (4:34) / Quest (5:08) / Palace (4:46) / The Wanderer (3:45)

Chris Bay - vocals, guitar, piano
Daniel Zimmerman - drums and percussion
Ilker Ersin - bass
Sascha Gerstner - guitar, vocals, piano
Ferdy Doernberg - piano (8)

Stairway To Fairyland (1999)
Taragon (1999) (JP only EP)
Crystal Empire (2001)
Eternity (2002)
Live Invasion (2004)
The Circle Of Life (2005)
Dimensions (2007)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: March 27th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 817
Language: english


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