||03-09-2008 03:11 PM
Firewind - The Premonition
How do you follow up an amazing album that not only serves as a definative landmark in your career, but as a perfect summation of what you genre should sound like today? Firewind's 2006 release "Allegiance" did this for myself and others, and when it came time to follow it up, I was both very anxious and afraid of what the band may produce. Mediocrity seemed almost eminant. However, I'm happy to say this was very much not the case.
The Premonition begins with an acoustic intro which really helps to paint the scenery of what is to come. I hate to sound like I'm just beating the cliche into the ground, but it's very much like an actual "premonition" of what is to come - very ominious and very cool. Things soon pick up as we go head-first into the excellent opener, "Into the Fire", which perfectly combines elements of both speed and melodic power metal. As expected Gus G and Bob Katsionis offer up an excellent guitar and keyboard duel in the superb instrumental break. This song is sure to become a killer live opener on the upcoming tour. The band plunge into the second general motif of this album with the second track "Head Up High" which is basically kickass traditional/power metal in it's purest form. The vocals on the verses of this track really remind me of Dio, which of course is never a bad thing, and the chorus is definately catchy enough to keep you singing along throughout. I also expect this song to be an excellent live selection. Third track and first single "Mercenary Man" find the band exploring the greatness of classic influences - here in the form of Thin Lizzy/Gary Moore, and I couldn't be happier with the result. Just as the previous selection(s), I could listen to this song a number of times in a row and not realy grow tired of it's sing-along goodness. "Angels Forgive Me" isn't an album highlight but as expected it still offers a chorus that will get stuck in your head, as well as the fair share of guitar solo ownage.
Most albums of this style tend to die off a bit in the middle, but just as Allegiance, this album proves otherwise. In fact, "Remembered" is probably my favorite track on the album thus far. The riffs at many times are very reminiscent of the older, heavier Firewind circa Forged By Fire or Between Heaven and Hell. In sharp contrast, this song offers a chorus which is again a helluva singalong. If this already wasn't enough, this track also features my favorite solo on the whole disc and a bitchin' key change near the end. At this time we also now get the album's first of two somewhat ballad-esque tracks - the very melodic "My Lonliness". Personally this track hasn't really grabbed me as much as the majority of the disc, but I still think it's got a lot going for it. "The Circle of Life" is probably the most "by the books" song on the album, which as expected, makes it fall into the category of not being very original but also having no strikes against it. "The Silent Code" gets back to the heaviness of "Remembered" at times, but also offers a very melodic yet speedy chorus. I really would like to see this one get done live on the upcoming tour. The contrast between practically thrashy riffs and very melodic passages makes for a really nice combination. Following this, we get the surprise of the album. Firewind have never done a ton of covers in their career, so to think that they'd go out of their way to pick something unique and oviously "unmetal" seems as a bit of surprise to me. The song "Maniac" from the 80's movie "Flash Dance" is basically a staple of jokes, usually involving hilarious video sequences of sorts... it would seem unlikely that this song could be turned into anything of substance, but somehow Firewind have done just that. I never would've expected to be enjoying this song to the degree I have been since I heard this version - it's just so catchy. Anytime I can be really surprise by something in a good way I'm happy, and this song very much did that. To offset the jolly enjoyment of "Maniac", the band bring one more track to the table - the dark, ominous, and yet very enjoyable closing track of "Life Foreclosed". The prechorus to this is uncharacteristically dark and heavy, but seems to fit the mood of the song perfectly. The chorus itself is very slow and melodic and more or less very well brings a sense of closure to the album.
So, in retrospect, The Premonition serves as an excellent follow-up to Allegiance that is sure to please just about any Firewind fan. "Allegiance" will always hold a place in my heart, and this album may suffer just slightly for having followed such a landmark in this great band's career. However, this is not to say that this is a clone of Allegiance, nor is it an inferior style change. I myself continue to be very satisfied, and I'm sure many fans will feel the same way.