The ninth album from Greek power metallers Firewind finds the band introducing their latest vocalist Herbie Langhans, the former Sinbreed frontman replacing fellow German Henning Basse earlier this year. And the eponymously titled Firewind (AFM Records) is a fine way to get things rolling with their new frontman.
A typically dextrous and nimble-fingered affair, this latest release finds guitarist and founder member Kostantinos Karamitroudis (aka Gus G of Ozzy Osbourne’s band that one time) in particularly industrious form as he hammers, sweeps, pulls, pushes, dives and chugs across his strings with almost graphic sexual intent.
‘Welcome to the Empire’ kicks things off with the Greek virtuoso already managing to showcase a wide array of his talents within the first ninety seconds. Arpeggios, melodic leads, acrobatic soloing and chunky riffing are all thrown into the mix before Langhans even gets to sing a note, his throaty Biff Byford meets Jorn Lande vocals, when they do arrive, standing out strongly in the vibrant mix as the song thunders onwards.
The brisk ‘Devour’ contains fret-wanking aplenty before the mid-paced stomp of ‘Rising Fire’ arrives with a memorable chorus and an eighties vibe. The tremendous ‘Break Away’ is a fast-paced, anthemic beast even if the keyboard chord progression does happen to sound somewhat similar to ‘I’m Still Standing’ by Elton John.
The rest of the album is just as sturdy with the chunky gallop of ‘Orbitual Sunrise’, the simple but bouncy ‘Perfect Stranger’, the throwaway fun of ‘Space Cowboy’, and the outright Dio worship of ‘Overdrive’ and ‘All My Life’, the latter essentially reworking the riff to ‘We Rock’ for its own purposes. Squeezing itself in between those cuts, almost as an afterthought, is the overwrought and fairly forgettable power ballad ‘Longing to Know You’ while fast and furious closer ‘Kill the Pain’ opens with a big drum intro from Johan Nunez before plunging headlong into a missile-locked collision course with the end of the album.
A satisfying slab of guitar-driven European Power Metal, Firewind ranges in style without ever deviating too far and is rarely dull. As is the Firewind way, some tracks tend to be more of an outlet for Gus’s ability as a guitarist rather than something that will stick in your brain. But the songs that do stick will very likely remain there for some time to come.
7 / 10