Since the early 2000s, Gus G has proven himself to be one of the world’s finest guitarists. A staple in modern metal, Gus’s credentials speak for themselves, having recorded and toured with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Arch Enemy, Mystic Prophecy, Dream Evil and Nightrage since he left the Berklee College Of Music in 1998. Before his high-profile career formally launched, however, he launched a project with a close coterie of friends called Firewind, releasing a string of albums in the years after.
The newest addition to Firewind’s catalogue is the eponymous Firewind, their first with vocalist Herbie Langhans and without Henning Basse or Bob Katsionis. From the beginning, the tone is set for an exciting listen: the ominous acoustic picking that starts “Welcome To The Empire” with trademark Gus shredding laid over is like “Fade To Black” with high octane fuel; leading into a gnarly power metal expose showcasing Langhans’ gritty belting for the first time. The hammering “Devour” is even more of an epic exercise, getting deeper into the thick of things and opening the gates for Gus to get on with his superb melodic axework. “Rising Fire” is more riff-heavy, blurring the lines between groove and power metal between Gus’ chuggage and Langhans’ Dio-esque vocal approach.
“Break Away” cuts closer to traditional heavy metal, treading along the lines of recent Accept and old school Judas Priest. “Orbitual Sunrise” at first sounds like Scorpions’ “The Zoo” taken to a far heavier conclusion, unfolding into an extreme and mighty interpretation of Justice-era Metallica. “Longing To Know You” begins as a regular acoustic ballad, building into a many-stringed tour-de-force over time without sacrificing a drop of heavy metal vigour. “Perfect Stranger” has more of a modern vibe, which would encapsulate the song if a hardcore vocalist had been in Langhans’ place (it’s a nice contrast).
No, that’s not the “Rag Doll” drums at the beginning of “Overdrive.” The track is pure, fiery, thunderous metal, a tribute in fact to heavy metal itself. “All My Life” reiterates where Firewind stands, brimming with melody and bringing back the staccatoed keyboards of “Break Away” to give Gus a solid ground to go off of. “Space Cowboy” is par for the course as far as the album goes, moderately paced and full of Gus goodies as far as the soloing goes. The rapid-fire “Kill The Pain” closes it out, a final, driving dose of pure metal putting Firewind at their best on display.
With Firewind, Gus goes beyond the extent that he’s already proven himself to be a top guitarist in contemporary metal to once more let anyone who thought otherwise know it beyond a doubt. Firewind writ large score another strong, consistent and perfectly metal record in their discography with this one, keeping the sound of metal fresh and its spirit preserved. All in all, a job well done around the board.