Released: 2001, Steamhammer/SPV
Gamma Ray drummer Dan Zimmermann and longtime friend Chris Bay (vocals, guitar, keys) have returned with the second installment in their saga of the people of the destroyed land of Taragon. In this chapter of the unfolding story, many years have passed since the people of Taragon were led by Sethor from their defeated land and through the Gate of Time to a new land where they established a new kingdom. Ramzezh, son of Sethor and Prince of the Kingdom of the Sun, discovers that he must return to Taragon to recover four ancient stones known as the "Eyes of the World" (which, according to legend, can give whoever possesses them the power to rule the world) before an evil prince known as Thorgan of Phantagor finds them for himself. And so the quest begins...
But despite the fact that Freedom Call tell very cheesy stories in their songs and often have excessively "happy" moments in their music, I really like this band. I was very impressed with ‘99's STAIRWAY TO FAIRYLAND when I bought it last year and I am also quite pleased with what the band has done on CRYSTAL EMPIRE. My only complaints about the new CD would be that the band should try to add a little bit of variety to the songs... Most of the songs on CE could have fit onto STF without sounding the least bit out of place. But hey, when the music’s good, more of the same isn’t that bad a thing. And my other complaint is Sascha Gerstner’s lead guitar work.. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very tasteful guitar player, but he tends to go a little overboard with the slow, melodic passages. More fast licks, please!
Minor complaints aside, CRYSTAL EMPIRE is a very good follow-up to STAIRWAY... Of course, with tracks such as "Freedom Call", "Rise Up", "Call of Fame", "Heart of the Rainbow", and "Palace of Fantasy", a clear and crisp production, and great performances from Zimmermann, Bay, Gerstner, and bassist Ilker Ersin, how could it not be? If you liked STAIRWAY TO FAIRYLAND, then I doubt you’ll be disappointed by CRYSTAL EMPIRE. Now if my copy of their Japanese EP TARAGON would arrive, I’d be one hell of a happy camper...