Forged In Fire
6/9/2005 - Review by: Eric Compton
Firewind - Forged In Fire - 2005 - Century Media
From the bushes to the stages, big bands keep pushing out big sounds, surrounded by masterful production jobs and the very best in crossing genres, something that successful acts like Edguy, Masterplan, and even Helloween have experimented with over the course of their last few records. Now Firewind are where they should be, at record number three where things are slightly more focused and direct. At this particular point I believe the band have reached that prime time status, making all of the big plays and following through with every step. Led by young guitar sensation Gus G., made famous through his efforts with Mystic Prophecy, Nightrage, and Dream Evil, Firewind lend a hand in taking power metal to that next level. The band just continues to progress and get better and better with each album. Staying out of the breeze so to speak, I've missed most of the time table for Firewind. Recently I picked up all three records at once, giving me the perfect chance to educate myself on the band's beginnings and exactly how far they have come.
"Forged In Fire" is probably miles beyond their 2002 debut "Between Heaven And Hell". With the starter record Gus and company seemed to have found that Malmsteen "Marching Out" vibe, really staying within the neo-classical guidelines and rarely going out of that particular niche. The debut is solid from top to bottom, but really Firewind are a different machine now, really going so much further in three years time. With their sophomore effort, "Burning Earth" (2003), the band seemed to have grown out of the traditional pattern, really setting up progressive yet powerful arrangements. Vocalist Stephen Fredrick was probably the biggest highlight for me on these two records, with his voice being the perfect classic symbol. Now Fredrick has moved on to another quality act, Kinrick, and Firewind have enlisted a brand new singer in Chity Somapala (Faro, Avalon). Somapala brings a more dynamic feel to this material, almost combining on the same hard rock feel of power crooners like Jorn Lande (Jorn, Masterplan) and Chris Bay (Freedom Call). His register allows him to mix it up like Halford or Scheepers, but at the same time he can hit Dio styled classic rumblings while still filling a Pretty Maids/Pink Cream 69 back alley rock venue.
This new release is just simply a freight train of huge, massive numbers, all completely done over the top in the most precise and fabulous production approach. The album was actually recorded in Greece, Germany, and Norway, produced by Gus G., and mastered by Fredrik Nordstrom. If that isn't enough to get you fired up, mix in some guest spots for Marty Friedman (Megadeth) and James Murphy (Testament, Death) combined with the furious riffage of Gus G. and you really get a whole new world here. This record is just completely mesmerizing for me, something that rarely comes along with this modern power metal. Sure bands like Brainstorm, Freedom Call, and Metalium continue to impress, but Firewind seem to have that special gift to combine the most straight forward of metal tradition and unity with that experimental edge to make something so much more. "Forged In Fire" is exactly that, a huge stride in the ways and methods of creating this modern genre, but never compromising the ideals and practices set down by metal's pounding heroes of the past.
You can look at bold, faster cuts like "Kill To Live" and "Escape From Tomorrow" as your perfect answer to the old school Euro power. But while those songs just simply roar off the tracks, other types of songs seem to go so much deeper. A track like "Hate World Hero" or "Burn In Hell" keeps that hard rock life, sort of like a growing Whitesnake into Sabbath type of mentality. Fans of huge, cranking doom riffs will just eat up G's fury-filled wrenchings on "Perished In Flames". Impellitteri styled shred can be found on the instrumental "Feast Of The Savages", while Helloween's modern songwriting is found within "Tyranny". The album ends on a blissful ballad, with "Land Of Eternity" surprisingly one of my favorites of the record.
This is exactly what I loved about bands like Helloween, Heaven's Gate, and Gamma Ray, back when the Germans were just innovative and monumental in their delivery of traditional goods. But just like everything else, it can turn stale so quickly. That is where a band like Firewind excels, they take that "metal heart" and combine it with other avenues, most of those avenues simply being the ability to add in a huge amount of Euro AOR and hard rock. Really at times this material could be like Primal Fear crossed with TNT, but it never comes out as something extremely strange or hard to define. It is such a smooth transition, an easy street to cross and one that seems so important at this stage in the game.
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