Greek Guitar God Gus G. (damn, that's a lot of Gs!) never rests. Even after leaving DREAM EVIL to focus more attention on his pride and joy, FIREWIND, he still does time with NIGHTRAGE and MYSTIC PROPHECY. All these bands have benefited greatly from his massive chops; his chunky riffs and ferocious leads are matched by few, and the guy is a mere 24 years old! Having gone largely unnoticed by all but the most dedicated power/traditional/classic metal fans and critics, 2002's "Between Heaven and Hell" and 2003's "Burning Earth" (both on Leviathan) are quality albums with plenty of riff/rhythm heft, Gus's blazing solos, and extra hooky song writing. With a Century Media deal sealed and an album that combines the attributes of the first two discs with a songwriting level jump, FIREWIND's "Forged by Fire" should make a big splash in the metal ocean. [NOTE: As of this writing, plans for a U.S. release had not been announced].
Immediately noticeable in comparison to "Between Heaven and Hell" and "Burning Earth" is the replacement of Stephen Fredrik with Sri Lanka native Chity Somapala on vocals, his lower register singing style a significant contrast, though still an easy fit for the FIREWIND sound. The addition of a permanent keyboard player (Bob Katsionis) adds atmospheric touches and accents to the tunes.
And what a great batch of tunes these are! "Power metal" is the description that will get tossed out the most in describing "Forged by Fire", but it's an overused one (like metalcore) and can sometimes mislead. This is a melodic metal album most generally and one that could also be described as classic metal or melodic hard rock in places. The songwriting is the key, each tune immediately memorable and the hooks stellar. The metal scorchers rip and tear, led by Gus's fiery axe work and Stian Kristoffersen's gut-punch drumming (featuring lots of double-bass power), "Kill to Live" and "Beware the Beast" being the best examples, and "Burn in Hell" perhaps the best combination of metal stomp and infectious chorus. "The Forgotten Memory" (featuring lead work from none other than James Murphy) and "Hateworld Hero" are the album's nods to melodious '80s-inspired metal (ala DREAM EVIL) with big sing-along choruses somewhat reminiscent of the SCORPIONS. A classy power ballad ("Land of Eternity") and guitar clinic instrumental ("Feast of the Savages", featuring a guest appearance by Marty Friedman) are the other album highlights.
If you fancy this style of metal, you'd be hard pressed to do much better than "Forged by Fire". It's time for FIREWIND to get the recognition it deserves. Now let's hope that Century Media sees fit to release "Forged by Fire" in the U.S. soon.