Free Reign
Heavier than Metal

I put this CD into my player with all my weapons laid on the table and ready to destroy. First there’s the title, Heavier Than Metal, which most certainly isn’t accurate. Then, there’s the fact that this is a group of football players dabbling at being musicians. That’s OK for a bar band, but it rankles me a little when people try to use their celebrity to jump into a spot that dedicated musicians have worked years to reach. Worse than that, though, is that two of them are Dallas Cowboys, and a third used to be. I grew up as a Saints fan in an area of Louisiana where most everyone was a Cowboys fan – until of course, the Saints became successful a few years ago – and I have a deep and abiding hatred of the Cowboys. That’s why it pains me to say that this record isn’t that bad.

I’m not excited about it, and I’m not raving about it. I’m not telling you to run right out and get it now because these guys are the real deal. I’m saying it’s not bad. It’s probably 10 years behind the times, but it’s not bad.

What Free Reign delivers on their debut is a competently played blend of metalcore and commercial hard rock, with some aspirations to progressive in places. At its heavier and better moments, the band reminds me a little of Diecast or God Forbid. On the rest, they tread Disturbed/Godsmack territory. Guitarist Justin Chapman, who is the only non-football player in the band, brings a little musical respectability to the table in his lead licks, and it’s felt almost immediately on album opener “All in Vain,” where his chops prop up a mediocre song.

“Bleed From Me” opens in that metalcore mode that the band really should stay in. When they drop down into the more melodic sounds after the opening, things settle into a lull until the heavier sound returns. Vocalist Marc Colombo’s voice tends to fall flat here and there on the more melodic moments, while the shouts are much better. There are some attempts in the chorus of “Bleed From Me,” and other places, to move into the arena of some of Soilwork’s more melodic stuff. Colombo even seems to affect a little bit of an accent here and there, which is kind of strange since he’s from Boston (and it’s not a Boston accent).

Still, there are some enjoyable moments. The grooving opening of “Ruins” is nice, and while Colombo is shouting and growling, the song is quite likeable. The clean guitar at the beginning of “In Your Head” is also a nice touch, followed up by a galloping Metallica-influenced riff.

There’s some awful stuff, too. The rap-rock “Rise Up,” which seems to have been intended as a stadium anthem, just doesn’t work. There’s a little bit of Sevendust here and there, but not nearly enough. Closing semi-ballad “Last Goodbye II” suffers from a problem that’s prevalent throughout – that it’s just too melodramatic and caught up in itself.

Your tolerance for Free Reign will probably depend on your tolerance for the more commercial end of the hard rock spectrum and whether or not you got completely sick of the metalcore scene years ago. It’s not a great record and is not destined to become part of my permanent collection, but at the same time, it’s more tolerable than much of the stuff that I get from “real” musicians every day. And, hey, I guess they need something to do during the lockout.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
July 13th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Dan

    check this out for more NFL/music crossover. Hilarious:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-DGKvamofQ


  2. Commented by: Jesse Wolf

    This bands worse then brokencyde.


  3. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    sounds awful.


  4. Commented by: Gabaghoul

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