Firewind - Allegiance - 2006 - Century Media Records
1. Allegiance 2. Insanity 3. Falling to Pieces 4. Ready To Strike 5. Breaking the Silence (Feat. Tara) 6. Deliverance 7. Till The End Of Time 8. Dreamchaser 9. Before the Storm 10. The Essence 11. Where Do We Go From Here?
Sporting a new vocalist, new production, and a significant shift on the artistic front, Firewind returned in 2006 with their fourth full-length, ‘Allegiance’, since their 2002 debut. For those unaware, Firewind is currently the main squeeze for guitar phenom Gus G., who also has lent his lead guitar to Dream Evil (for their first three albums) and Nightrage, among others. Firewind is unique, though, in that it is Gus’s sole creation and indisputably the star-vehicle where he can show off his sundry of talents in a glitzy manner unfitting for those other, more evenly balanced acts previously mentioned. Therefore, ‘Allegiance’ exhibits most of the expected pros and cons of the guitar hero tradition that metal fans have become accustomed to from the likes of Vai, Malmsteen, MAB, Friedman, Becker, Gilbert, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
With those forebears as the primary reference point, it’s also unsurprising to find that ‘Allegiance’s songwriting (and not just the soloing) leans heavily on the 80’s traditional metal and hard rock approach. Firewind have always blended those two with their modern power metal core, but rarely have they strayed so far from their origin as they do here. And so it follows in predictable completion of that 80’s metal pattern that sometimes Firewind’s engine rips and sometimes it putters, though at no point does ‘Allegiance’ entirely stall. Songs that succeed—the title track, ‘Ready To Strike’, ‘Till The End Of Time’—are those that draw mostly from Saxon, Iron Savior, even a little Gamma Ray, while songs that do not—‘Deliverance’, ‘The Essence’, ‘Where Do We Go From Here? —end up redolent of late-era Scorpions or Survivor.
Because the entirety of ‘Allegiance’ follows the exact same formula (intro riff/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo/chorus repeat), pressure mounts inexorably on each following track to maintain a high level of interest and find new ways to avoid monotony. While a good handful of songs are unabashedly fun, towards the album’s end things becomes more frustrating; the decent enough ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’, for example, ends up sounding more like a muzak transcription of the end of ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ than a true, energizing power metal song.
With that critique constantly lurking, even Gus G.’s torrid solos, the fresh voice of Apollo (ex-Time Requiem), and a superb production job cannot fully bring ‘Allegiance’ up to the level of its members’ talents. However, in the end, it manages to be a safe purchase for fans of the band and makes for “great driving music,” (as one peer put it), which for many power metal fans is all that really matters.