I can't evaluate modern power metal objectively. Most of it sounds the same to me, which probably just means I'm ignorant. But it doesn't have many qualities that make me want to learn more. I like epic ambition; I don't like gloss masquerading as such. Freedom Call are in here this week only because (a) they're German, and (b) they have a song called "Mr. Evil."

Mr. Evil
Innocent World

Actually, Dimensions (SPV/Steamhammer, 2007) has some terribly catchy songs (as well as terribly stereotypical D&D; artwork). "Mr. Evil" is basically Edguy; but because Freedom Call aren't taking the piss, they're even funnier. "Innocent World" is fascinatingly repulsive. It has nauseating gear shift key changes (e.g., the "bump up" at the end of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" and R.E.M.'s "Stand"; there is an entire website devoted to this device), as well as a friggin' children's choir. Even creepier, they're singing about how innocent they are. The song sends shivers down my spine.

For better or for worse, the first third of this record lodges in the brain. After that, it succumbs to "all sounds same." The power ballads are particularly treacly. Adrien Begrand, quoting Carl Wilson's 33 1/3 book about Celine Dion, astutely observes that little separates European power metal ballads from the Titanic diva. This isn't necessarily a value judgment. I appreciate this stuff with the same brain cells (all ten of them) that like hair metal and modern emo.

Really, this isn't so far from those things. The production values, chord progressions, and guitar techniques (especially the palm-muted eighth-note melodies) are all similar. Minus the "Tarzan Boy" whoa's, "Mr. Evil" is basically hair metal; the way the drums drop out in the first verse recalls Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69." This might come as a blow to those who uphold "power metal" as "true metal." Of course, not all power metal is like this - OK, it doesn't all sound the same - your Sonata Arcticas and Blind Guardians are more "true." Perhaps nothing is "true," though, in a world where Guitar Hero makes laypeople buy Dragonforce by the bushel.

Dimensions is available physically from CM Distro and The End, and digitally from Amazon.