With his 40th birthday just a few months away, Gus G is old-school enough to have lived through melodic power metal being unfashionable, then becoming an unexpected flavour of the month, and now… well, somewhere in between.
After relocating to America while Limp Bizkit were in the ascendancy, the 18-year-old Greek’s choice of wearing tight jeans and having long hair earned him the nickname of The 80s Guy. Whether co-forming bands such as Firewind, Dream Evil, Mystic Prophecy and Nightrage, joining bigger names like Arch Enemy, or as a high-profile gun-for hire as he was for Ozzy Osbourne, Gus has never deviated from the path.
Although self-titled, Firewind is the band’s ninth album and Gus’s fourth recorded outing since he left Ozzy’s employ. It sees him backed by a new lead singer Herbie Langhans. A veteran of several German hard rock bands including Avantasia, Langhans stands head and shoulders above some of Firewind’s past frontmen. The guitar is undoubtedly the chief attraction here, but the newbie really knows how to sell a tune. Opener Welcome To The Empire sets the scene, rattling along like a freight train, enhanced by a decent, memorable hook.
The guitar shredders among us will be unable to resist leaping around the room and throwing air-shapes but Gus is rarely a slave to his instrument, keeping the song in mind at all times. However, should you seek solos to inspire salivation then check out Devour, Break Away and the explosive Kill The Pain. Regrettably, one of the most potentially interesting tunes is a runt. Offering environmental comment through the eyes of an astronaut orbiting the earth, Space Cowboy sounds like the homework of an eight-year-old.
What we have here is typical Firewind: super-capably dispatched and largely appealing, yet somehow devoid of a killer punch.