Firewind: Immortals (Century Media)
Greek power metal icons Firewind have returned with their long awaited follow up to Few Against Many back in 2012, since then a lot has changed in the Firewind camp, mainman Gus G became Ozzy's guitarist (who's influence can be heard on Back On The Throne) and has released two solo albums, keyboard/guitarist Bob has been a part of numerous projects playing guitars and keyboards including his 'other' band Outloud and they lost their longest serving singer Apollo.
Having made a few sporadic live appearances with Kelly Sundown Carpenter we here at the Musipedia were a little worried one of collective favourites as even though Carpenter had a voice it was not right for Firewind, so it was a little bit of trepidation we awaited the new frontman announcement when the band said they were finally going to record a new album.
Happily the new frontman is ex-Metallium, Sons Of Seasons, MaYan, session man extraordinaire Henning Basse from Germany and as our we breathed a collective sigh of relief we could now hold on expectantly as in my personal opinion Henning has one of the best vocals in the business, his range is massive but he has the same kind of gritty low/mid range Apollo does so the mic is in good hands.
So what do you do if you've been away for five years without an album? Well you channel your inner Manowar and go all out with a concept album about Greek wars (works for Sabaton) on Immortals there are songs about the Spartan 300 Ode To Leonidas, the naval battle at Salamis that saw the Greek nations defeat the Persian Empire is described on War Of Ages and obviously as Gus, Bob and Petros are from Thessaloniki Hands Of Time deals with the mighty Alexander The Great the Macedonian king who united all of Greece.
The songs are as strong as you would expect from this multi national but mostly Greek band, in the back room long serving four-stringer Petros leads the way as Belgian drummer Johan Nunez blasts for his life on his second Firewind outing. It's fast furious stuff in the rhythm section and it means that Gus and Bob can really let loose with solos galore taking their own spots and duelling without letting the songs pace suffer.
They are all virtuoso's at their respective disciplines and this shines through the record especially on the more varied tracks such as Live And Die By The Sword, Firewind return with their best album since Allegiance, I can't wait to see them next month, welcome back guys! 9/10
As Lions: Selfish Age (Eleven Seven)
In the review of their EP last year I said that "As Lions could be a much more superior outfit for Dickinson and co, this band follow their own path on their own terms" the Dickinson in question being Bruce's son Austin. As Lions are his new band formed out of the ashes of the never-quite-right Rise To Remain, Dickinson has taken the experience he has gained touring the world with RTR and channelled into As Lions making this band a much more focused, straightforward and experimental beast than his previous band.
As Lions take their cues from the recent releases of BMTH adding lots of electronic influences to their powerful modern rock stylings. This debut full length takes what was done on the EP and continues the high quality that was established by the EP taking that more melodic sound and crafting 11 songs out of it, Deathless, White Flags, World On Fire and opener Aftermath are all familiar coming from the EP but this record also features some new tracks that could be future classics.
The Suffering is a propulsive rocker, Bury My Dead brings the loud/soft dynamics, while the title track is perhaps the most melodic with expansive use of electronics, that continues on One By One. Selfish Age is a confident debut from a young and hungry band ready to take over the world. 8/10
Black Oak County: S/T (Target/Might Music)
Have a look at the photo of this band online, then put on this debut record on, now frontman Niels should not sound like that. He has voice aged by time, whiskey and too many Marlboro's a delivery far beyond his years, in fact the Esbjerg, Denmark band's whole ethos is the old fashioned in the modern, they have the swaggering Southern rock styling's of Zakk Wylde (Mad Dog) playing with Black Stone Cherry but add their own youthful exuberance to it, in fact there is more than an air of MoM favourite Trucker Diablo.
This record thunders, chock full chest beating hard rock tunes, driven by the Mike and Rene's dirty rhythm section that's designed to rattle your teeth loose, as Niels and Jack supply the heavy riffs. Save Me has killer groove it's also the one major BSC sounding songs along with the angry Rated R For Redneck and the power ballad If You Only Knew which you could definitely hear having heavy rotation on Planet Rock.
Black Oak Country is a very vehement first statement from this young Danish band, there are a couple of tracks that could be trimmed but finishing with the bouncy Never Cared this debut record is a great piece of work, expect big things. 8/10