Monday, July 28, 2014

Freedom Call - Freedom Call

My friends, and yours, the Germans, have won the world cup. You probably heard about it, it is not everyday Brazil loses seven to one, also it was the first time in history a European team has won the world cup in South America, and Germany may be the first team to defeat Brazil and then Argentina back to back.

If you are observant at all you may have noticed that I am particularly fond of a lot of German music. I have already written at length about the Scoprions, Blind Guardian, Helloween, Edguy and Avantasia. It just seems like Germany has a fantastic talent for music as well as football. In celebration of Deutschland’s recent football success let us continuing talking about German music.

Enter Freedom Call.

Freedom Call is yet another rock solid German metal band that affectively no one in North America has ever heard of; shame on us.

Like so many European metal bands Freedom Call has a mixed history with other European metal bands. Front man Chris Bay started Freedom in 1998 with his friend Dan Zimmermann, who is better known as the drummer of Gamma Ray. Dan Zimmermann is no longer with either Freedom Call or Gamma Ray now, and thus he continues to contribute to the many odysseys that exist in European metal careers.

The best song to introduce Freedom Call to those who have never heard of them before is probably their flagship song that has the same name as the band, “Freedom Call.” It is a very common thing for power metal bands to have a song of the title as the band name, I think Black Sabbath might have been the first, and often times the flagship song captures the spirit of the band in one short musical synopsis. Having said all that “Freedom Call” the song should serve my rock and roll goals nicely.

As a power metal band, Freedom Call have a lot of songs about high adventure, with fantasy themes throughout. “Freedom Call” the song tells a tale of another world, as the opening line would suggest, “An Island lies in the sea of stars, So far from time.” We do not really get to know much about this world beyond a noble group of strangers fighting against the magic of some demon; that alone sounds like a good idea for a book and maybe it already is and I just cannot identify it. I like to believe this strange world is the Crystal Empire, only because that is the name of the album from which the song is recorded.

Some of the fun surrounding a lot of power metal is trying to piece together the story being told to us, when not everything is exactly clear. I have made something of an effort in the past to make sense of songs like Helloween’s “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” or Queens “Ogre Battle,” but strangeness of fantasy coupled with the lack of specifics leaves just about everything open to interpretation. The song “Freedom Call” appears on Freedom Call’s second album the 2001 “Crystal Empire,” and the entire album, like many Freedom Call albums, has an overarching story, so the adventure of “Freedom Call” is wonderfully expanded into the rest of the album, and I dig that shit.

As much as I love a good and mysterious fantasy adventure set to the back drop of power metal it was not this that made me initially notice and fall in love with Freedom Call. They have a great sound Freedom Call. In the song “Freedom Call” specifically the introduction is methodical, the rhythm guitar and drums both steady and simple start us off and then a great little rift from lead guitar brings us to a change in tempo with a keyboard primary leading us. The tempo remains the same but changes into a galloping drum beat that leads and the rest of the song follows this pattern. Complexity through layered beats that are simplistic is something I have always loved and the rhythms and melodies of “Freedom Call” and many other Freedom Call songs are excellent at drawing you in this way.

Freedom Call will be, or already has, toured with Edguy through Scandinavia this year, and it is a great regret that I will not be able to see them together, that would be a hell of a show. I am super jealous of my friends in Sweden who are going. The point of this review is simple, Freedom Call is another superb metal contribution by the fine people of Deutschland, and yet another central European power metal band I sure hope my fellow North Americans discover hereafter.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.


Germany rules.

- King of Braves

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Edguy - Space Police

Tobias Sammet exists in two musical worlds now, Avantasia, the grand metal opera, and Edguy, the hard rock band. If Avantasia is a deep poetic adventure of fantasy and philosophy, and it is, what role should Edguy play? There are early signs of operatic and over the top production in Edguy that would eventually evolve into the sort of creative efforts that produced Avantasia, but now, with Avantasia existing, where does that leave Edguy? The answer, goofy fun.

“Space Police” is Edguy’s tenth studio album, and it is an important one. Coming off the success of multiple internationally acclaimed Avantasia albums, there were a lot of question marks regarding how Tobias’s band Edguy would fair. In my honest opinion their last album “Age of the Joker” left a lot to be desired, especially when we have to compare it to the titan Avantasia albums like “The Scarecrow” and “The Wicked Symphony.” “Space Police” is the album that will set the standard of what we expect from Edguy for the rest of their careers.

“Space Police” reached number 2 on the charts in Tobias’s native Germany, the highest any Edguy album has ever reached, and perhaps more important than that, “Space Police” is a great good old fashion party rock album. I was a little worried after “The Age of the Joker” which I felt was a low point in Tobias’s creativity, especially compared to his works in Avantasia at the same time, the fear was that Tobias was perhaps finally running out of ideas, but then bam, “Space Police” radical and fun with a great flow from song to song, a true winner. Faith has been renewed.

The first single for “Space Police” was “Love Tyger” and of course “tiger” is spelled wrong because the whole album is a goof like that. The music video was a cartoon about outer space rock band Edguy coming to Earth and saving us even if we don’t want to be.

“They call me Love T-T-Tyger.
I'm gonna save your soul - never mine,
Love T-T-Tyger - I'm gonna save your soul.
There may be a lot who don't wanna be saved,
I'm gonna save them anyway.”

Love Tyger

The Eighties were an obvious inspiration for “Space Police,” or as Tobias put it;

The sounds of “Space Police” do carry the upbeat pacing and harmonies of popular rock during the eighties, and the attitude of the album is very carefree like many of the garage bands of that time. This is very evident in a bonus track “Aychim In Hysteria” a song predictably inspired, at least in part, by Def Leppard.

Aychim In Hysteria

A goal Tobias almost always has is to include an overarching story within his albums. This time around there is an obvious theme of space and authority, but the actual details of the story are unclear, as usual.

“The Space Cops lurk everywhere, in the corridors of power of the music industry, in the press, some are your ex-fans who loved you when you were an insider’s tip, an underground act who hadn’t sold out yet. You know, childish bullshit…” – Tobias Sammet

Read full interview here:

Tobias allowed a strong sense of silliness exist throughout the story this time around, which is wise self awareness, as not everyone is going to be able to take a eighties rock themed album about space police overly seriously, you know, childish bullshit.

Sammet has always done a very good job of leaving his visions open to interpretation and “Space Police” is no exception. There is a sense of tyranny as well as heroism established in the opening tracks “Space Police” and “Defenders of the Crown” regarding the actual Space Police. The middle of the album seemed more interested in having fun and rocking out, and connections to an overall plot are difficult to relate with certainty. At the end Edguy brings things back to continuity with songs like “Space Eaters,” after which my two favorite songs off of the album play.

“Alone in Myself” is a song of regret and a search for salvation. How it relates to the Space Police saga is not entirely clear but it could be any number of things, perhaps the rock star depicted in the “Love Tyger” music video is outcast and broken. Perhaps he failed to save the world with rock and roll, or perhaps his alien strangeness has left him a loner wondering in outer space. Or perhaps it is a song about the space police themselves losing a sense of purpose and meaning when the shadow eaters mentioned in the song before have overwhelmed them. I don’t know, but either way I like it.

Alone In Myself

I have always considered it important for a piece of art, be it a novel or a rock album, to end on a strong note. I have always considered it wise to end on a note that leaves the audience wanting more, and Tobias seems to get this. This is not the first time he had ended an album with what I would consider the best song from the entire set, “Journey to Arcadia” being a very big example from “Angels of Babylon.” The final song, and in my humble opinion the best song off of “Space Police” which is “The Eternal Wayfarer.”

Once again the exact correct interpretation is elusive. There could any number of possible explanations for the soul searching quest described in “The Eternal Wayfarer” it could be about forever lost space police or it could be about space wandering rock and roll champions. Whatever Tobias might have had in mind is strangely secondary in importance to the great stand alone music he has created. I like to imagine “The Eternal Wayfarer” is about the Silver Surfer forever searching the cosmos for his lost home planet, but I suspect this specific interpretation is incorrect. Once again in the end, it does not matter what specifically “The Eternal Wayfarer” is about, what does matter is that it is a great rock song with the power in invoke great ideas and imagery into the minds of the listener.

I believe it is safe to say “Space Police” is a success. Not only is it the best charting album Edugy has so far produced but it is of quality and uniqueness to stand out among the already very impressive Edugy and Avantasia catalogue. Sammet has somehow after all this time not run out of ideas, and we can only hope, he is only getting started, for he is, according to me at least, the greatest song writer in the world today.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves