If you didn’t listen to the lack of God in the lyrics, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Freedom Call’s newest record, Master of Light, is chock full of so-called Christian metal. It’s consistently upliftin, focused on what sounds like good, beauty, and wonder instead of evil and/or nihilism. If the astoundingly good DOOM reboot (easily the best game of the year) showed us anything, it’s that good can easily be an order of magnitude more “metal” than evil. There are no gray areas in DOOM; the forces of Hell need to be stopped and they’ll be stopped with bullets, explosives, and hilariously violent hand-to-hand attacks. While significantly less brutal in its execution, Master of Light also lacks any ambiguity in this regard and does well for itself because of it.
Bombastic stuff focused on the good virtually always turns out to be power metal. Freedom Call plays something akin to Helloween, Primal Fear, and Gamma Ray along with Dragonforce sans their ridiculous speed. Master of Light clearly bears the mark of Blind Guardian’s severely underrated A Twist in the Myth as well, which isn’t a bad thing to my ears because I’m one of the seemingly few people who like that record. Tempo-wise, this sticks to the Primal Fear template of not too fast and not too slow, keeping largely to a driving, mid-paced speed. Predictably, that means huge hooks, choruses filled to the brim with grandeur, and layers upon layers of perfectly executed, highly polished, rich and cheesy goodness.
Freedom Call often avoids falling into the trap of stretching too few good ideas past their breaking point by writing overlong songs. “Hammer of the Gods” sports a massive and catchy chorus, and doesn’t bother pretending that it’s not built entirely around it. While Freedom Call isn’t as great at this strategy as Serious Black was on As Daylight Breaks, it still works and makes for a quick, fun burst of cheesy energy. “Riders in the Sky” has the best earworm Dragonforce melody Dragonforce never wrote in its chorus while the verse is quick and simple, but serves to showcase Chris Bay’s impressive vocals. On the other side of the coin, the very Twist-y “A World Beyond” puts together a well-structured six minutes that contains both some of the heaviest and catchiest material here. The lengthier runtime gives Freedom Call room to maneuver, and they put this to good use by adding an extended and massive sounding midsection that could be mistaken for its own short song if not for the band’s adept handle on transitions.
Given the stock that Master of Light puts into hooks, things tend to fall apart a bit when they don’t quite hit the mark. “Kings Rise and Fall” has that problem, and while its solo is great the rest of the song sounds like filler next to it. “Cradle of Angels” reminds me of a worse version of Blind Guardian’s “Carry the Blessed Home,” which is my least favorite song from Twist. It doesn’t really go anywhere and doesn’t sport a great enough chorus to reach the Heavens it’s clearly shooting for. “Emerald Skies” is good but comes across as rather paint-by-numbers Freedom Call due to it being structured exactly like their other simple songs but not utilizing it as effectively as the aforementioned highlights.
Master of Light is cheesy, grandiose, and over-produced. By the same token, it’s a fun record that’s outright impossible to loathe and makes for a great soundtrack for the good times. It’s not a marvel in production, sounding like typically large and highly processed power metal with a bright sheen over everything. That said, it’s nice to hear a metal band so single-mindedly focused on celebrating how great life is through music, and the celebratory vibe is downright infectious. I’ll admit that I wasn’t a big fan of what Freedom Call was doing on my first listen, but came around due to their enthusiasm, songwriting chops, good hooks, and jubilant nature. It’s not standout enough to warrant a Top Ten spot by any means, but that doesn’t seem to be the point. Judging by their sound, Freedom Call would be perfectly happy if Master of Light caused the listener to smile, enjoy themselves, and throw a track or few on when in good company for some revelry. If that’s the case, then both Freedom Call and I can be pleased with the results of this record.