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As soulless a sell-out as you can get. - 9%

Empyreal, May 17th, 2013

I haven’t heard a Firewind album since the underwhelming The Premonition, but man, I dunno, maybe I’m just getting too jaded or something – because this is seriously just horrendous. Few Against Many is the kind of album I’d point to if you wanted an example of the most immature, thoughtless, generic kind of swill you could ever find.

It’s just a pile of tired metal clichés. Lyrics about bland, vague and generalized topics like “rebellion” and “self confidence” are skimmed through without any kind of real thought or specification on why they’re important. It’s a plastic, manufactured rebellion that markets itself to the kinds of people who think new Megadeth is worth hearing – yeah, man, you stick it to the big, bad government. You assert your free will and independence. I’m sure you don’t really know anything that’s actually going on in the world, though; you just want to look cool. All the perks of rebellion and free-thought while you’re sitting in an air-conditioned living room listening to music you downloaded on a computer your parents probably bought. How quaint. But because this “rocks out,” I guess that excuses any perceived flaws…oh, wait, no it doesn’t.

I guess Firewind never really had good lyrics, but that’s not the point at all. The point is that anyone who actually cares about music or art should be offended by the blatant commercialism and soullessness of an album like this, which just spits in the face of any genuine message that music could have, with its contrived and shallow representations of anti-conformism. Which, paradoxically, becomes as conformist as possible, because this is really the most mainstream, cash-in, sell-out kind of crap you can ever find. And believe me, I'm not saying this is a huge derivation from the other Firewind stuff - it's all pretty much like this, but in the past there were at least merits to it to distract from the blatant commercialism going on. Now, we've just reached rock bottom with no real quality you couldn't find in a billion other bands. But hell, for a project that started out just as a showboat for the guitarist to, well, show off, I'm surprised they even lasted this long without releasing anything this horrible up to now.

Main-man Gus G. can still play some smooth, listenable licks, but it’s all just so rote and mechanical, without really any nuance or depth to it. Even decent riffs like on “Losing My Mind” get dragged out for way too long and just become lame by the end, and the super-clean, Pro-Tooled production sucks any life out of the whole thing. Vocalist Apollo tries to bring some grit and muscle in his performance, but he mostly just sounds like he has a mouth full of cotton balls, and after a few songs he gets really irritating. The choruses, which should be triumphant, mostly come off as loud and obnoxious instead, like a bunch of frat boys getting drunk at a party. On songs like the awful title track, the wimpy “Another Dimension” and the lifeless melodies of “Destiny,” the band sounds enervated and dull. And there’s an acoustic version of the ballad “No Heroes, No Sinners” tacked on as a bonus track – seriously, go fuck yourselves for that one, guys.

There is never any sense of genuine artistry or feeling to this music. They substitute heaviness for just being loud, and songwriting for cheap tricks and flashy nonsense. It’s really not even all that catchy and frankly, what’s the point of power metal if I can’t get into some sticky, steel-barbed hooks?

I just feel unclean after listening to this, because I know full well I could be listening to something better than this – which, frankly, is mostly anything else. Fans of this band won’t listen to me no matter what, but personally I’m just out of patience with this kind of music, as shallow and pandering as you can get. Some people will tell you that selling out means changing your style, but Few Against Many proves that you can do it just as well by sticking to your guns. That’s a euphemism in this case, for something like “fellating the corporate cock.” Just avoid this, as it is a cancer on heavy metal, rock music and just plain old intelligent music in general.

No Heroes, No Sinners - 75%

Left Hand Ov Dog, September 20th, 2012

With the inclusion of Gus G into the ranks of Ozzy and co. as they spiral into the depths of trite, plastic commercialism, the prospect of a new Firewind album feels more and more appealing, a good line-up of riffing whiskey shots to wash the taste of carefully constructed, poppy garbage out of my mouth. Indeed, Scream was an insincere abomination, about as metal as the Jonas Brothers at long last, designed in utter sterility to appeal to the largest, lowest common denominator of children and idiots. The one light in this money-spawning morass of creative death was Gus G, whose unmistakable riffing could have been used to great effect, if he had been allowed be anything more than a supporting role for the soulless composition.

Now, Firewind have always embraced the simplicity inherent to heavy/power metal, but they’ve done it with an undeniable degree of heart, writing catchy verse-chorus numbers because they’re a heavy metal band who loves heavy metal, and not because it’s what the brainless MTV hordes will devour. And that’s what we like about them; they’re an energetic vehicle for the endless riffing ideas of prodigy Gus G, who continues to shred like his life depended on it. Yep, they just want to rock the fuck out, and to that end, Few Against Many is largely a success, an exercise in riff-driven simplicity. Few Against Many is absolutely formulaic, not attempting to break any boundaries or redefine the precepts of genre, and basically feels like more of the same, but when the same is so reliable and solid, one can’t complain too much. I’ve never resonated too deeply with them, preferring more power-oriented acts like Blind Guardian and Gamma Ray, but they do what they do well, and seem to have a solid fan base that supports them passionately.

Wisely stacked in the front of Few Against Many is Wall of Sound, the album’s single, and undoubtedly its most infectious track, a simple steel-striking rocker in true Firewind fashion. It’s nothing spectacular, but it certainly rocks the fuck out, and Gus’s inventive licks are in fine form. Losing my Mind is one of the longer tracks, with a lingering thread of somberness, an overall tone that, when in conjunction with the chorus, would’ve fit right in to one of the mid-era Ozzy or BLS releases. The titular Few Against Many also feels dark, with a heavy cloud about its shoulders, definitely one of the more dense, emotionally charged tracks on the album. The Undying Fire feels a bit anemic, though. Gus’s chugging, mid-paced riffs here are not among his best, slightly dry and lacking flair, though the solos are invariable high points. The verses and choruses, however, just don’t grab me at all.

Another Dimension fares better, with a stronger selection or riffs and some really impressive, twirling leads. The chorus is a bit cheesy, but it has a nice dark angelic grace that works in its favor, punctuated by the organ-like keyboard tone. Glorious is another simple, rollicking bruiser in the vein of Wall of Sound, if a bit less up-tempo. Edge of a Dream is the obligatory ballad, steeped in the sensibilities of 80’s cheese, and the addition of cello-metallers Apocalyptica adds some nice rainy-day atmosphere, as it builds from a tear on Apollo’s cheek to a flood of melody. It’s certainly not bad, working in the traditional compositional style of a good ballad, but it’s just too sappy for me to take seriously. The trio of closing tracks are some of the better songs on the album, so a strong end is a mark in its favor.

Seems to me that Firewind are going for a bit more overcast atmosphere this time around, with an ingrained melancholy on a handful of tracks that lends a denser feeling than the typically upbeat nature we expect from them. However, it’s a subtle thing, and doesn’t really change or diminish the attempted grandiosity. In the end, it also isn’t anything we haven’t heard from Firewind before, sometimes better, sometimes worse. It’s a Firewind album, basically, in all its perceived glory and fault.

I for one have never been incredibly enthralled with the bands simplistic, NWOBHM meets speed/power sensibilities, but neither have I felt any negativity towards them. On the contrary, they can always be relied upon for some consistent, rock-and-riff fun, and I make a point to follow their career. At worst, they’re melodramatic and formulaic, but never bad, and all their work is at the very least solid, if not overly compelling. Few Against Many does nothing to break apart from this, content to bang along and riff its heart out in the style it knows best, and for fans of the band, this will probably be all they desire and more. To me, it’s simply another enjoyable romp, nothing amazing, but good solid fun, and it’s always a pleasure to hear Gus’s new concoctions of notation.

At long last, I can’t say I’ll listen to Few Against Many all that often, and it’s not the bands finest hour, but I can’t imagine it will really disappoint anyone, least of all their fan base, and it’s about 900 times more interesting than the new Ozzy, which isn’t worth the plastic it’s printed on (once again, not Gus’s fault). It’s a good solid rocker that will shred your face off, if that’s what you’re looking for, and contains enough base-line quality for me to both lightly enjoy it and recommend it to genre enthusiasts. An album of this nature succeeds on the strength of its hooks, and they’re definitely prevalent, but they just didn’t sink in so far this time, though not for lack of trying. So, even though it lacks the momentum to truly make much of a lasting impact in my memory banks, any heavy/power freaks would do well to give it a spin, as chances are you’ll enjoy it much more. And I hope you do, because the band is clearly passionate about their art.

Yes, the sunny days keep shining for Firewind, roughly the same as last season, and the season before that. If this troposphere has kept you fat and happy thus far, then worry not, but if you keep glancing at your umbrella in hopes of some deviation, you’d best continue to look elsewhere.

-Left Hand of Dog

Another good amongst many. - 81%

hells_unicorn, July 2nd, 2012

If one could sum up Firewind in a single word, it would be consistent. Since Gus G. first created the project as a means to promote his virtuosic chops and seminal songwriting, it has grown into something of an institution on the Greek side of classic heavy metal. There are few surprises, few deviations outside of a template that’s been fairly common since the mid 80s, put forth by the likes of Stormwitch, Accept and Judas Priest with an eye toward heaviness, brevity meshed with technical flair, and a catchy sensibility that keeps it very accessible. Historically the easiest way to tell Firewind albums apart was by who was doing lead vocals, but since 2006 when the project was moved back to Gus’ native Greece; it has become a bit more difficult, due in no small part to the fondness to the same guitar and production quality exhibited by the bandleader in question.

As the seventh effort out of the band and the 4th since their lineup reached a strong level of stability, “Few Against Many” does little to differentiate itself from the pack in regards to previous efforts under the Firewind name, and yet it stands very well on its own. Perhaps the biggest switch up since “Days Of Defiance” is a slightly more speed metal oriented songwriting approach that hearkens slightly to Gus’ brief stint with Mystic Prophecy. “Wall Of Sound”, “Few Against Many” and “Long Gone Tomorrow” all exude that maddened fury often heard out of Primal Fear, drawing forth a slight “Painkiller” edge, yet also being tempered with a very easy to follow melody line in the vocals. “Another Dimension” is basically borderline thrash metal, firing off at full speed and despite being built of only 4 principle riffs and sticking to a very consistent tempo, shows Gus at his best riff-wise, combining the best elements of Dave Mustaine and Zakk Wylde.

Apart from these 4 wild speeders, the template largely remains unchanged from the last couple albums. Apollo’s vocals are still a seasoned blend of David Coverdale and Sammy Hagar, often coming off more as yelling that outright singing, but filling up the arrangement with its power in a mostly 1 dimensional fashion. Perhaps a slight increase in keyboard presence is felt from time to time as Bob Katsionis gets a few areas to emulate Jens Johannsen and others to all but impersonate Jon Lord’s fondness of rock organ additives. There’s a weak link in the lone full ballad “Edge Of A Dream” which all but degenerates into sappy, post-Beatles territory like a number of recent Ozzy Osbourne ballads, but most of what is presented comes in the form of slower groove driven rockers and half-ballads that are respectably catchy and loaded with fancy guitar elements.

This isn’t quite the best thing that Gus G. has ever put out, nor is it by any standard the worst, it’s mostly on and when it isn’t, it succeeds in being adequate regardless. Any aspiring guitar player who also gets a healthy diet of power metal will want to have most if not all of his work, and Firewind generally tends to be a bit showier than his recent work with Ozzy, though still very easy to digest. All other old school metal junkies might be better served by going either to “The Premonition” or right back to the beginning with “Between Heaven And Hell” before this one, but there isn’t really a wrong album to start with in this band. Indeed, the biggest draw to this band is also the most commonly cited gripe about them, they’re literally consistent to a fault.

We are few against many! - 98%

Immortally_Insane, June 19th, 2012

I tend to compare all of Firewind’s music to their 2003 release Burning Earth, because that is one of the albums I owe for introducing me to power metal, and to this day it is one of my favorite albums. However, this new album brings quite the competition to that beloved spot on my list of favorites. This album has to hold some of the greatest riffs in all of Firewind history. Let me explain.

I can really hear the Ozzy influence on Gus G’s writing. Firewind has always been heavy, but the guitar especially in the new album is just so ballsy, and really sticks to their heavy metal roots, straying away from any light and fluffy “strictly keyboard enforced” songs. The opening track, Wall of Sound is exactly that. It makes me wish I didn’t live in a thin walled apartment where neighbors would call the cops on me if I turned this song up any louder. Few Against Many opens with an angry Apollo yelling “You’ve got a one way ticket to hell...” and the song just unleashes with a bad ass riff and amazing chorus which stating “We are few against many”!

The Undying Fire is a great anthem track in true Firewind style, followed by Another Dimension which hits you hard from the start and doesn’t let up. Apollo’s vocals are somewhat haunting in this track, which contrasts so much with the music behind them. . I love the effect they use on the vocals, there’s a perfect amount of reverb and layering to sound like many different voices singing the chorus. It’s a really pleasant listen, so very different from most heavy metal out there.

Edge of a Dream features the cello masters Apocalyptica, and this ballad-like song really reminds me of The Land of Eternity (Forged By Fire, 2005) in it’s beautiful lyrics and somber feel. The cellos are used as a form of percussion as the song moves on as there are no drums in the song. Then enter a beautiful little solo from Gus G, the song builds and builds and really pulls on my heartstrings. It tops off with another feature of Gus G, which just reinforces my love for his skill and Firewind’s songwriting ability.

Every single track on the album is something to be proud of. No Heroes, No Sinners is a fucking awesome song to end an album. It's actually my favorite song on the album, perfectly written, featuring some great lyrics, "There will be no more heroes, only a violent sky" foretelling the future if we continue the path we are all on. It’s very different almost in every way from the Firewind I fell in love with when I was much younger, but I can hear how this band has grown up just as I have. Every musician in this band deserves some serious recognition! For fans of heavy metal and power metal alike I recommend this album. Please buy it, and support the band!

[Originally written for]