Release DetailsLABEL Century Media
RELEASED ON 3/25/2008
posted on 5/2008 By:
It wasn't long ago when I thought guitar player Gus G. was working his way to become one of the biggest band whores of the decade. It seemed as though multiple times a year I'd find yet another album that would fall prey to being sold with a sticker on the front stating, "Featuring Gus G.". Nobody had heard of the guy before yet all of a sudden in 2002/2003 the man was on more than a few albums that received more than their own fair share of hype: Dream Evil's debut and follow-up, Mystic Prophecy's second album Regressus, Nightrage's Sweet Vengeance, not to mention Firewind's debut. It wasn't long before Gus G. left all but Firewind, which is purportedly the only band he had more than a helping hand in.
Of course while in the middle of Gus G. mania a few years ago I made sure to check out everything the guy did, since Dream Evil seemed like a winner, the first Nightrage was good fun, and Mystic Prophecy was (and is) a band that struck a chord with me. The problem is that when I checked out Firewind, I was left with a rather stale taste in my mouth. I listened to the band's debut and follow-up, Between Heaven and Hell and Burning Earth, and felt incredibly disinterested in Gus' writing style. It was nice and heavy power metal, with tinges of thrash here and there, and vocalist Stephen Fredrick added a reasonable amount of grit, but the songwriting just wasn't memorable. Sure, you had a few standout songs like "I Am the Anger" and "The Fire and the Fury," but overall, this stuff was incredibly bland. I came to realize quite quickly why Gus was in all those other bands, he simply couldn't do it on his own and needed to stir up a buzz about himself by attaching his name to as many higher profile releases as possible.
So here I am on the third Firewind album I've heard and the third album since the release of Burning Earth (the last album I had listened to). Original vocalist Stephen Fredrick is out and has been replaced by a much cleaner and more typical power metal vocalist in Apollo Papathanasio. Where has the band gone in the last 5 years musically? Still not too far from where they started. This is heavier edged power metal, the vocals are cleaner, the chorus' are a bit more fit for singing along too, but at the same time I can't help but think Stephen Fredrick's rougher sound was a better fit than Apollo in Firewind, though when Apollo busts out a more Dio-like sound in "Head Up High," I can't say I'm hating it. The songs still typically go nowhere, the feeling and emotion is lost somewhere, assuming it was there at some point from the initial idea to the final product.
One notable thing about this album is that there is a more prominent use of keyboards and melodic guitar runs in this band than I remember, making some songs sound rather Europe-y. A song like "Mercenary Man" reminds me of some kind 80's pop metal song, especially that opening verse and simple chorus. The guitars may have some more bite to cut that a bit, but it's hard to ignore and is definitely not a move for the better. This more melodic sound pops up here and there and it generally does not work, simply because it doesn't feel natural. While the heavy sections feel lifeless, the more melodic pieces don't feel like they flow. Vocalist Apollo does a good job of making them sound a bit more convincing but these sections never seem to have the flow they could, or should. I then sit down and think about the extremely corny cover of the 80's pop track, "Maniac" (yes, THAT one) and I can't help but feel the band are quietly pushing for a more melodic sound that will appeal to a wider audience.
Firewind truly have nothing on their peers, hell, they have nothing on the other bands Gus G. has been in. The problem is that while everything that should be in a heavy power band is there, it's just not executed with the same fire and energy that everyone else has been using for years. For that reason Firewind aren't a band that will offend you in the slightest, but if someone puts The Premonition on for you, it'll quickly fade into the background without the slightest notice.
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