-Review by Mark Jeffery Campayno
Just when you thought that technological innovations in music had eliminated the need, or even the will to look back at the past, a band from Seinäjoki, Finland, Free Spirit releases it’s sophomore effort, “All the Shades of Darkened Light”. This 11 song collection opens up with blazing guitar riffs that evoke everything that serious rock fans have been missing for decades.
Can it be that eighties melodic hard rock is still relevant? I must admit, even I had doubts. With clarity, precision, and eighties bravado, “All the Shades of Darkened Light” serves notice that high energy and good old hair metal swag can still rock hard.
Melodic Hard Rock is a tough taskmaster. With so many musical elements to produce not to mention the risk involved, it’s refreshing to see a band pull it off with such ease. The first track, “Through the Night” will have you fully engaged as the band has set the course. There’s no turning back now. With blazing anthems and refurbished vocal hooks filling each track from beginning to end there’s hardly a place to catch your breath. But, if you yearn for the days of big hair, perfectly processed guitars, and fist in the air rock bravado, prepare yourself to be transformed. Yes, the decade of decadence and excess lives on!
Guitar solos? Yes, and they are imaginative and impeccably played. Marko Haapamäki and Vesa Yli-Mäenpää churn out riffs that cut through the already-dense musical landscape with arpeggiated melodies and harmonized flights-of-fancy that strike to the soul of what guitar used to be. Used to be that is, before the Seattle revolution all but muted such perceived excess. Here excess is not on display. The solo sections are measured, balanced, and exquisite.
Vocalist, Sami Alho possesses all the nuance and flair of a hard rock leading man. Passionate, controlled, and soulful, he easily soars over the layered harmonies, guitar accents, and big drums. But of course that is part and partial of what the eighties were all about. The foundational blueprint of what Free Spirit is as a unit gives a bigness to this recording that is often missed when attempting to recreate the past. The band’s rhythm section is tough and ready with Sami Hämäläinen on bass, Pasi Koivumäki on drums, and Timo Alho on keyboards. They are on point with a groove that infuses the music with a harmonic pallet that is unique and tight.
Want proof? Try “Silence”, a heartbreaking tune reminiscent of the great hard rock ballads of the past. Using all their powers, the boys come through big on this one with a moving performance full of arpeggiated passages, gorgeous guitar breaks, and pleading vocals.
“Storyline” wraps up the release as the 11th track. This summation in hard rock gets to the heart of what Free Spirit is all about. A hint of Def Leppard appears in the main riff, the vocals harmonize perfectly, and everything is just perfect.
Thankfully, Free Spirit is no one trick pony. There’s plenty of variation in their material and one can easily make the necessary connection between the past and the present. Hmmm…guys? Why not an even twelve next time?
Sami Alho – Vocals
Vesa Yli-Mäenpää – guitars & backing vocals
Marko Haapamäki – guitars & backing vocals
Sami Hämäläinen – bass
Pasi Koivumäki – drums
Timo Alho – keyboards
Free Spirit Music and Website: