posted on 1/2007 By:
If you’ve never heard of Greece’s Firewind, you’ve still likely heard of or at least heard lead guitarist Gus G. This guy has played in a number of name-brand shredder acts (Dream Evil, Nightrage, Mystic Prophecy, and even a session stint in Arch Enemy), and predictably the most striking thing about Allegiance is his very ostentatious lead playing. Beyond Gus’s jaw-dropping chops, though, I have a hard time getting excited about Firewind. I understand that this album has been meeting very favorable reviews all throughout the metal press, but I just don’t get it; this is an album that hammers through power metal clichés with admittedly stunning precision, and the resulting mix of Iced Earth and Whitesnake is energetic but far too paint-by-numbers to elicit much of a reaction.
That probably sounded a little harsh, and thus will probably be met with protest by the band’s fans. Rightly so, perhaps; the quality of sound and performance on Allegiance is inarguably top-notch. Beyond Gus G., new vocalist Apollo Papathanasio and drummer Mark Cross (ex-Metallium, Helloween) both turn in marvelously nuanced and tasteful performances, and the stellar Studio Fredman production renders every note with a clarity and fullness that’s rare even within the largely-overproduced power metal genre. There are even a few moments of remarkable deftness within the songwriting; the driving thrash riff from opener “Allegiance” could go step-for-step with anything out of Iced Earth’s or even Nevermore’s playbook, while “Ready to Strike,” “Deliverance,” “Till the End of Time” and “Where Do We Go From Here?” all sport massively catching choruses. Topping off more or less every song is a sprinkling of familiar but still stunning shred from Mr. G.
But a great production, awesome individual performances, and a few catchy choruses can’t make up for the fact that most of these songs are just boring. Gus G.’s riffing and shredding are punchy but colorless and almost stock at times, while Bob Katsionis’ keyboard flourishes are both predictable and largely superfluous. Each big, choir-backed chorus is telegraphed, and even the album’s overall flow (fast song, fast song, mid-paced song, fast song, instrumental quiet song, etc.) is awfully familiar. I suppose more dedicated power metal fans might eat Firewind up, but to these ears Allegiance is just a flashy, fancy repackage of old songs and older ideas.
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