AFM Records [Release date 20.01.17]
It’s been four years since ‘Few Against Many’ but Gus G is no slouch. In the interim he’s released two excellent solo albums and moonlighted with Ozzy. And in spite of everything he always seems to return to the Firewind fold. We should be grateful for that.
‘Few Against Many’, released in 2012, marked a slight change of emphasis for the band, more riff-based and potentially of greater crossover potential. This may have been the Ozzy Factor, as Gus wanted to explore a wider song palette than previously and the album came soon after his sojourn with rock’s Prince Of Darkness.
‘Immortals’ sees a return to a more formulaic power metal approach which shouldn’t come as a surprise although some might argue it’s a retrograde step and plays more to their core fanbase. And in keeping with the power metal tradition the album is thematic and has ancient Greek history for its subject matter. This time round Gus G has co-produced and written with Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Unisonic, Khymera) who coincidentally produced Bob Catley’s album ‘Immortal’ in 2008.
Much of what is on offer here, although well executed, is somewhat dated and could have easily have been released in the band’s ‘Allegiance/Premonition’ heyday. In truth some of the riffage and major key changes are too predictable and we’ve heard them from not only Firewind but any number of their power metal peers.
Opener ‘Hands Of Time’ and ‘Warriors And Saints’ are good examples of this metal fatigue and ‘We Defy’ and ‘Ode To Leonistas’ are only elevated by Gus G’s guitaring which as ever remains a highlight of the album and the band’s music in general.
It’s a shame that Firewind have operated the proverbial revolving door for their vocalists over the years but the German Henning Basse is a very good match, and hopefully will stay a bit longer. Thankfully, too, Bob Katsionis remains a perfect foil for his long-term guitar partner although his keyboard patches sometimes place the music even further back than the late 1990s.
Whatever, we know Firewind can always turn in a classy mid-tempo ballad and ‘Lady Of 1000 Sorrows’ is one of their best and a true standout. This really is a tour de force and a great showcase for their new vocalist and with a bridge section and chorus to die for. The stuff of legends, indeed.
The full import of the song title ‘Back To The Throne’ may have been somewhat lost in translation but it is another album highlight, eliciting one of the best Gus solos, although still tempered by the feeling of déjà vu. Similarly ‘Live And Die By The Sword’ is destined to be a future live favourite with it’s chant and infectious folk motifs.
I am sure original Firewind fans and those who follow Gus G will find ‘Immortals’ invigorating. Whether this album lives forever in their own personal pantheon of power metal is open to debate. ****
Review by David Randall
Gig review (Manchester, February 2017)
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