Firewind was always an inconsistent band; from good to mediocre albums, Greek prodigy Gus G‘s child’s discography stands in the limbo of the power metal genre. With a small change in the lineup that worked wonders after the highly commercial ‘Few Against Many’ (2012), with Apollo Papathanasio being replaced by the highly skilled Henning Basse (ex-Metalium), Gus G proved that his mind wasn’t swallowed by delusions of grandeur when he joined the questionable final era of Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career with this past and highly enjoyable effort, ‘Immortals’ (2017). Now with another vocal representative in the awesome pipes of Herbie Langhans – of Seventh Avenue and Sinbreed fame – Gus once again delivers an inspired effort, ‘Firewind’.
The self-titled album represents a return to Firewind’s roots and heydays. From the already known flamboyant and pompous solos by Gus to concise and sober performances by Petros Christo (bass) and Jo Nunez (drums), the album succeeds in keeping the band on the map and adding some flair to that. Langhans’ pipes are brutally proficient, and his raspy voice takes us back to Stephen Frederick’s (ex-Kenziner) stint with the Greeks, especially reminiscing ‘Burning Earth’ (2002).
Songs like “Welcome to the Empire”, “Rising Fire” and “Overdrive” capture that early 2000’s essence with mastery. The guitars are heavier and more brutal, the atmosphere is more bombastic and Langhans’ vocal lines are strong enough to keep it all burning. More polished tracks, while less present here than in Firewind’s last albums, provide a good amount of balance to the whole “in your face” attitude, which can be seen on “Longing to Know You” and “Perfect Stranger”, for instance.
Basically, it feels that Gus G. is a better songwriter when it comes to aggressive and powerful songs, which adds a lot more personality to his playing style. Shredding is something that he’s definitely mastered, but it’s with riffs that he truly shines. Keeping things more minimalistic and less melodic works wonders for Firewind’s sound, and the best parts of the record are exactly when this is more evident.
I can’t help but think that the homonymous record is an amalgam of Firewind’s career so far, especially so because of its heterogeneous nature. In addition to strong, bold tracks that mirror the band’s first three albums and some cheesy melodic moments akin of the 2010-12 era, catchy, mid-tempo tunes such as “Orbitual Sunrise” and “All My Life” could have easily been part of ‘Allegiance’ (2006) or ‘The Premonition’ (2008).
At first, I wasn’t really expecting all that much from them after Henning Basse’s departure, but when Langhans was announced I hopped right back into the hype wagon, and since I got my copy of the album, I’ve been spinning it non-stop. In fact, this might be the best Firewind record to date.
With stellar guitar work and an unholy, masterful vocal performance, this record lifts Firewind right back into top-tier once again. A considerable improvement from the albums of the first part of the 2010 decade, and even better than the cool ‘Immortals’, ‘Firewind’ is full of memorable moments and great musicality. Highly recommended.