One look at the band’s name and the album cover gave away in which genre Free From Sin plays in. Metal. Of some kind. Be it Heavy, Black or Death Metal but that this is a Metal band is crystal clear. But if the band’s music is as predictable as their name and cover-art is yet to be found out. This Swedish outfit was formed by vocalist Per Englund and guitarist/keyboardist Patrik Lämborg and together with bassist Andreas Waldemarsson, drummer Jamie Salazar and Hammond player Staffan Stavert around 2014 and in 2015 they released their self-titled debut. The album got a fairly good welcome, both sales-wise and from the critics. But despite that, Andreas, Jamie and Staffan left the band and Per and Patrik were back to square one. But since quitting is for quitters, Per and Patrik replaced them with Ulf Kronsell (bass), Paul Ekdahl (drums) and Fredrik Strömberg (organ, keyboards) and voila the band was set once again. So, three years later, a new album is due with a heavier and darker sound.
The album opens with the intro song “Pandemonium”. It’s a spoken word in German over dark and sinister sounding background music and it works very well as a transport into the first “real” track “Faces Of Christ”. The Rainbow influence is very obvious here and as a whole, this tune comes off as a mix of “Gates Of Babylon” and “Spotlight Kid” with melodies that sounds like they’re inspired by Iron Maiden’s “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”. A Hard Rock tune with a classic Heavy Metal vibe. Maybe not that original but it doesn’t matter – a good song is a good song and this is a good song! “Mr. Blakk” is heavy tune, slower in pace with a fat organ riff that sends a nod towards Rainbow’s “Stargazer”. The tune is based on a fat 70’s Hard Rock sound mixed with 80’s Metal and a choir melody reminiscent of Therion. Yes, this is great stuff indeed.
“God Made You Hate” is the first taster from this record and it is an uptempo Hard Rock number, like Rainbow meets Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. A direct and in-your-face bouncer with a guitar solo obviously influenced by a certain Ritchie Blackmore. I dig this one as well. “The Devil’s Mule” is heavy, dark and even gothic. It’s slower in pace and contains a big blanket of keyboards over the heavy rhythm. I can’t help thinking of Axel Rudi Pell here which in reality means that I’m thinking of Rainbow and 80’s Black Sabbath. It’s over 7 minutes long, something that’s not unusual from the mentioned acts either. A damn good song that represents the band well. “Break And Burn” is another pre-taster and this one goes into a fat, Accept-like, bouncy rhythm with a slice of 80’s Krokus, when they were still heavy. In the solo, Lämborg nicks from Malmsteen and Blackmore shamelessly but it works anyway. Another good track!
“The Unholy” is a slow and heavy piece, a lot in the vein of Tony Martin era Black Sabbath. The tune is surrounded by darkness and the atmosphere is on the spooky side. I usually love this kind of Hard Rock but this one just won’t break loose and it fails to embrace me at all. That said, it’s not a bad song, I’ll give it an ok. “Borderline” is an uptempo hard rocker that lands somewhere around the Slaves And Masters (1990) era Deep Purple and since I think that’s an underrated album, my thumbs goes up for this song. A pumping rhythm and a catchy refrain that reminds me of Rainbow’s poppier times melody wise, brings the song home. Very good. “Deceiver” is also in a faster pace and mixes classic Hard Rock – Difficult To Cure (1980) era Rainbow with Malmsteen’s Odyssey (1988) era melodies and chunk of Judas Priest thrown in for good measure. But all in all it’s a pretty standard tune, ok but not more.
Rainbow and Blackmore seems to be the biggest influence to these gentlemen. The somewhat gothic sounding (actual closing track) “Gabriel” brings the last formation of Rainbow’s album Stranger In Us All (1995) of all albums to mind, the song “Ariel” in particular. Now, I really dig that album and especially that song a lot so I don’t mind at all. It’s heavy and slow with a dark and atmospheric soundscape with very strong melodies that sticks right away. A real killer and one of my favorite songs on the album. But we also get a bonus track. Why some bands even bother with calling songs bonus tracks anymore is really beyond me now that people don’t buy albums the way they used to. Anyway, the tune is called “Worldvictim” and is a fast and kicking rocker that holds a bearing resemblance to early Rising Force, 80’s Rainbow and some Judas Priest. It’s a good song but it’s not spectacular. It does its job as a closing track anyway.
As you might have guessed by now, FFS aren’t the most original band in the world and they wear their influences on their sleeves. I have no problem with that at all – I’m a fan of the bands they’re obviously fans of so no complaints there. But on the other hand, the Rainbow/Blackmore influences are a bit overmuch and has a tendency to take over which makes FFS lose their identity at times. Still, there are a lot of really good songs here and even though I find some fillers, none of the songs are actually bad. And the guys have managed to give the album a pretty fat production – I have heard better produced albums but I definitely have heard worse – lots. As musicians, these guys are completely flawless but singer Englund have a tendency to be a bit annoying in his higher register where he gets a bit too shrill at times – I actually think of Tobias Sammet (Avantasia, Edguy) at those points. That said, the guy’s a good singer with a broad range. But over-all, FFS have recorded a really good Hard Rock meets Metal album with their roots in the 70’s and 80’s.
2. Faces Of Christ
3. Mr. Blakk
4. God Made You Hate
5. The Devil’s Mule
6. Break And Burn
7. The Unholy
11. World Victim