Led by ace axe-man and new OZZY OSBOURNE MVP Gus G., FIREWIND had ascended the power metal ladder these last several years, releasing five fine albums in the process, including 2006 breakout release "Allegiance" and "The Premonition" two years later. What makes FIREWIND such a fiery and eminently likeable act comes down to two primary factors: (1) a stable lineup with talented musicians, including vocalist Apollo Papathananasio, guitarist/keyboardist Bob Katsionis, bassist Petros Christodoylidis and of course Gus G.; and (2) a knack for writing consistently catchy songs framed by red-hot playing, particularly the soloing. Those same qualities exist on "Days of Defiance", the first to feature drummer Michael Ehré, but in this case that consistency occasionally gets a little too familiar.In other words, it is the first album where you'll most often hear the question "What does the new FIREWIND album sound like?" answered with "Well, it sounds like FIREWIND." Most would agree that this is a good thing; it just speaks to the fact that while there are no unacceptable tracks, there are no shining stars like "Mercenary Man", "Head Held High". "Falling to Pieces", "Breaking the Silence", or even "Kill to Live" either. Regardless, "The Ark of Lies", "Chariot", "Heading for the Dawn", and "Kill in the Name of Love" are typical FIREWIND blazers with brightly lit choruses and G.'s fleet-fingered fret work. "Embrace the Sun" is reminiscent of "Falling to Pieces" for its mid-tempo delivery and Katsionis keyboard melody line. Ballad-esque track "When All is Said and Done" with its classy acoustic licks works well in the mix, though don't elevate the album, and instrumental "SKG" is another ass-kickin' FIREWIND instrumental. "Cold as Ice", however, suffers a from a prosaic chorus. All in all, no real complaints about "Days of Defiance", but no album-of-the-year pronouncements either. Speaking as someone that has been reviewing FIREWIND albums since the release of 2002 debut "Between Heaven and Hell", I can say that "Days of Defiance" is a more than suitable addition to the catalogue. It is just not a highlight of the band's already impressive career. Taken without comparison to previous releases, it easily competes as a high-energy and melodically-based power metal album that any fan of the style should appreciate. Familiarity certainly has its benefits. Amongst a lengthening line of great FIREWIND albums "Days of Defiance" is simply a good FIREWIND album. That's enough for fans, but the rookies might want to start with "Allegiance" or "The Premonition". It is worth pointing out that FIREWIND albums do have a way of getting better with age, so ask me again in a few months.
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