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Album Reviews : Firewind – Days Of Defiance

By on December 8, 2010

Firewind has long been one of the most impressive and reliable acts in the power metal genre. Right from their blazing debut “Between Heaven And Hell” (2002) up to the fantastic “Premonition” album of 2008, these Greek metallers have not put a foot wrong.  Anyone that thought that with Gus G joining Ozzy, Firewind would be put on the back-burner must now be eating their words because Firewind have just released the best album of their career so far.

The record goes straight for the jugular with “Ark of Lies”. This tune highlights everything that Firewind stands for and is the reason why they are in the upper echelon of metal bands. It’s a fast-paced, melodic and highlights the outstanding musicianship and song-writing skills in this band. If anything, Gus’ guitar work here is leaner, meaner and more focused than we have heard in the past. The frantic riffs are still there as are the fretboard –burning solo’s but an added layer of urgency is now laid over the top. It’s fantastic to see Gus hasn’t rested on his laurels since landing the Ozzy gig.

From there on in Days Of Defiance delivers slab after slab of some of the finest melodic power metal heard in quite a few years. The first single “World On Fire” may not be entirely original as it sticks to the tried and tested Firewind formula, as the old say goes though “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It’s a great tune but is somewhat overshadowed by some the sheer magnificence to be found on songs like “Heading For The Dawn” which contains an absolutely blazing solo trade off between Gus’ guitars and Bob Katsionis keys. Drummer Mark Cross, who performed on the album but has since been replaced by new member Michael Ehre, really shines through on this track. “Heading For The Dawn” is a fine demonstration of the powerful style he brings to the Firewind machine. “Chariot” has a chorus is sure to be a crowd favourite live in no time at all. This is one of the albums driving tunes and has an almost-Maiden feel to it especially in the verses. Singer Apollo Papathanasio is fine form throughout the album and especially on this song and the ballad “Broken”. “Killing In The Name Of Love” has an almost industrial metal feel to begin with before becoming the full-blown metal monster we’ve come to know and love from Firewind and is yet another song that demands repeated listening.

As with some of their past albums, “Days Of Defiance” contains the obligatory ballad in “Broken”. The metal may have been turned down, but the song writing is lifted quite a few notches making this a definite highlight of the disc. Beginning with a very beautiful and melodic acoustic guitar, this song sees singer Papathanasio deliver his finest performance on this album. Definitely worth checking out!

Special mention MUST be made of “Embrace the Sun” which is one of the finest songs Firewind has ever written and will be very hard to top as the best song of 2010. This song shows the real maturity and growth in the band since “The Premonition” and is a fine example of Firewind being a “band” and not anyone’s “side project”. “Embrace The Sun” is the albums gem and stand-out among stand-outs where Bob Katsionis takes center stage and drives this track from the get-go. It may be slower than some of their other material, but this track is the one that shows the band at their best in terms of musicianship. It also contains a chorus and solo section to die for!

There is one main difference as to why Days Of Defiance is not simply “The Premonition Part 2”. All five band members (including then-drummer Mark Cross) are equally involved and firing on all cylinders. Gus is outstanding as usual but does not overplay at all. The barrage of riffs, fills, and solos are all still there as is the trademark Gus feel and sound but this time around Bob Katsionis has stepped up to the plate and more than matched Gus! Katsionis’ gives a keyboard clinic on the instrumental “SKG” which sees him trading solos and arpeggios with Gus and (it must be said) leaving Gus in his wake! SKG is one of the albums biggest surprises and a track I can’t get enough of. It has more twists and turns than a Stephen King novel and is awe-inspiring in its execution from both Gus and Katsionis….I wanna see this one live!

Firewind are fast developing a reputation of completely transforming songs that they cover and making them their own. This was evidenced by their amazingly good cover of “Maniac” from the Premonition album and even Nevermore’s “Believe In Nothing” from the 2008 Century Media compilation “Covering 20 Years Of Extremes”. This time it is Judas Priests turn to receive the Firewind treatment with their cover of “Breaking The Law” while keeping the basic structure and feel of this classic intact, Firewind have ramped up the metal-meter on this track on turned it on it’s head once again driven by Katsionis’ keys and an unexpected solo section from both Gus and Katsionis.

Days Of Defiance proves once again that Gus G is a ridiculously great guitar player. Then again to follow in the footsteps of names such as Iommi, Rhoads (RIP), Jake E Lee, and Zakk Wylde you must know a thing or two about guitar! Gus’ performance on this disc endorses exactly why he is one of yhe highest regarded and sought after guitarist in today’s metal environment! The latest album also demonstrates that Apollo Papathanasio is an insane vocalist that fits the band the best. In a genre where so many vocalists sound the same, he really has developed his own style during his time in Firewind to become one of the leading vocalists in metal. Petros Christodoylidis is an unsung hero in Firewind. His bass really holds this whole thing together and he probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. He’s as reliable as life, death, and taxes and brings a lot more to the Firewind sound than people may notice. Michael Ehre has stepped into the drummers slot like he was born to be there. He brings his own sound to the band and has a completely different feel to Mark Cross (who is fantastic as well). If anything Ehre sounds slightly more metal yet more technical which probably sits a little better with this style of band. Lastly and certainly not least, Bob Katsionis has not only stepped up to the plate on this disc, he’s picked it up and smashed it in a million pieces! Katsionis brings such a classy atmosphere and style to Firewind that without him, the band would not sound the same. If people think Gus is the captain of Team Firewind, then Katsionis is surely the teams MVP on this latest effort. As a sidenote, for a bigger fix of iBob, make sure you check out Outloud (his other band) and their amazing album of 2009 “We’ll Rock You To Hell and Back Again” which is still in heavy rotation in my cd player.

“Days Of Defiance” stands head and shoulders above the fantastic “Premonition” and probably even nudges out the masterpiece that was “Allegiance” to become Firewind’s finest effort to date. This is a blind buy for anyone that loves power, melodic, heavy, ANY type of metal really. With Gus’ high profile Ozzy gig, hopefully some more of the mainstream rock fans check out Firewind and really get behind this band as they surely deserve more widespread recognition and for their music to get out to as many people as possible. 10/10

Band: Firewind
Album: Days of Defiance
Year: 2010
Genre:
Power Metal
Origin: Greece
Label: Century Media
http://www.firewind.gr/

Track listing

  1. The Ark of Lies
  2. World on Fire
  3. Chariot
  4. Embrace the Sun <- Reviewers choice
  5. The Departure
  6. Heading for the Dawn
  7. Broken
  8. Cold as Ice
  9. Kill in the Name of Love
  10. SKG
  11. Losing Faith
  12. The Yearning
  13. When All Is Said and Done
  14. Wild Rose (Bonus Track)
  15. Ride to the Rainbow’s End (Bonus Track)
  16. Breaking the Law (Bonus Track)

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.