Firewind – Immortals (Century Media)

Firewind – Immortals (Century Media)

Superb stuff...

A power metal concept album about the second Persian invasion of Greece? Songs about Sparta and Leonidas? Tales of superhuman bravery at Salamis and Thermopylae? Sounds right up Ferry Templeton’s alley I know but I’m the editor of this magazine and, as along-time admirer of Firewind mainstay Gus G in all his various metallic guises I’ve decided to pull rank and dissect Immortals myself. A man’s gotta have some perks…

The first thing that has to be said is that Firewind’s first studio album in five years is a fair way better than it’s predecessor, Few Against Many. It’s an altogether more rounded release from start to finish – maybe the decision to make a concept record helped the band focus a bit better on matter in hand – and, as a result it’s a far more pleasurable listening experience. Returning vocalist Henning Basse – last seen manning the Firewind mic a decade ago on the Allegiance tour– does the impossible and replaces the irreplaceable Apollo Papathanasio, putting in a matchwinning performance on standout cuts like the excellent Live and Die by the Sword, and it has to be said that the presence of uber Euro metal producer Dennis Ward (Unisonic, Pink Cream 69 et al) behind the desk has also sharpened things up. Ward also co-wrote with Gus G, and the fingerprints of his classy songwriting and arrangement smarts are all over tracks like the epic Wars of Ages.

The man himself is in relatively restrained mood throughout the album, happy to hang back and let the songs do the talking. There’s ample shreddage, of course – please don’t worry if the only reason you buy Firewind albums is to hear Gus G’s fingers fly – but for the most part our hero restricts himself to unleashing only where the songs demand. When he does let rip, it’s a joy to behold, as usual.

Basse handles the balladic Lady of 100 Sorrows with aplomb, resisting the temptation to oversing, carrying the song’s excellent chorus melody with a powerful yet tasteful performance. It’s classy stuff, matched by the solo produced by Gus G midway through the song, harmonising with himself in spine-tinglingly fine fashion. Interestingly (or not – I’ll let you decide) Basse appeared last year on Dutch band Spartan’s The Fall of Olympus album last year so he’s clearly metal’s go-to man for matters Hellenic now…

Where was I? Ah yes, Greek mythology. You don’t need to know anything about the subject to get a maximum amount of listening pleasure from the songs here – you’ll be able to bang your head with abandon to the quite superb Warriors and Saints whether you know the whereabouts of Thermopylae or no – much easier to simply immerse yourself in some of the highest quality melodic metal you’ll hear all year and revel in the top-drawer performances of all involved. This really is the good stuff.

Immortals is out now.

Scott Adams

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