Freedom Call - _Stairway to Fairyland_
by: Alvin Wee (
As if Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian and Iron Savior weren't enough, the German power metal scene just keeps chucking better and better stuff at its spellbound fans. Brainchild of Gamma Ray drummer Dan Zimmerman and starring sundry other Teutonic metal personalities, Freedom Call is set to succeed Hansen-era Helloween as undisputed masters of the scene. Blending the drive of _Keeper of the Seven Keys_ and adding sweetly anthemic touches characteristic of latter day, Grapow-fronted Helloween, _StF_ is any speed/power metal fan's wet dream. Not since Edguy's _Vain Glory Opera_ have I been astounded by luscious melodies of such epic proportions delivered with such conviction. From the driving, anthemic chants of "Over the Rainbow" to the slow, hymn-like choruses of "Hymn to the Brave", Freedom Call assert their right as kings of ultra-melodic power metal. Years of working with legendary metal-man Kai Hansen has undoubtedly influenced Dan somewhat, and one would be hard-pressed to find a moment on the album not reminiscent of some Gamma Ray moment or Helloween passage. Significantly absent are the ubiquitous Blind Guardian-style group choruses; the folk/medieval touches here have been dropped in favour of soaring, sweeping melodies. Not a riff is out of place, not a beat is hammered out with anything less than the utmost confidence -- which is expected from a crew of such experience and talent, but add to that the blazing leads and the almost childishly sweet yet heartrending cries of Chris Bay (formerly of Moon 'Doc and the legendary Zed Yago), and the result far exceeds expectations. And imagine a production team of Dan Zimmerman and Chris Bay, led by the hugely experienced Charlie Bauerfeind (who else?)! Granted, there'll be the odd "true-metal" fan who'll condemn the saccharine sweetness of _StF_ for being weak and "un-metal", but the genre has always placed emphasis on quality songwriting rather than brutality, and one listen to the much-hyped Labyrinth will prove that Freedom Call are anything but soft. I've already pencilled in Gamma Ray's excellent _Powerplant_ as top of the genre this year, but Freedom Call are already proving strong contenders to the title. It's been a good year for power metal with countless new acts like Steel Attack and the old guard (Virgin Steele, etc.) putting out formidable works. But _StF_ is without doubt the crowning glory, as well as one of the genre's greatest debuts ever. Get it from Sentinel Steel or <mailto:EmpireEnt@aol.com> in the States.
(article published 3/5/2000)
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