Anyone who is familiar with German power metal knows the name Magnus Karlsson. His list of achievements/writing credits/bands in the world of melodic metal could fill an encyclopedia. His main gig of the last several years has been as guitarist/writer for German stalwarts Primal Fear, but Karlsson has written and performed on albums from Starbreaker, Allen/Lande, Last Tribe, Kiske/Somerville, Bob Catley’s Immortal, and Midnight Sun. So for fans of his work, you may now rejoice as Karlsson has released his very first solo album on Frontiers Records under the moniker Magnus Karlsson’s FreeFall. Magnus has enlisted a little vocal help from some true heavyweights in the metal industry including his Primal Fear bandmate Ralf Scheepers, Starbreaker/TNT vocalist Tony Harnell, Symphony X mainman Russell Allen, Masterplan/At Vance singer Rick Altzi, David Readman of Pink Cream 69, Mike Anderson, Rikard Bengtsson, and Herman Saming, as well as Karlsson taking the lead vocal reins on a few songs himself. The album starts off with the melodic heavy rocker Free Fall featuring Russell Allen who is always in fine voice. Allen and Karlsson’s chemistry is apparent from their work on the Allen/Lande trilogy of albums (Jorn Lande is curious by his absence here). The second track Higher sounds like it could have been written for Karlsson’s day gig Primal Fear, primarily because Scheepers provides his Halford-esque vocals to this heavy melodic power metal anthem. Karlsson’s knack for writing beautiful AOR melodies is apparent on the song Heading Out which features Karlsson’s strong vocal performance and some excellent vocal harmonies. One of my personal vocal heroes, former TNT vocalist Tony Harnell shows why he still has some of the best vocal pipes in the business on the uplifting soaring emotionally charged melody of Stronger. I can’t say enough about this song as once you hear it you won’t be able to get it out of your head. This song features amazing vocal harmonies as well as some beautiful orchestration. Vocalist Rick Altzi lends his gravely metallic growl to the heavy power of Not My Savior, showing why he is one of the most sought after vocalists in the world of progressive power metal. Pink Cream 69 vocalist Readman shows his melodic AOR sensibilities on Us Against The World, another great anthem about never giving up and going after your dreams. One time Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Mark Boals guest vocals on Our Time Has Come are reminiscent of the writing of Bob Catley’s excellent and underrated Immortal album which was written by Karlsson of course. Another favorite track of mine is the harmonious and melody driven hard rocker Ready or Not, which is once again featuring Karlsson’s very strong vocal performance. This song is the prototype of everything that melodic power metal should be. The chorus is a glorious soaring masterwork of songwriting. Next up, Karlsson is joined by his former Last Tribe bandmate Rickard Bengtsson for the appropriately title track Last Tribe, another melodic rocker with some excellent fretwork from Magnus and tremendous vocals from Bengtsson. Swedish vocalist Herman Saming (A.C.T.) takes over the microphone on Fighting, a great driving rock song with some melodic orchestration and great vocal harmonies throughout. Cloudscape/FullForce vocalist turns in a terrific aggressive yet melodic performance on Dreamers and Hunters, a great heavy power metal song with a catchy soaring chorus and Karlsson’s blazing fretwork. The albums final track, On Fire once again features Karlsson’s excellent vocals. The intro starts slow with a passionate and emotional vocal performance and the tempo picks up to the mid tempo metal that Karlsson writes so well. The chorus is soaring, uplifting, and performed flawlessly. After so many years behind the scenes of so many great metal albums, it is heartening to see Magnus Karlsson step out from behind the curtain (with a little help from his friends) to unleash a masterpiece of metal under his own name. I have no doubt he could have provided the vocals for every track here but it is great fun to see the guest vocalists he’s worked with over the years lend their talents to his first solo effort! I have no critiques to speak of on Free Fall. I highly recommend this album to all fans of the melodic power metal genre.
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