“Free Fall” is the debut solo record by power metal champion Magnus Karlsson. For those unfamiliar with his work, he’s currently one of the guitar players in Primal Fear and one of the reasons why they’re stronger than they’ve ever been. Additionally, he has a long history working with some other great bands (Allen/Lande, for example) in similar styles. His debut album is sort of like a toned-down version of Primal Fear. Though there are lots of heavy riffs, it isn’t as aggressive, nor are the vocals are powerful or over the top as Ralf Scheepers (even the song that Scheepers appears on has a distinct tone from Primal Fear). In this sense, “Free Fall” would have more in common with traditional heavy metal and even AOR. This is because nearly every track has an incredibly anthemic chorus. It’s difficult to not hear Russell Allan’s cries of “Free Fall” or Karlsson’s phenomenal work in the chorus of “Heading Out” in your head as soon as the album ends.
This album features a number of great vocalists that are well renowned in the power metal world. For this reason, I was surprised to find that when Karlsson himself does the vocals, he is just as strong as any of the other singers. Like the others, he has a clean, soothing voice, though perhaps not as much range as someone like Scheepers (but few can match him). Because each singer is so good, it means that the album really lives and dies on the songs rather than the vocalist. Fortunately, nothing on this album is weak. In fact, it’s more a matter of which songs stand above the rest. In this case, the first three songs, as well as “Ready Or Not” and “On Fire” are probably the best. Again, it mostly comes down to the choruses. None of the songs are particularly unique or trend setting in terms of riffs, chord progressions, or melodies, so the album ultimately comes down to the catchiest tunes.
Typically when an incredible guitar player releases a solo album, the focus is on shredding. That is only partially the case here; the songs all feature very impressive guitar solos, but it’s really no different from what you could expect from Karlsson’s work with Primal Fear. With that said, this is not a Jason Becker-type solo album where it’s only guitar playing. Instead, it’s actually more of a testament to Karlsson’s abilities as a songwriter. Since he is an incredibly strong songwriter with a clear understanding of how to implement great hooks, the outcome is excellent. “Free Fall” is almost guaranteed to appeal to nearly all fans of power metal who can appreciate when bands dial back the intensity a bit, and instead go for more of a feel-good sound.
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4.0/5 or 80%.
Written by Scott