Freaks and Clowns – We Set the World on Fire Review

I am soooo far out of my wheelhouse here. Like, I’m lucky if I get clean vocals in my disgusting music of choice, much less the resounding trills over the pompous bombast of power metal. But when the Most High Gorilla says jump, we complain and stamp our little feet, but we concede. Because that is one scary-ass gorilla. Would I rather be frolicking in a frostbitten Norwegian forest or drowning in some subterranean cavern? Sure. But I refuse to be relegated to “that guy who likes raw black and dissonant death metal,” because I’m a goddamn professional. So I tuned into Freaks and Clowns, a moniker that describes going the speed limit in the passing lane, paying $65 a month for 1.5 kbps internet,1 or Dr. A.N. Grier‘s life choices.

Freaks and Clowns is a Swedish quintet, two full-lengths into their five-year career. While undoubtedly power metal in Christer Wahlgren’s vibrato-laden trills, expect little Rhapsody of Fire sword-flashing here. Injected with a healthy dose of AC/DC-esque hard rock and aptly energetic Gothenburg riffing with an Avatar clown theme to boot, tracks range from glam-themed arena-rock anthems to take-no-prisoners beatdowns of riffy goodness. Ultimately a mixed bag with little originality to be found, third release We Set the World on Fire rides Occam’s razor like a Harley with some of the best riffs of the year’s start, with some of the blandest songwriting to kick it off.

Beginning with the absolutely rip-roaring “Am I a Freak or Just a Monster,” the riff is law across Freaks and Clowns-land. Chunky leads take center stage in Judas Priest-esque fashion, as anthems like “Scream Until You Like It” and “Fight Fire with Fire” would rock any arena, complete with frantic drumming, squealing guitar solos, and Wahlgren’s Rob Halford-esque wails and shouts. Tracks like “Dance of the Dead” and “Toxic” maintain a head-bobbing groove that Pantera would be proud of, while catchy choruses are bolstered by aggressive screams and rip-roaring solos. Aptly, the guitar performance is the shining star of We Set the World on Fire, maintaining a melodic undertone throughout that intertwines with its riffs for a tasteful attack. As aggressive as this particular breed of power metal is, it maintains this melodic undertone in vocals as well, as the warbling tenor shrieks are undergirded by strong background vocals that provide subtle harmonies throughout. The production value is chunky and heavy but also reasonably spacious, allowing for this subtlety in vocals or guitar leads.

However, We Set the World on Fire is set back by Freaks and Clowns playing too heavily into arena rock tropes that favor theatrics over solid songwriting. Arena rock anthems like the bland title track and melodramatic “One Last Ticket” and “Heaven’s Calling My Name,” for instance, go on for too long doing too little, focusing on open strummed chords to guide bloated runtimes. Arena rock anthems or emotional ballads a la power metal could be showstoppers of the highest caliber, but Freaks and Clowns instead approaches them with mid-tempo plodding with little excitement and low energy. Excessive repetition is furthermore an issue, as otherwise tolerable tracks like the blazing “Dogs of War,” bouncy “When Evil’s Got a Hold on You,” and the 80’s glam rock feel of “Children of the Night” repeat its one-liners ad nauseam, ruining any impact they might have had otherwise. At the end of the day, to add insult to injury, We Set the World on Fire is absolutely massive, clocking in at almost an hour in its thirteen tracks of hit-or-miss quality – it’s an exhausting listen.

When Freaks and Clowns embraces the riff, these Swedes become a more Gothenburg-y clown-themed Judas Priest. Featuring all the hallmarks of groovy power metal in the days of its infancy in shrill warbling tenor, memorable riffs, and a palpable energy coursing throughout. Longing for the days of “Painkiller,” however, does little to add to the style except for a few pounds of clown makeup – and I’m the least qualified of my colleagues to make that distinction. Given that there are some sweet tracks of energetic riffs and solid vocals balanced by some of the blandest rock tracks and most melodramatic ballads of the year, I can’t in good conscience recommend We Set the World on Fire. Maybe I’m too far out of my wheelhouse here, but, like, nah.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metalville
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 28th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Me. 🤡 In my defense, it’s the only provider available.
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