Few countries on Earth have a cultural heritage as rich with artistic tradition as Greece. Once the birthplace of Epic Poetry, this proud-but-troubled country makes a fitting home for Power Metal titans Firewind.
Born in the 90’s as a vehicle for the guitar genius of Gus G, Firewind have long established themselves as one of the foremost members of the Greek music scene, and a force to be reckoned with throughout Europe. Their latest effort, ‘Immortals’, serves to cement that reputation.
When compared with other bands under the Power Metal banner, Firewind typically takes a more direct and melodic approach to songwriting, and this is still very much the case on ‘Immortals’. The album consists mostly of songs that are very tightly composed, without a whole lot of over-the-top technical fluff. This may come as a disappointment to those who listen to metal for displays of pure musicianship, but it does serve to help the album flow and keep the focus on the songs.
Of these songs, a handful seem to stand out. “Hands of Time” is the barn-burning opening track, driven by a straight-ahead double bass backbeat, and featuring a jaw dropping keyboard solo. Combining these elements with lyrics about the horrors and spoils of war, it sets the tone for the album both musically and thematically.
“Live and Die By the Sword” is arguably the strongest track on the album, and one of only a couple to stretch past the 6-minute mark. Building up from a haunting acoustic intro, it accelerates into a crunchy up-tempo riff-rocker with an infectious shout-along chorus.
Meanwhile, “Lady of 1000 Sorrows” provides some Athenian grace to balance out the Spartan efficiency of the rest of the album. Although still a heavy hitting song its own right, this track drifts a little closer to power ballad territory, a region Firewind has occasionally flirted with throughout their career. It’s a tasteful tribute to that era however, without devolving into nostalgic pandering.
Elsewhere on the album however, some degree of pandering does become apparent. References to Greek warriors of the past abound throughout the album. And while some degree of cultural pride is certainly expected to shine through in metal music, it gets a bit redundant. “Ode to Leonidas” in particular comes off as a bit hackneyed, with a spoken word intro that feels tacked on at best.
Of course, clichéd lyrics are hardly the worst criticism one can levy at a Power Metal band. The genre practically lives off of clichés, for better or worse, so it’s really not a grave sin by any means. However, it could have been more interesting to see the band put a lyrical spotlight on the turmoil that faces modern Greece. This is a theme which seems hinted at on a couple tracks, most notably “We Defy”, but never explicitly tackled.
Still, despite that missed opportunity, ‘Immortals’ is undoubtedly a worthy entry in this veteran band’s impressive discography. The tight, punchy songwriting, combined with some masterful musicianship, makes for a record that is simultaneously deep and accessible. Metal fans know all too well how challenging that is to achieve, and it’s for that reason that Firewind has earned their legacy as a modern purveyor of Greek epics.
Reviewed by John Ross