FIREWIND
"The Premonition"

(Century Media)

01. Into The Fire
02. Head Up High
03. Mercenary Man
04. Angels Forgive Me
05. Remembered
06. My Loneliness
07. Circle Of Life
08. The Silent Code
09. Maniac
10. Life Foreclosed

RATING: 8/10

FIREWIND's "Allegiance" is a tough disc to follow and would be nearly impossible to top. It was the band's breakout album in many ways, running the gamut from classic Euro heavy metal ("Ready to Strike") to the keyboard-led hard rock of "Falling to "Pieces" to a surprisingly strong duet with Tara on "Breaking the Silence". Initially, it seemed that the new album "The Premonition" fell short, but those first impressions were only a result of the contrast to the greatness of "Allegiance". After plenty of quality of time spent with "The Premonition", I can now say that it may not top "Allegiance", but could be the next best of the five albums.

The second album in a row with the same lineup – something that has never happened in the band's history — has certainly helped matters. The songs flow seamlessly together and the act has played to its strengths, namely six-string fireworks and strong melodies. The keyboards of Bob Katsionis are still present, but not used as heavily as on "Allegiance". A more guitar-driven album, Gus G's riffs and solos continue to be among the best in hard rock and heavy metal. The influences are obvious, yet done with respect, rather than mere mimicry. One can hear a little THIN LIZZY in the twin leads of first single "Mercenary Man", a soon to be classic FIREWIND track with, of course, a great chorus. The dark picking on album-closer "Life Foreclosed" has a certain MEGADETH vibe, while the chorus is as sinister sounding as anything the group has done in the past. Album opener "Into the Fire" features a cleanly picked intro that leads into a bombastic heavy metal anthem. But many of the best songs are between those bookends. In addition to "Mercenary Man", one of the album's best tracks is "Head Up High", featuring a fiery main riff and a big chorus that is inspiring in its simple message.

Then there is the little matter of the cover of Michael Sembello's "Maniac", as originally featured in the '80s movie "Flashdance". There are no two ways about it, the song will polarize. The band stays true to the basic song structure, including the main keyboard part, but beefs it up considerably with the guitars and drums. The track works well and, had I not known it was a cover, found that it would not be totally out of place as a FIREWIND original. Hey, it took some balls to cover this one.

The album's consistency and cohesion, as alluded to earlier, is its greatest strength though, as every track hits with guitar hero riffs and big choruses. A formula is at work here and thankfully so because writing songs as catchy as these is not as simple as one might think. All one has to do is look at the number of heavy metal bands making albums with one or two memorable cuts and a load of forgettable ones to realize it. Five albums running and FIREWIND continues to consistently churn out quality hard rock and heavy metal.

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