Freedom Call: Master Of Light (Steamhammer)
Ninth album, no punches pulls, no quarter given, just bouncy Germanic power metal coming from the Helloween sound. Freedom Call have always had their tongue planted in their cheek much like their more well known countrymen, they understand that they can be seen as a bit of joke by the more po-faced metal crowd but true power metal doesn't and has never cared about what people think and seeks to unite all the fans of metal. So when this record kicks off with Metal Is For Everyone you have the feeling that Freedom Call consider this to be a clarion call to everyone to unite.
As the record continues it's what you would expect the galloping rhythm section on Kings Rise And Fall, A World Beyond, Hail The Legend with more melodic tendencies on folky title track before it turns into a symphonic driven piece showcasing Chris Bay's excellent vocals. In what seems to be a regularity with these records there are always one or two ballads and Cradle Of Angels is the kind of ballad sung in a warriors tavern, mead in hand, awaiting the inevitable.
Master Of Light does have one major curveball to it though Ghost Ballet has almost EDM style synths and a huge riff that actually would fit very well on a DTP record, strangely it's one of the records strongest songs, unfortunately it's followed by the dreadful Eurovision fodder of Rock The Nation which is the records low point. The nature of power metal means that everything I've just said means nothing to be honest, good or bad fans of power metal will lap this up, sit back relax and just enjoy because Metal Is For Everyone! 7/10
Wretched Soul: The Ghost Road (UKEM Records)
Wretched Soul don't play AOR folks, there are no nice fluffy keys or big emotive choruses on this record instead it's chock full of lightning fast drumming, dirty grooves and wild thrash riffs with death metal aggressiveness. I saw Wretched Soul at Eradication Festival this year and if I'm honest they blew me away with the sheer live power they had, heavy, violent, progressive and down right excellent I had high expectations for this their second album and it's one of the most exhilarating 39 minutes of music I've heard this year.
The Canterbury four piece have significantly upped their game since their debut, which I retrospectively sort out after their blinding performance at Eradication, the touring has paid much dividends as this record is as tight as a frozen tap. With a supremely wide vocal range Chris Simmons' leads from the front relying heavily on his booming clean delivery for Necromancer before adding the death-roars on War Wolf onward, underneath his vocals the instrumentation is top class, Luke Mayell's bass grinds your insides to mush, Andy Clifford's drums split your eardrums with every blast beat and his brother Steve plays the hostile riffs and explosive solos.
The lyrical content as you'd expect is anti-religion, anti-corruption but also deals with historical horror and fantasy literature, par for the course really but delivered with a nasty panache. Aiding the devastation of this record is the production of the legendary Chris Tsangarides (Google it) and the mastering of Dan Swanö (again Google it) who mean the record sounds both modern and retro simultaneously. With thrash, death and black metal all getting a good seeing to by Wretched Soul meaning that this second record will hopefully see Wretched Soul bring their brand of wretchedness to a much wider audience. 9/10
Atlas: Death & Fear (Self Released)
Do you long for The Sword to return to the sound featured on their first two albums, the huge Sabbath worshipping doom riffs, washing over the songs like a black tsunami of feedback and groove. well the second release from Swedish band Atlas could be the answer, it's all here the massive riffs, the psychedelic touches and the clean vocals which are all so scarce in the doom/stoner scene. Death & Fear plays it straight down the line with very little room for change, the pace is set by hypnotic low slung shoegazing and occasionally picks up with some chugging faster sections. You can hear Sabbath (of course) but also 90's Metallica and Alice In Chains, with psychedelic touches throughout this is heavy metal with the catchiness of hard rock. Death & Fear is a great album if like I said you miss the classic doom/stoner stylings of early records from The Sword. 7/10