Genre - Power Metal
1. Hands of Time
2. We Defy
3. Ode to Leonidas
4. Back on the Throne
5. Live and Die by the Sword
6. War of Ages
7. Lady of 1000 Sorrows
9. Warrior and Saints
10. Rise From the Ashes
Back after a five year hiatus from their last effort, the Greek power metal stalwarts Firewind return with their eighth full length entitled 'Immortals', a concept album about Greek history, specifically The Battle of Thermopylae, Spartans and all that subject matter that the Greek metal bands just love recycling to us under a million different guises.
For me Firewind always kind of sat on the fringes of power metal greatness, never quite reaching it, but coming close with 'Burning Earth', but for the majority of their discography they seemed to suffer from playing it far too safe and being all too predictable, with actual solid songwriting often being eschewed to make room for Gus G's flamboyant roller-coaster of guitar playing. Fair enough I get that it is solely his band, he can do whatever the fuck he likes, but still, technical wizardry and flashy arpeggios does not a good song make.
So how does 'Immortals' hold up then? Considering how busy the band have been in the last few years with other projects, guitar virtuoso Gus G jet-setting across the globe with Ozzy Osbourne, and long time singer Apollo being replaced by ex-Metalium vocalist Henning Base, it's pretty much like they never went away, pretty much what you'd expect from Firewind. So take from that what you will, Euro power metal is like chalk and cheese to most people, you either love it or hate it.
'Hands of Time' is a brilliant opener, your typical power metal 'anthem'. Really steely, crunching guitar riffs, a kicking rhythm and catchy, sugary as fuck chorus, it's basically what you want from them. I actually get a significant Lost Horizon vibe from them on this album (only nowhere near as good), vocalist Henning at times sounds very similar to the more aggressive side of Daniel Heiman.
As my previously mentioned ills with the band pointed out, 'Immortals' again suffers from the same problem many power metal albums do, they just completely blow their load on one song and kind of just seize up on auto-pilot for rest of the album. 'Ode to Leonidas' starts off with so much promise but kind of just fizzles out after the intro leaving you thinking, 'is this it'? While 'Back on the Throne' and 'Lady of 1000 Sorrows ' are just kind of awkward and exemplify my main grievance with the album, it threatens so much but never quite crosses that threshold, playing it safe and by the book. The last two tracks 'Warriors and Saints' and 'Rise from the Ashes' do pick up the pace again and are certainly decent, again standard fare cascading Stratovarius-esque neo-classical guitar leads, breakneck drumming and sing along vocal lines.
Fans of the band should definitely check this out, but for those on the fence or those who aren't fans it's not going to change opinions, they've cemented their formula and sticking to it. It's Firewind by numbers for the most part and aside from a few shining highlights here there it's just restricted by its inconsistency and average songwriting.
If you like - Dragonforce, Lost Horizon, Stratovarius
Originall written for metalireland.com