Firewind – Few Against Many
There was a time when I had pegged Firewind as the next big thing in power metal. In 2009-2010 I saw them live three times over the course of one year and each time they seemed to have won more souls. Part of a surge of bands which also included Dragonforce and Sabaton, they were all but ready to conquer the world. Now, two years later, I think they just might have missed their window. Hot on the tail of career highlight The Premonition they released Days Of Defiance, but due to poor management it wasn’t followed by a worldwide tour and all but forgotten once they hit the road twelve months later. Meanwhile, Dragonforce and Sabaton played all the big festivals, sold out shows faster than Timo Tolkki announces a comeback after one of his breakdowns, and Firewind suddenly was the band whose guitarist also performs with Ozzy Osbourne. Now they are often part of a package deal instead of a headliner of their own.
That short (?) history lesson leaves us with the new album Few Against Many, which has a lot to prove and may be crucial to their future. Musically it continues down the path set upon with Allegiance, the first to feature busy boy Apollo Papathanasio (who has a new record with Evil Masquerade out as well). The pure power metal of the first three outings keeps on slipping further way, to the point where I’d almost call Firewind a melodic heavy metal band. Sure there are the obligatory firecrackers “Wall Of Sound” and “Destiny”, but too often they go into mid-tempo plodding as on the dull “Losing My Mind”, mesmerizing “Another Dimension” and forgettable “Long Gone Tomorrow”.
Of course this is nothing new: Firewind have shown a slight decline in songwriting on Days Of Defiance as well, only here it’s more noticeable. Gus G.’s lush guitar playing and Apollo’s soaring voice partially make up for that. Compared to a lot of genre colleagues, the album sure is entertaining, with standouts such as the aforementioned “Wall Of Sound” and “Destiny”, but also the title track and “The Undying Fire”. The ballad “Edge Of A Dream” has a guest spot for the cellists from Apocalyptica, although this seems to serve little more than a fancy name to put on the cover sticker.
In the end, I’m still very fond of Firewind, even if other people may have moved on, but I find myself more drawn to their first five than their last two. I’m sure they have another dynamite album in them, and this is pure speculation on my part: but perhaps Gus and Apollo’s involvement in multiple side projects have shed an unwelcome shadow on a band that fully deserves its own spotlight. Ah well, Ozzy won’t live forever.
Arno Callens’ Rating: 3.5 out of 5