Freedoms Reign - FREEDOMS REIGN

Early-years FATES WARNING guitarist Victor Arduini spearheads his new group, FREEDOMS REIGN and as one might expect, there's a fair share of early-to-mid-Eighties L.A. power metal action going on in his camp. However, there's much more than that. In fact, the self-titled debut of Arduini's project takes a walk through the years of heavy music, stopping in various pockets to produce a gutsy, likeable and well-studied album.

Taking over both lead guitar and vocal duties, Arduini is joined by second guitarist Tommy Vumback, bassist Mike Jones and drummer Chris Judge. While not always a rule of thumb on this album, Arduini frequently sings in the scale-swooning style (though not the overt pitch) of Ozzy Osbourne, while changing music tendencies as the album rolls along. Most of FREEDOMS REIGN's tunes assume a mid-tempo hum with airs of nostalgia at times but never with any sort of predictability, save for the guarantee of beauteous soloing all the way through.

In the case of "Ritual", "Brother" and "Shadows of Doubt", the sweep backwards doesn't necessarily tread into "Night on Brocken" and "The Spectre Within"-era FATES WARNING, though Arduini could've banked on that vibe if he'd wanted to. Instead, these songs and the hard-driving "Believe" are cut more from the ARMORED SAINT and LEATHERWOLF threads of Eighties West Coast metal. In the case of "Believe", the constant double hammer and punk-heralding riffs also ring like "Best Wishes"-era CRO-MAGS.

By the time "Up from Down" arrives, Arduini and the FREEDOMS REIGN crew step completely away from classic power metal, shifting into a dicey collision between funk metal, agro pump and early SOUNDGARDEN grunge. The results are better than one might think, particularly on the gluey choruses where Arduini escalates his vocals a couple of octaves while the whispery, progressive bridge sets up a blaring guitar solo and later, a wall of feedback hijacked straight out of Seattle, '93. Afterwards, "To Be" continues its brief stay in the days of flannel, ringing a bit like TAD and L7 before jumping into the new millennium with the chawing agro blast of "No Excuses" and the dank, hammering expressionism of the final cut, "Looking Around", that reverts to a vintage Eighties stomp by midpoint.

"Long Way" is one of the best songs on the album with its ever-present riff chugging and writhing choruses. It's a slow-measured amalgam of gritty chunk punk and contemporary hard rock euphony that throws the listener a slick and speedy curveball. Soon, "Long Way" settles back into a crawling, glorious finale graced by a drawn and soulful solo section.

Overall, a cool experiment in genre hopping that could've been disastrous if Victor Arduini wasn't such a gifted guitarist on top of being a savvy metalhead having kept his finger pressed on the pulse of the scene he was witness to in its infancy years. FREEDOMS REIGN hasn't yet hit its fullest capacity as a unit, though Arduini is masterful in everything he does. A few slips in the rhythm section within the first half of the album are detectable, but they'll detract very little. Most of the time, the listener is busy trying to figure out where FREEDOMS REIGN is going from song-to-song and this is why it's such an entertaining ride. Better, it leaves open the premise of even tighter and louder tunes whenever the next round comes.

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