Firewind - the PremonitionIf only American bands made power metal this awesome and bombastic Century Media might not have had to go all the way to Greece to import the likes of Firewind, whose fifth proper studio album The Premonition comes out today (March 25th). Firewind combine the ferocity, speed, prowess and production of modern power metal with a distinctly ’80s pop-metal aesthetic, making their songs both immediate and undeniable. Firewind isn’t for everyone; if you have an aversion to cheese, this ain’t for you, but if you can appreciate the nuance and juicy goodness in that slab of feta then grab a knife and a cracker and sit down for a tasty snack.

Though Firewind has been recording since 2002, The Premonition is their highest profile release to date, proving that hard work can’t be substituted by record label clout as the path to lasting success. A consistent lineup probably doesn’t hurt either — The Premonition is the first Firewind album to feature the same lineup as the one before it. The band’s leader and spiritual guide is wunderkind guitarist Gus G., who served previous part-time stints in Dream Evil and Nightrage but now fully devotes himself to Firewind.

FirewindLead single “Mercenary Man” is the prototypical Firewind song; part Judas Priest, part Dragonforce, part Survivor, but with epic, enormous production that’s just the right amount of over-the-topness courtesy of Swedish producer extraordinaire Fredrik Nordstrom (The Haunted, In Flames, Opeth, Dark Tranquillity, Soilwork). Lead singer Apollo Papathanasio’s vocals soar above a perfect chorus before moving aside to let Gus G. do his thing. Gus G. can sweep-pick and fretboard tap with the best of them and sometimes does, but often lets his Gilmour-esque feel do the talking instead. The rest of the band members are similarly all excellent at their crafts, though generally the guitar is front and center with the keyboard occasionally stopping by for a cup of coffee.

Though epic, melodious mid to fast-paced rockers dominate most of The Premonition, the band doesn’t seem content to be pigeonholed. They know how to be brutal when called upon — dig the 10,000 bpm Slayer riffing in the intro of “Remembered” — and they can naturally kick it into power ballad mode as in “My Loneliness.”

Papathanasio’s lyrics are of just the corny, inspirational variety you’d expect from this type of music. From “Head of High” comes this sermon-inspiring credo: “You’ll never be yourself / don’t ever lose your pride / just find out who you are / keep your head up high.” Gee, thanks guys! From “Remembered” comes this similarly-styled message of self-empowerment: “Do the things you want to do / let your spirit guide you through / in a life worth being remembered. / Don’t look back you won’t regret / forgive, forget, and never hate / isn’t it how you want to be remembered?” complete with half-step modulation in the final 30 seconds (what else would you expect?) for extra oomph. But perhaps my favorite lyric (as well as my girlfriend’s favorite) — from album-closer “Life Foreclosed” — is a tad less peachy; “We are the destroyers of life / We are the bringers of pain.” Woah now, watch out!

The Premonition loses steam towards the end. The last few songs lack the artistry and immediacy of those earlier on the album and you get the impression the band might have thought so too; a completely unnecessary cover of Michael Sembello’s classic ’80s hit “Maniac” punctuates the slow-ness, metaphorically speaking, of the tail end of the album. But ultimately this doesn’t detract too much from the album as a whole; Firewind are great at what they do, and fans of this type of metal are going to eat The Premonition up.


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[Firewind on MySpace]

Catch Firewind on tour in Europe in April and in North America in May with Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity and Divine Heresy. U.S. dates listed below (see Firewind’s MySpace for European dates):

Firewind with Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity and Divine Heresy:
05/09 The Fillmore – Philadelphia, PA
05/10 Recher Theater – Towson, MD
05/11 Irving Plaza – New York, NY
05/13 Le Medley – Montreal, QC
05/14 L’Imperial – Quebec City, QC
05/16 The Opera House – Toronto, ON
05/17 The Majestic Theater – Detroit, MI
05/19 House of Blues – Chicago, IL
05/20 Station 4 – St. Paul, MN
05/21 The Garrick Centre – Winnipeg, MB
05/23 MacEwan Ballroom – Calgary, AB
05/24 Starlite – Edmonton, AB
05/27 The Showbox – Seattle, WA
05/29 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
05/30 House of Blues – W. Hollywood, CA

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