Why is German power metal band FREEDOM CALL always so fucking happy? The band’s trademark melodic hooks, multi-layered vocal harmonies and huge, chant-able choruses puts a smile on many a fan’s face worldwide. However, as much as their positive energy pleases some fans, their blatant cheese factor is often lambasted amongst more extreme metal fans. Either way, the Nuremberg outfit is a well-crafted band that has been churning out their brand of glorious power metal since 1998. The band’s eighth full-length album, Beyond, opens in typical Freedom Call fashion and it’s easy to believe that the massively-infectious songs come naturally for vocalist/guitarist Chris Bay, bassist Ilker Ersin, guitarist Lars Rettkowitz and drummer Ramy Ali.
“It’s a life inspiration,” Chris explained. “It’s my attitude to enjoy my time to make it easy. I have only one chance to live my life on this planet and I try to do that as happy as possible. That is my inspiration to write songs for Freedom Call. To scream out my attitude ... my life philosophy out in the world that everybody can listen to it. And if there are some people that want to join, they are welcome. I think it’s very easy to explain what Freedom Call is; an invitation to enjoy your life.”
On Beyond, a new-found enthusiasm has been injected into the band. Newcomers drummer Ramy Ali and bassist Ilker Ersin seem to have lit a fire under the elder folk in the band. “Oh, yes. Definitely. They have brought to the band a new energy. And it seems better for one reason why we our sounding like the early days. We’re sounding more fresh and full of energy as if we were turning back the time of Freedom Call. I’m feeling 15 years younger and probably I’m looking 15 years younger!” Chris says with a chuckle.
Chris has been the band’s main songwriter since he and ex-GAMMA RAY drummer Dan Zimmerman first started Freedom Call. Chris has become even more comfortable in the songwriting department, as his stamp is written all over Beyond.
“Before I started with Freedom Call in 1997, I was just writing songs. I started to write the first songs and I had the ideas and the direction of the music. Then I asked Dan Zimmerman to work with me because he was, and is, still one of my best friends. We didn’t quit our friendship because he’s not playing for Freedom Call anymore. I was the main songwriter from the beginning. The problem for Freedom Call was that Dan was also playing for Gamma Ray and a lot of people were thinking that maybe we were a side project of the drummer of Gamma Ray. But from the beginning on I was the main songwriter of Freedom Call and I brought in the most ideas. I think that whatever reason that Freedom Call is working is that Freedom Call’s work keeps going, is we are able to exist without Dan Zimmerman as well.”
The band’s philosophy, lyrics and cover art collectively tie Beyond’s theme together. The title track is about hope and achieving what’s ‘beyond,’ whatever beyond means to each individual.
“The concept, or the main theme of Beyond is for Freedom Call is the life philosophy we have. We’ve had it from the beginning when we started in ’98-’99 with the first album Stairway To Fairyland, but we never wrote it down in words. Beyond is our life philosophy of thinking in a positive way, being optimistic with all these elements and we just wrote it down in notes and words. That’s Beyond for us. It’s a kind of invitation to everyone to follow us in this optimistic- thinking way of life. And if you are following this way and you try to change your mind to this optimistic- thinking way, you will notice that you will become able to see the world in a different view. Maybe you’re able to see more colors than you’ve noticed before. Everybody is invited to witness our concerts and listen to our music, they will see that they will be in a better mood after listening to Freedom Call.”
The 14-song effort was recorded at Freedom Call's own studio in Nuremberg and was produced by Chris and Stephan Ernst. Chris enjoys the production side of making an album as well as performing on it.
“The production was a really interesting part of this album. Usually, we reproduced a demo version of the songs and we didn’t work so much creatively in the studio with our instruments. But we did it this time. We also got two new brilliant band members, Rami on the drums and Ilker on the bass, that made it possible to work as a creative team in the studio. We changed a lot regarding the arrangements, the harmonies and the vocal lines. That made it very special for me.”
Stylistically, Freedom Call has remained true to its roots after all these years. There’s not a big change music wise on Beyond, but the writing process happened quickly this time around and Chris explained why.
“That was caused by touring a lot over the last few years. You are touring for an album close to the release date and then you have time for maybe one year to prepare for the new album, to write new songs and collect inspiration. But this time our record label was releasing a Best Of album in 2013 and we were touring for the Best Of album as well, so there was not as much time to write the songs. With the support of the band’s teamwork, it sounds very easy and it was running great. I was able in this situation, to write three songs in a week. To me, it sounds very honest. It was flowing out of my mind, all these ideas. Maybe for that one reason why I am very close with my heart to the new album.”
As stated above, Beyond is back to the band’s roots, however, Chris and co. weren’t afraid to introduce new elements to the Freedom Call sound, such as the Irish folk influences on ‘Come On Home’ or the African rhythms and mystic grooves of 'Dance Off The Devil.’
“I think this Irish style works because I’m really a fan of the Irish folk and it makes me smile every time. I love to hang around in an Irish pub in Nuremberg and one of the writers from Brave Words, Carl Begai, is a friend of mine and we get together for a couple of beers and enjoy this Irish music. Hanging around good friends, I get inspiration. I love the style of the Irish people to party, dance and have a good time. Maybe that was one influence to write some songs with these Irish melodies. With the African sound in ‘Dance Off The Devil,’ I started to work with some beats and then I checked out some African grooves and loops and I built up a very special groove and rhythm. It started sounding so much like Africa that I got the inspiration to write a song. I thought the lyrics were very close to our main topic of Beyond. These guys in Africa are exactly the same with their spirit of life, just longing for better times and better things in life and it just fit perfectly with the main topic of Beyond.”
That’s one of the components that makes listening to Freedom Call so enjoyable, but as far as the band playing concerts in North America?
“There’s a small question about the money. It’s very expensive to come to North America because you also need a (work) visa to play shows. It’s not easy to find the right promoters. We have enough fans in the United States, but the problem is it’s a very big country. But maybe we should find a possibility to collect all the people from the States to one place or town and put on a big show,” as Chris slyly refers to a North American festival similar to Germany’s Wacken Open Air festival.
Chris’s final words reinforces what he’s been saying all along. The band’s infectious vibes is what he and his band are out to show people that they can find their inner smile while listening to their music.
“We are proud to be part of the metal scene, in Canada as well. We hope the people will love the new album and I hope we find an opportunity to come over to North America to play a concert and prove to people that heavy metal is not just a fad. We are happy people and we try to give the people the chance to join us and to have a better time.”