Reviewed by Arno Callens
Firewind has never been the most stable band. Never mind they’re on their gazillionth vocalist (I bet you Henning Basse gets really nervous when he’s called to Gus G.’s office on a Friday night) – with each one comes a shift in style. The Stephen Fredrick era brought us gritty power metal, which continued into the Chity Somapala phase, while Apollo Papathansio brought a mainstream rock appeal to the music, and now Basse is spearheading a move into modern power metal territory, for better or for worse.
Good things first: Immortals is better than Few Against Many. When Gus G. joined Ozzy Osbourne, he basically abandoned Firewind much like he did Mystic Prophecy and Nightrage in the past, with the sole exception that he still half-assedly recorded albums. While Days Of Defiance rode comfortably on the coattails of career-highlight The Premonition, Few Against Many not only put the fans on sabbatical, but the band itself too. Some considered it more permanent then others, but now Firewind is back with members who probably don’t even recognize each other.
Which will probably go for the fans too. Immortals is a solid record, but it’s nowhere near the raw power of Between Heaven And Hell or the unique mix of influences that Allegiance brought to the table. What we get is straightforward power metal which shows all the signatures of the genre without much of the punch. Which is ironic, seeing as this album is based on the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis, known to the general public as the plot from the movie 300. With the notable exception of “Ode To Leonidas” and “Wars Of Ages”, there’s nothing here resembling Zack Snayder’s beefed up machismo meets swords-and-sandals spectacle. Gus G. can still shred, but you wouldn’t follow the man into battle. I might stand on the sidelines, occasionally cheering.
Luckily, there are a few cheers to be handed out. After a fairly standard opening track, “We Defy” brings back the riffage, and even though it’s probably ripped from a previous record, it does the job of establishing Immortals as a Firewind thing, and not Masterplan’s Novum Initium Part II. “Back On The Throne” shares a similar vibe with “Ready To Strike” from Allegiance, and has a killer chorus to boot. From there the temperature at the Hot Gates is turned down a degree or two with the lackluster “Live And Die By The Sword” and its hackneyed melodies. The aforementioned “Wars Of Ages” notwithstanding, Immortals doesn’t get its six-pack bulging again until the very last song ,”Rise From The Ashes”, which is what I wish more of this album had sounded like, in every possible meaning.
I don’t want to be too hard on Firewind, and just be happy that they’re back, but if anyone could have added some class to the tired Spartan shtick we’ve seen too much of over the years, I would’ve bet good money on these Greeks. Of course, money and Greeks don’t go well together, so maybe I owe this one to myself. As it stands, Immortals is a pleasant diversion from a career that didn’t seem to go anywhere, and occasionally it’s even great. Still, if the band had listened more to the iconic words of their forefather (“Come and get it!”), maybe they wouldn’t have returned with something that only looks a bit like “it”.
3.5 // 5