One of the most-anticipated melodic power metal releases of 2020 is finally upon us: Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear, Allen-Lande, The Ferrymen) brings another Free Fall release, this time entitled “We Are the Night.” The guitarist/keyboardist producer-songwriter has already done two previous Free Fall albums, and perhaps done himself the disservice of raising the bar dangerously high. With grand, bombastic compositions showcasing the “who’s who” of metal vocalists, the two prior albums were magnificent, but can lightning strike thrice?
Never one to take it easy on showmanship, our Swedish Metal Mastermind Magnus opens the album with a symphonic barrage of cinematic proportion, before pulling back the curtain on the absolute vocal beast that is Dino Jelusick. Of course, Dino, known for his band Animal Drive as well as projects such as Dirty Shirley, may arguably be the best new voice on the entire metal scene, with power, range, grit, and incredible versatility. Magnus must have encouraged Dino to go all-out, because for the chorus of “Hold Your Fire,” we can hear Dino pushing some serious diaphragm and risking some massive vocal fry with some extensive high notes, especially to the end of the song where double-kick drums really go for it. The massive rhythm playing and tasteful keys set the stage for Magnus to do what he does: just go completely ape with stellar lead playing – at first leading in with some musically conscious melodic playing, before tearing it up with blistering speed, fury, and precision.
Thankfully for Magnus, and for us the listeners, the first track does not completely overshadow the rest of the album, despite what a monster it is. The second track makes more atmospheric use of synth keys, sort of like a transitional Ayreon moment, before slicing in with a riff actually based on a very cool lead guitar part. It is at this time that Renan Zonta of Electric Mob steps to the fore with impressive melodic metal vocals. While he may not be the frightening freak of nature we find in Dino Jelusick, he does a prodigious job where everything just sounds right for the track, with the right power, control, timbre, and ending the song with a very impressive high note. This track also contains some of the more mind-boggling (and finger-frustrating) lead parts of anything on the album.
For the titular third track, Magnus employs the most surprising vocalist on the album – Magnus Karlsson! While he may not be a world-class juggernaut singer like some of the other heavyweights on the album, he carries the track admirably, and let’s be real; the track is made by its awesome riffs and scintillating lead playing. The fourth track does not suffer from forgettability in the least, being the one and only song of the album to showcase Noora Louhimo, mistress of the Finnish Battle Beast. Structurally, “Queen of Fire” is a bit of a lower-tempo ballad about romantic betrayal and revenge, perhaps something one may encounter on a solo Tarja record, but Noora’s vocals are as always most definitely her own, at the opposite end of the spectrum from Ms. Turunen – lower in register, almost gritty in a breathiness, but absolutely soulful in delivery. Tastefully done.
“Dreams and Scars” is another appearance with Renan Zonta, structurally satisfying, with leads building from gentle adagio into a well-thought-out neoclassical attack. “All the Way to the Stars” introduces melodic metal veteran Mike Andersson of Cloudscape, and it is no surprise that he delivers as always, with powerful and yet ear-pleasingly musical technique, quite complimentary to the composition itself. There are a few moments in choruses where the Euro-style keys inch dangerously close to cheesy, but it’s kept on a short leash and all ends up OK.
Just when it seems easy to hand a default victory to Dino as vocalist of the album, the incredible Ronnie Romero shows up and does his thing, which is to say, absolute magic. The track “One by One” is a magnificent showcase of the vocals we have come to expect from Ronnie when he is doing Lords of Black, CoreLeoni, Ferrymen, Destinia, Vandenberg, and the Rainbow of Ritchie-freaking-Blackmore. Is he the most versatile vocalist in the modern metal stables? Perhaps not, but his sound is so spectacular it’s essentially irrelevant. Speaking of versatility, we get plenty of it when Dino returns on “Under the Black Star,” a track with some of the coolest riffs on the album. The synth strings are, well, we can only describe them as “Kashmir Kool.”
“Temples and Towers,” treats us to not just some lovely lead guitars, organ playing, and church bells, but also to the one and only Tony Martin of later-era Black Sabbath fame. While he may not have the prowess of the younger bucks of the album, he makes it up in experience and raw talent. He is also a choice for the old-school thrashier stylings of the song, which echo post-Dio Sabbath more than some of the more prog-power material in other areas of the album.
The remainder of the album features a vocal return by Magnus, along with a real treat in the form of instrumental “On My Way Back to Earth,” which is a musical journey with heavy splashes of Steve Morse and John Petrucci stirred in with Magnus Karlsson’s own formidable writing prowess. It serves as a pleasant palate cleanser and a seventh-inning stretch before Tony Martin returns for the honors of giving the album a big finish in the form of “Far from Over,” a medium tempo dirge, which despite the title does make us a little sad that this is the end of such a remarkable album.
When it is all said and done, what do we have? Well, Magnus Karlsson, on guitars, keys, vocals, bass, and lead genius, has teamed up with drummer Anders Köllerfors and a slew of the industry’s finest metal vocalists to bring us an absolute treat. Album reviews make for light work when the subject matter is so very enjoyable. The writing is innovative, versatile, and effective, and every musician involved is clearly giving 100% the entire time. The album is hitting the streets right now, and the shelves of your favorite music retailer, but feel free to check out some sample videos. All the same, this one is a killer, and you won’t be disappointed.
Released By: Frontiers Music SLR
Release Date: June 12th, 2020
Genre: Melodic Metal / Power Metal
“We Are the Night” Tracklist:
- Hold Your Fire (Dino Jelusick)
- Kingdom Falls (Renan Zonta)
- We Are the Night (Magnus Karlsson)
- Queen of Fire (Noora Louhimo)
- Dreams and Scars (Renan Zonta)
- All the Way to The Stars (Mike Andersson)
- One by One (Ronnie Romero)
- Under The Black Star (Dino Jelusick)
- Temples and Towers (Tony Martin)
- Don’t Walk Away (Magnus Karlsson)
- On My Way Back To Earth (Instrumental)
- Far From Over (Tony Martin)
Magnus Karlsson / Guitars, Bass, Keyboard, and Vocals
Anders Köllerfors / Drums
- Dino Jelusick
- Renan Zonta
- Noora Louhimo
- Mike Andersson
- Ronnie Romero
- Tony Martin
If we ever doubted for a moment Magnus could do it a third time, consider this a sincere apology. He may have topped his previous Free Fall releases with this powerful gem. The mixing and production are second-to-none, and the songwriting is among his very best. Add some of the best featured vocalists on the scene, and this one becomes a must-have album