CD Review of Lift the Curse by Freya

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Lift the Curse
starstarno starno starno star Label: Victory Records
Released: 2007
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Freya takes its name from the Norse goddess Freyja, who, in her prime, was worshipped as both the goddess of love and war, meaning that you wanted her blessing if you were either going to blow someone away or get blown. One bad-ass deity, in other words, and it’s probably a safe bet that the bitch knew how to party.

Norse mythology is a well-traversed area of interest in the metal scene; for some reason nothing is more awe-inspiring – more metal – to a long-haired dude with a guitar than a Viking stabbing a dragon through the heart. It’s an odd source of inspiration for the members of Freya on their debut record Lift the Curse, because most of them were previously in the very influential straight-edge hardcore band Earth Crisis – a band that sang about animal rights, government bureaucracy and drug abuse. The radical change in musical inspiration is even more surprising when you take into account that Freya is basically the last lineup of Earth Crisis without Scott Crouse. Replacing Crouse on guitar is Ian Edwards, who played bass in Earth Crisis. Replacing Ian is on bass is Ethan Henry, the only member of the band that was not in Earth Crisis.

So if you’re assuming that Freya would pick up where Earth Crisis left off, and continue the band’s hardcore straight-edge animal rights message, you might be in for a shock; instead of proclaiming the virtues of the vegan lifestyle and animal rights, Freya’s focus is decidedly more obtuse and abstract. Norse mythology and folklore are definite influences for the new band, much more so than anything resembling radical political views or straight-edge ideology, but it seems like they haven’t really gotten it down; aside from some references to Ragnarok and divine hammers striking down an unholy evil, Nordic lore takes a backseat to more generic lyrics about higher power and vengeance being unleashed on the unworthy. If it wasn’t for the occasional reference to figures like Lilith, the first woman of Eden that was cast out by God, you might mistake Freya for a Christian rock band.

Without any memorable lyrics, and bogged down with tired melodies that sound the same from song to song, much of Lift the Curse loses its appeal pretty quickly. Songs like “Born to Blood” and “Only the Martyrs” are repetitive and draining, even when compared to other hardcore thrash metal songs. Freya never lets the music speak for itself, instead placing all of the emphasis on Karl Buechner’s relentless barrage of screaming vocals, completely overpowering any musical ability or originality the band might have.

Clocking it at less than half an hour in length, Lift the Curse feels very rushed and almost unfinished, and the pointless inclusion of a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” makes it feel even more like a hodgepodge of half-realized ideas than a complete album. Maybe the band was trying to revisit some of the anti-establishment ground it covered as Earth Crisis by covering this anti-war standard, but instead all it proves is that when the band members leave the comfortable confines of hardcore metal, they haven’t a clue as to what they are doing. Buechner’s ill-advised attempts to sing the verses of the song, instead of tackling them with his usual guttural moaning, are a complete failure; the boy simply can’t hold a note to save his Nordic-vegan life.

Even if Freya had been able to nail the Sabbath classic, what would have been the point? “War Pigs” has been covered to death by everyone from the Dresden Dolls and Faith No More to Pig and even Cake. If the band really wanted to take on a Sabbath classic, why not try “Nativity in Black,” “Tomorrow’s Dream,” or even “Sweet Leaf”?

The moral of the story: When you’re trying to fill up your album to make it look like less of a hurried mess, at least try to hide it a little better.

~James B. Eldred