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FREEDOM CALL Legend Of The Shadowking SPV (2010)

Freedom Call

Now we are talking!

One of my fave ever bands, discovered through reviewing for GRTR! and this new album has been much anticipated.

Freedom Call are one of the best Power Metal bands around, mixing operatic speed metal with melodic trad rock / metal. Huge vocal harmonies over spiralling guitar runs make their trademark sound that is as catchy and memorable as it is moving.

This is Freedom Call's sixth album and a concept inspired by the story of 19th Century King Ludwig II, who was King of Bavaria until he was forced to cede power to the first German empire in 1871. The eccentric King was a devoted patron of Wagner, commissioned several fantasy castles and stated "I don't want to be a shadow king without power", hence the album's title. If you think all that adds a gothic edge, you'd be right. It's not overpowering but it is there.


Joe Geesin caught up with Freedom Call's mainman Chris Bray to ask about the album

Joe: Why a concept album and why about King Ludwig II?

Chris: That's a good question. Firstly I don't like the term concept album. For me a concept album means that the words are more important than the music, ok. For me the most important thing is the music, and the lyrics being a combination.

The concept sounds as important, like a story, but the music that's my passion. The words, it's just a combination between, and the reason it's about King Ludwig II is that is part of my history. Freedom Call is a Bavarian band, it's a part of Germany in the south where the mountains are, and King Ludwig II, he was the King of Bavaria in the nineteenth century, and I grew up in school with stories about King Ludwig, and also my parents, I think it's all a history of Germany, an important part.

And interesting that King Ludwig II, he was a rock'n'roller of the nineteenth century. He was not interested in politics, he was not in the reign of his country, it's his fucking job as the king. But he was very interested to support the culture, painting.

Joe: And he loved music.

Chris: Yes, he loved Wagner, with whom he a very close relations

Joe: Why did King Ludwig insist on so many private concerts of Wagner's music?

Chris: Because he fell in love with his music, I think because King Ludwig, he was not insane, but he was a little bit crazy thinking, so he fell in love with the music and, so he did everything because he was not a head thinking. It was his emotional thinking.

Joe: He is referred to as both mad and eccentric.

Chris: He was just eccentric, he was not mad. But the people around him, from the politics, they tried to say he's mad. The wanted to get his forest, his kingdom.

They wanted to make money, and Kink Ludwig, he was giving the money to the culture, he was building some very eccentric buildings, a lot of castles, and the government wanted to make wars. He was not interested to make wars because he was into the culture, that makes him very different.

Joe: Does any of his love of Wagner rub off on you?

Chris: Yes it does, on the band. Wagner is the heavy metal composer of classical, unlike Bach or Mozart and Beethoven. But Wagner had these bombastic things, that's what I like, so close to the heavy metal music.

Joe: So would you ever do your own Ring Cycle?

Chris: Laughs. No. Ha Ha.

Joe: The Freedom Call trademark vocal harmonies are even bigger here, almost operatic. Intentional?

Chris:  Yes. Definitely, it is one part of Freedom Call's music, the choirs, the vocal harmonies. It's a really important part so we took great care to make sure it sounded big, sounding very harmonical.

Oh yeah, so don't always calculate it's bigger choir than before. It's not just the choirs themselves, I think it's a combination in between the choirs and the music that makes it bigger, not only the vocals. The harmonies, they are under the choir, supporting the choir.

Joe: Perfect Day, the last track, is quite different, lyrically gives King Ludwig a different angle.

Chris: I don't agree. You see, Perfect Day and a couple other songs are written out of the concept. For example Merlin there is no comparison to Ludwig.

The reason is I wrote some songs before we started the concept and as we tried to change the lyrics to become in the concept, but then the songs were sounding different. I was not really satisfied with the word changes and so then we decided to write a couple of songs out of the concept.

And so it's not a concept album it's just the main topic is Ludwig. And Perfect Day I wrote around the time of Dimensions, our last album, it is more of a punk song.

Joe: How do you think this album compares to previous albums?

Chris: Oh I get asked this question a lot. It's a serious question. I think I'm the wrong person to ask because as an artist, as a musician, I can't see any comparison to any previous work.

Because for me I spend so much time with writing songs, writing the lyrics, arranging, producing, that I'm so into the album, that it's one of its own kind, it's totally for itself. So every album has its own stamp and I can't compare it. It's better to let it for the fans, for the journalists, for anybody.

Joe: Would you play an album, this or any previous album, in full beginning to end?

Chris: Yes, I have some ideas from years ago, that to go up, because the songs from Stairway To Fairyland or Crystal Empire, they are made for doing in a musical.

I would love to realise it, but to do it in a professional way, in a way that I'm really satisfied with the work, you can't pay for that, the stage arches and everything.

Joe: What can fans expect on the next Freedom Call album?

Chris: We are still touring this album, and it's not ending until May, I think, next year. But I am already writing songs, I have a collection of maybe 5 or 6 songs. I've just started with arrangements so I think it will be a typical Freedom Call album, like the others (laughs).


Think Gamma Ray, Helloween, late 80s Iron Maiden, modern day Saxon, Rhapsody Of Fire, there are melodic rock, thrash and classical influences working together in harmony as perfect as the layered vocals. From thrash to opera and back again, the keyboards and guitars intertwined intricately and powerfully.

I can't honestly see any way how you can't enjoy this album. It may not quite reach the height of 'Crystal Empire' but I think this is good as 2010 is going to get.


Review by Joe Geesin

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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