FIREWIND – Greek Power Metal Warriors
January 25, 2017, a year ago
For the first time in Firewind’s history, the Greek power metal band has created a concept album based on its heritage. On its eighth full-length album, Immortals (Released January 20th via AFM Records), the band tackles a subject that’s right up guitarist Gus G’s alley.
Ancient Greek battles is a heady subject to cover, but it’s one that the band, which also includes keyboardist Bob Katsionis (Bob Katsionis, Serious Black), bassist Petros Christo, drummer Johan Nunez (Gus G) and vocalist Henning Basse (Metalium, Sons of Seasons), were up for the task.
“It was bound to happen at some point,” Gus G said. “It was something we kept hearing left and right about how we were Greek and should incorporate that at some point. But we just didn’t know how to do it. Obviously, when you’re going deep into a historical event like that, you have to dig in and do your homework.”
Immortals is based on the legendary battles of Thermopylae and Salamis during the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 B.C. On its ten tracks, marrying the lyrical content with the music was the biggest challenge for the Greek guitarist.
“Each song is like a snap shot,” Gus G said. “It’s not a concept album in the sense of The Wall where everything starts and finishes up in sequence. It’s the Battle of Thermopylae, but you can look at each song as a snap shot within the story or a scene from a movie. That helped me pick the sequence in a musical flow; how the songs fit best.”
Keep in mind, Immortals isn’t just a boring history lesson about Greece. It’s ultimately a power metal album and it’s shaped by its musical contours. However, the listener doesn’t have to be fully engulfed in the storyline to enjoy the music.
“Making a concept album is not an easy task; telling a story that way,” Gus G confessed. “It’s not a history class. It’s obviously a heavy metal record so it has to be told in a very epic way. It has to fit with the music. So you have to be careful how you do all that stuff. I’m not a lyric writer, so that’s not really a part of what I do in the band, or any band. That’s where Dennis Ward, the co-producer stepped in because I needed somebody to help me make such a project.
With Immortals, it’s the first time (actually second) that Firewind has used an outside co-producer in Dennis Ward (Unisonic, Pink Cream 69). Ward played a major role in the song writing process as well as engineering, mixing and mastering the album.
“What I originally asked from Dennis was to help me co-write,” Gus G said. “That’s where I start when I make any record. I‘m looking for a co-writer for variety on each record. On my solo record for example, I had many co-writers and each song was almost a different project. But for Firewind, I usually wrote with our previous singer Apollo Papathanasio. But since he’s not there anymore I needed a co-writing partner for the vocal parts. We had some ideas from 2009 from a project we started but never finished. We had some old ideas and I sent him some of my newer demos and he sent back demos with his vocals on there and we went from there. So instead of getting too many cooks in the kitchen, I wanted just him and I to finish it together.”
In terms of musical composition and execution, comparing Firewind’s last album Few Against Many with Immortals is like night and day according to Gus G.
“(Few Against Many) was a totally different album,” Gus G reiterated. “That’s when we tried to change things up a bit and modernize the band. In the past, we’ve tried to do our version of power metal a little more on the commercial side, because I like three-minute songs and radio rock. I wanted to bring that in Firewind. But for this one, we realized we weren’t going to be on TV or get on radio with this. This one is a return to form and I’d say it’s like a ‘best of’ Firewind. So we just wanted to make a kick ass power metal record.”
Immortals contains that classic Firewind sound; melodic hooks, chantable choruses and of course Gus G’s fantastic fretwork. And there are plenty of face-melting solos to go around on its ten tracks.
“I see what the vibe is for each song and I’ll try to play something around that,” Gus G said concerning the execution of his guitar solos. “That’s how I always approach it. Generally the whole process behind this album was more is more. Just go for more of everything; bigger arrangements, bigger production, longer solo parts.”
Although Immortals is new vocalist Henning Basse’s first recorded Firewind album, he’s previously toured with them as well as Gus G’s solo band. With the obvious familiarity and camaraderie, one would think that the recording process must have been stress-free.
“Actually, that was the most nerve-wracking part, because everything else we knew about Henning,” Gus G said. “We’ve toured with him 10 years ago and he’s a good friend by now. We know he can sing all of our back catalog; he’s a great guy on stage and he’s like one of the gang. But the only thing we hadn’t done with Henning was make music, to see how it sounds like on a record with him. So everybody was a little bit nervous about that. Luckily, everything worked out. I never had any negative thoughts anyway because Henning is just such a force. It didn’t even cross my mind for a second; he has to sing great. He’s a great fucking singer, how can he fuck this up? (laughs). But I think he sings like his life depends on it.”
Now that Black Sabbath’s final, final, final reunion tour is almost finally coming to “The End,” the million-dollar question is, will there be a new Ozzy album in the near future?
“I’m not sure how involved I’ll be with the next record because I haven’t heard anything yet,” Gus G said. “We have to wait and see when he’s done (with the Sabbath tour) and what he wants to do after that. In terms of my position, does he want me to play on his next record? Great. Does he want me to write some stuff on it? Fantastic. Does he not want me there or has other ideas? Cool. It’s his solo band and he should be playing with whoever he wants to. It’s out of my hands and it’s not something that I’m actively involved with. I just get hired to play guitar. I think they like to get in touch with us when they have something concrete and whenever they want to go ahead with something. So that makes total sense to me.”
Gus G’s upcoming touring plans includes some solo Japanese dates in March, followed by Firewind European headlining and festival dates. Hopefully, Firewind will be coming to North America as well this year.
“There’s no plans of that just yet,” Gus G confessed. “It all depends on how the album does and what the feedback is. It costs a lot to bring five guys from Europe to the States with Visas. The offers have to be there and you have to pull the crowds to do it. Another decision we’ve taken with the band is that we’re not going to be touring as heavily as we did in the past. Of course we’d love to tour America, we’ve had some great memories there.”