You wonder: now that Ozzy has ended “The End”, in his dotage will he revive his solo career? And does that mean there’s another job for Gus G? The Greek guitarist was drafted in for the album ‘Scream’ in 2010 and the accompanying world tour and expressed his hopes that they’d collaborate again. In the meantime, Ozzy evidently looked at his latest pension statement and went with the money.
Firewind fans were obviously worried that the frenetic power metallers would suffer with their intrepid leader moonlighting. Perhaps, thankfully, that never really happened although there’s been four years between album releases, the latest “Immortals” preceded by “Few Against Many” in 2012. In the meantime Gus has also released two solo albums.
‘Few Against Many” may have confounded some Firewind freaks as it was a little more mainstream but the latest album which was heavily featured tonight is far closer to their power metal roots.
It’s a shame that Firewind will remain somewhat niche, the double drumming powered, sometimes Dragonforce-esque, style obviously alienating a potentially wider audience. They attracted a welcoming and ecstatic Manchester crowd and part of the pleasure of this gig was a guilty one: seeing a band at the top of their game in such intimate surroundings.
The last time I saw them, they were on the same bill as Leaves’ Eyes and, before that, on a three way with Eden’s Curse and Stratovarius. Both times the sound was typically crocked by the low ceiling nature of the venues but with tonight’s superb sound mix you could really enjoy the detail of frequently technical music.
The band’s momentum over the years has probably not been helped by the endless churn of vocalists (and drummers) but Henning Basse is a great addition, commanding the stage and the tunes. What you get with Firewind is a nice package: metallic heaviness, uplifting melodies and of course great riffage and guitaring with the charismatic Gus ably assisted by his long-time cohort Bob Katsionis even if Bob seems to use keyboard patches that date from the late-1980s.
Barely an hour before encores didn’t do justice to their back catalogue, not least their last album. They naturally and courageously played much of the new album including the dubiously titled ‘Back On The Throne’ and the quite wonderful ‘Lady Of 1000 Sorrows’ – for me the album and tonight’s standout.
This piece was prefaced with a snatch from Gary Moore’s ‘The Loner’ – such a shame that Gus didn’t develop this further. But in rallying with ‘World On Fire’, ‘Mercenary Man’ and ‘Falling To Pieces’ they reminded us just how far they’ve come and just how good they can still be. Immortals? Possibly.
Review and photos by David Randall
Ode To Leonidas/ We Defy/ Head Up High/ Few Against Many/ Between Heaven And Hell/ Back On The Throne/ Hands Of Time/ Wars Of Ages / Lady Of 1000 Sorrows / World On Fire/ The Fire And Fury/ Tyranny
Encores: Live And Die By The Sword/ Mercenary Man /Falling To Pieces
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Power Plays w/c 19 February
THUNDERMOTHER Revival (Despotz Records)
THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT There’s Still Time (Earache)
TAX THE HEAT The Last Time (Nuclear Blast)
DOOMSDAY OUTLAW Spirit That Made Me (Frontiers)
BAD WOLVES Zombie (Eleven Seven Music)
ALL THAT REMAINS The Thunder Rolls (Eleven Seven Music)
Featured Albums w/c 19 February (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 TOTO Greatest Hits: 40 Trips Around The Sun (Sony Legacy)
12:00-13:00 SHIRAZ LANE Carnival Days (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 THE LYNNES Heartsong For The Radio (indie)
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