Freedom Call - The Circle Of Life
Metal clad gospels and magnificent metal hymns with bombastic choirs and sing-along inputs spiced with trumpet fanfares, an abundance of mega-catchy and flamboyant tracks, loads of harmony, and an overall focus on the fast and cheerful are all describing attributes that compile what Freedom Call has been all about on their previous three albums. Circle of Life doesn't venture that far from this and the old Freedom Call sound is ever present. But this new album could still be said to be a gradual transition towards a somewhat newer sound. The keyboards have been give a little more room which also becomes very obvious since Nils Neumann from now on is a full member in the line-up.
Other changes are that the Taragon-theme has been left behind and the focus instead lies on more every day matters and politics. The major attention to speedy and bombastic tracks have also been somewhat reduced as Circle of Life chronicles a little higher number of songs in the mid paced category. (And for observant readers I might as well immediately point out that this is no cover album as a few titles might hint at. For instance, Hunting High and Low is not a Stratovarius cover, Starlight not Helloween's song, Kings and Queens is not an interpretation of Axel Rudi Pell, Hero Nation is not a Metalium copy and so on. This is 100% new Freedom Call material).
That a somewhat slower pace has crept in is instantly introduced since the kick-off with Mother Earth is not a typical way for Freedom Call to launch an album. While all their previous releases have started out with a powerful fast driven metal firework this is instead a quite rough and straight forward mid tempo grinder with heavy guitar riffing. The verse is nicely keyboard supported and in the chorus section Chris Bay sings the highest notes I've ever heard him use. So the usual opening number is left out but the song is still a very good one. The order is restored right away though with outing no 2, Carry On. If the opener didn't provide what you expected, things are ultimately back to normal with this mid tempo metal hymn. The song begins with a very familiar Freedom Call "gospel-esque" mega catchy refrain with the lyrics "Carry On, Carry On, the chanting has begun". Further comments completely unnecessary
The following Rhythm of Life is once again a mid tempo track with a quite similar intro as on Mother Earth but this time there's a strong lean towards the golden years of Scorpions going on. As always with Freedom Call though a catchy refrain lays waiting but I personally grade this track as one of the weaker outings in this collection. But then some more speed reaches the surface as Hunting High and Low presents itself. This track is for me one of the best ones this time and the song also features one of the most memorable choruses. Besides the name, the song also bears quite a resemblance to its Stratovarius counterpart in tempo but the Freedom Call composition is sooo much better in my book. From this point the album also has an awesome flow and raises several notches for the listener.
Starlight continues this journey and provides the very essence of Freedom Call showing the band from its absolute best happy metal side. This is a super catchy instalment in md/up tempo with lots of sing along potential and as always a chorus that's there to stay. The introductory keyboard piece that runs through the whole song is of very simple nature but it really works. The following Kings and Queens proceeds the happy metal orgy and also speeds things up with an aggressive guitar riff permeating throughout. The track just radiates the band in great form and once again a very memorable choir based chorus introduces the never dying sing along effect and the middle section is absolutely magnificent. Taken together with the instrumental intro The Gathering the release has one of its highest peaks at this point.
Hero Nation is the metal march track of the album. It's very rhythmic from start to finish and compiles some progressive undertones, nice tempo changes and a very impressive guitar section intertwined. High Enough and Starchild are both up tempo bits where the latter strongly reminds of Call of Fame with its trumpet fanfare sounding keyboard main theme. High Enough starts out slowly with a guitar sound in the Running Wild school before the fantastic ming wrapping main riff begins. But then the odyssey that begun with Starlight is broken somewhat with The Eternal Flame. Even though a very solemn choir starts it off it doesn't reach the others' levels. This song has got a bit too much of a filler feel for me and represents the weakest track here. The finale with the semi ballad Circle of Life is very alright though. It begins in a quite slow pace that's successively escalating to mid tempo grinding. Especially the guitar section after the second chorus makes this song a solid endpoint to yet another solid Freedom Call album.
And as usual Freedom Call have released a very well produced and to the bone professional album. If a little criticism is to be dealt with though I feel that some songs focus a bit too strongly on the bridge and refrain sections and the verses don't really match up at points, but those are just minor issues on the agenda. The album as a whole doesn't quite appear as interesting as Eternity or Crystal Empire though but it's not too far removed from the past to change my opinion of the band. The winds still blow in directions of optimistic pleasure and great triumph and of course you have to grab this album if you're a Freedom Call pacifist and if melodic happy metal in the European style is on your list of digestible genres.