MAGNUS KARLSSON’S FREE FALL – Hunt The Flame (melodic metal, power metal)
Apologies for my tardiness. I’ve been busy moving house this week, which has involved picking up and putting down everything I own about 600 times and also means I haven’t had a chance to delve as deeply into this week’s offerings as usual. Still, I’ve managed to check out a bunch of the bigger and more notable releases. Some are woefully disappointing, most are pretty solid, if not particularly memorable of fully realised, but it’s Primal Fearand Allen / Olzen (né Lande) guitarist/keyboard player Magnus Karlsson’s fourth star-studded Free Fall full length that I keep coming back to.
As with all of Karlsson’s Free Fall records, each track features a different vocalist, primarily cribbed from the melodic metal b-tier. Yet while many of the names won’t be recognisable to non-genre-die-hards they all deliver outstanding performances worthy of a promotion to the subgenre’s upper echelons. My man Girish Pradhan brings the thunder on “Holy Ground”, which weirdly sees the Indian wailer glorifying Viking colonisation on one of the album’s weaker offerings. Conversely, it’s usually underwhelming ex-Poodles frontman Jakob Samuel who delivers a standout performance on what is perhaps the record’s most memorable number in triumphant semi-ballad “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore”. Those are the two most notable contributors, but all of the guests deliver impressive performances. Other standouts include Sinners Blood singer James Robledo on the shredtastic, almost Pagan’s Mind-leaning “Far From Home”, Crowne and Art Nation frontman Alexander Strandell on the album’s infectious opening title-track and newcomer Kristian Fyhr of Perpetual Etudeand Ginevra, whose voice is reminiscent of Eclipse’s Erik Mårtensson and absolutely kills it on “Break of Dawn”, as well as other backing harmonies littered throughout the record. If Karlsson were to convert Free Fall to a consistent line-up, then he would be an ideal frontman (provided Jorn Lande isn’t available).
Having said all of that, it’s Karlsson himself who ultimately steals the show. I’ve always had a soft spot for Karlsson-era Primal Fear (especially 2014’s extremely Judas Priest influenced Delivering the Black), but this is the most impressive and consistent display of his ample talents to date. Hunt the Flame easily outclasses previous Free Fall records in its presentation and its songcraft which are driven by Karlsson’s seemingly never-ending array of driving riffs, stunning solos, captivating melodies and perfectly deployed keyboard accentuations. The palpable passion and instrumental expertise shown on this album stands out especially in contrast with some of this week’s more anticipated albeit ultimately plodding and flab-filled offerings as well as Karlsson’s previous efforts. It’s his crowning achievement to date and is potent enough to potentially recast Free Fall as Karlsson’s primary project rather than a glorified side-project.
Aetherius Obscuritas – A sors szürke pora (progressive black metal)
Alase – A Matter Of Time (progressive melodoom)
All Hell – All Hail the Night (crusty black thrash)
Altari – Kröflueldar (weird blackened prog)
Anthems of Gomorrah – Deathplague (death metal)
Archon Angel – II (melodic prog metal)
Ashrain – Requiem Reloaded (“badass” power metal)
Askheimr – Askheimr (Black Metal)
Atarka – The Mountain (thrash metalcore, modern melodeath)
AthanaTheos – Cross. Deny. Glorify. (brutal death metal)
Atreyu – The Hope Of A Spark (please stop)
Attractive Chaos – The Fire Between Us (symphonic lounge metal?)
Bad at Life – No Place for the Living (black metal)
Black Oak – Egolution (progressive post metal)
Black Orchid Empire – Tempus Veritas (progressive metal, falsettocore)
Black:I – Kimah Elenu Su’ati Bahlu (progressive black metal)