Album of the Week 02-2017: Firewind – Immortals

Due to the band members being busy with other projects, Firewind has been a little dormant the last couple of years, but luckily there is a new album. And not just any album, it’s the first metal highlight of 2017. Everything the relatively lackluster ‘Few Against Many’ was missing is here and then some. Maybe the songwriting collaboration with producer Dennis Ward was what Gus G needed or maybe replacing the great former singer Apollo Papathanasio with the downright exceptional Henning Basse is what the band was begging for, but whatever the case, ‘Immortals’ is an exuberant power metal record with some excellent musicianship to boot.

Sometimes a band returns after a while and it just makes sense. ‘Immortals’ is one of those cases. It actually feels like a new chapter in Firewind’s history. Of course the addition of a new singer contributes to that, but there is a freshness to the compositions that greatly adds to the replay value of the album. The interaction between the musicians has a more spontaneous feel than on the last couple of Firewind records and the choruses have a sense of urgency that even their most catchy material didn’t have. Part of that is production, but if a song doesn’t allow for a big chorus, you can’t fabricate it.

‘Hands Of Time’ surfaced a couple of months ago and actually works very well as a mission statement for ‘Immortals’. There’s no long intros, it just blasts straight into full speed in all its melodic, triumphant glory. Henning Basse’s voice is rawer than in his early Metalium days, but fits this brand of power metal extremely well. He handles the calmer work like the lone ballad ‘Lady Of 1000 Sorrows’ equally well as the heavier, more aggressive stuff like ‘Back On The Throne’. On the former, Basse has a distinct early Sebastian Bach vibe to his voice, while the latter is possibly the most thrashy song Firewind has ever done.

‘Immortals’ is a concept album about the Battle of Thermopylae and though I think Greek history themes are overdone in metal, Firewind does get the benefit of the doubt because three of their members are actually Greek. It hardly ever interferes with the music anyway, except for maybe the overlong spoken intro to what is furthermore the album’s highlight: the strong heavy metal stomper ‘Ode To Leonidas’. Other highlights include the powerful closer ‘Rise From The Ashes’, the beautifully epic ‘Live And Die By The Sword’ and the forceful ‘We Defy’.

Firewind is back and that’s a really good thing. In a time when European power metal seems a bit samey, ‘Immortal’ sounds like an album written with the carefree attitude of a youngster and ends up sounding like a combination of the best elements of traditional and contemporary power metal. The result is surprisingly dynamic and simply a very pleasant listen. And take it from someone who has listened to it a lot: it gets better over repeated listens. Let’s just hope that this will just be the beginning of a great year for power metal.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ode To Leonidas’, ‘Rise From The Ashes’, ‘Live And Die By The Sword’

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