Between Heaven And Hell
5/30/2003 - Review by: Guest
Firewind - Between Heaven And Hell (2002 Massacre Records) – Reviewed by Metal Rob
Firewind reveals Gus G to be a remarkably clever songsmith, writing songs whose catchy guitar-driven aplomb at times harkens back to the early years of the neo-classical metal scene (think Yngwie with Jeff Scott Soto, or Impelletteri with Graham Bonnet). There is even some Scorpions and MSG in the riff patterns and song structures, adding a certain ambiguous impact, somewhere between humor and rage, not often heard in music these days.
What is most apparent is that Gus does not get lost trying to impress with technical prowess (though he is clearly a brilliant player). Instead he knows when to use an intricate neo-classical flourish to maximum effect and when to chug along in an almost thrash riff, alternating between the two with incredible savvy. Singer extraordinaire Stephen Fredrick (Ex-Kenziner), comes across, at times, as a heavier, deeper and more powerful Graham Bonnet, though more controlled and varied in his approach. His vocal lines are innovative, hooky and admirably articulated. His lyrics are intelligent, alternating effectively between dramatic and understated. His tone is often aggressively throaty and is always rich and impassioned. The rhythm team of Brian Harris (drums) and Konstantine (bass) up the ante further, making stellar contributions. Brian does a really tight double bass with nicely syncopated variations of straight drumming over top, lots of cymbal and high-hat. There are some sweet runs in there too, well placed and used to maximum impact, like the best drummers of the era of the great stadium bands. Konstantine knows precisely where to add a complex counterpoint in the rhythm, and when to be a compliment, and he plays the middle line between rhythm and melody instrument brilliantly.
Overall, each player adds their own aspect to the ambiguities and contrasts that make this album so fascinating and the synchronicity between the players is impressive. Firewind have created the most compelling illustration of neo-classical power metal you’re likely to find this year. The mix (Fredrik Nordstrom) is nicely guitar heavy and the sound is dynamic, fluid and vibrant. The production (David T Chastain) is clear and shiny without sacrificing edge and aggression. Three words: get this one! See if you can’t find the European version, whose stellar artwork I show here (the American release has a slightly less cool cover).
--Metal Rob 5.30.03
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