Japan continues to be a hotbed for instrumental progressive rock, and newcomer Freewill is no exception. Drawing influences from fellow Japanese instrumental fusion band Kenso, as well as the more metallic crunch of Dream Theater, Freewill manages to impress on this short, yet satisfying CD.
On Frac's four tracks, guitarist Masahiro Lee and keyboard player Kozo Tsuji lead the way with complex melodies and lightning quick lead exchanges. The adventurous "Innerspace" provides plenty of room for the rhythm section of Hisashi Nakao and Shingo Uchida to groove, while Lee and Tsuji lay down some incredibly intricate chops. Prog fans will love the combination of fusion arrangments with heavy rhythms, as on the powerful opener "Zenith of Karma." Guitarist Lee has a style and tone comparable to Allan Holdsworth or Frank Gambale, and his lead work is tasty and melodic throughout. The ending epic "Pagoda", is a four-part symphonic gem, highlighted by majestic keyboards and long instrumental passages. More than once I was reminded of the mighty UK on this tune, as Freewill does a great job of throwing together occassional heavy riffs with beautiful keyboard soundscapes, then shifts gears with some crazy, complex lead breaks.
I welcome Freewill into the ranks of strong up-and-coming fusion bands. This is a classy and impressive CD from a talented group of musicians that carries on the legacy of great Japanese instrumental rock.