It’s been five long years since FIREWIND last graced us with a new album, and it’s definitely been worth the wait. Immortals (January 20 via AFM Records) is the band’s first concept album, focusing on ancient Greek history including the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis. It takes a lot of creative ability and hard work to piece together a compelling story, and the band has nailed it on this new release.
FIREWIND has a new singer this time around; replacing Apollo Papathanasio is Henning Basse, whom many fans will be familiar with from his time as vocalist for Gus G.’s solo band over the last couple of years. Henning’s vocals are a beautiful combination of power and raspy goodness that suits the material on Immortals perfectly, and I hope for the opportunity to hear his interpretation of some classic FIREWIND tracks live in the near future. The rest of the band is unchanged from 2012’s Few Against Many – Gus G. remains one of the best guitarists in the world, and Bob Katsionis’ work on keyboards is just amazing. Jo Nunez (drums) and Petros Christo (bass) provide a very solid and consistent rhythm section and contribute an excellent backdrop to the guitars, keyboards, and vocals on Immortals.
The tracks on the album fit what I’ve come to expect from the FIREWIND formula – driving, powerful songs, with tons of guitar hooks and soaring vocals and choruses. The first couple of tunes released, “Ode to Leonidas” and “Back On the Throne” really reinforce this and provide a preview of the overall quality of the disc. Those two tracks, combined with “Hands of Time” and “We Defy”, launch the album with an insane pace and an intensity that will blow away fans of the band.
That said, the songs where the band slows things down are some of the best the album has to offer. The acoustic intro and build up at the beginning of “Live and Die By the Sword” had me wishing that the entire song had continued a bit longer before launching into the neck destroying body on the track. “Lady of 1000 Sorrows” is an absolutely beautiful song that both hearkens back to some of the classic ballads of the 1980’s and feels new and modern at the same time.
This is the first time that FIREWIND has worked with an outside producer, and Dennis Ward has done a fantastic job – the album sounds crisp and clear, and never comes across as over-produced. The mix is as close to perfect as it can be, and it sounds amazing. I really can’t recommend Immortals highly enough, especially if you’re a fan of historical concepts in metal. FIREWIND may have taken a half decade to release a new album, but the long view has definitely worked in the case, and I am simply blown away by the excellence of this album. Pick it up on release day and you won’t be disappointed.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM