Firewind`s debut in 2002, Between Heaven and Hell, was a glorious throwback to the days when metal was raw and true, when Iron maiden and the Scorpions ruled the charts, when the chains and leather got lost in great flowing locks of hair down to the knees, when the music was about kick ass riffs and every second chorus would be drowned out in a blistering guitar solo.
The ubiquitous Gus G (Dream Evil, Mystic Prophecy) is the one and only axeman in Firewind, but fortunately the 23 year old Greek national ably fits the shoes of roughly twenty or thirty guitarists combined. This guys fingers move so fast I`m sure his fret board regularly catches on fire. Stephen Frederick (Kenziner) takes on vocals, and his voice is refreshingly unique, a nice blend of deep raspy vocals and ear-shattering shrieks. Sadly, Frederick has departed since this album came out, and Firewind's lead vox position has been taken up by Chity Somapala, ex Avalon singer.
The album kicks off with some cheesy narration - better than Luca Turilli`s embarrassing Rhapsody voice overs, but no where near as cool as Orson Welles overdubbing Manowar. The first track, Steal them Blind is a heartening beginning to the album. Fat riffs, cool melodies, and Gus G shredding to high heaven. Track two, I Am the Power is also the single, and the album contains an mpeg of the video for this song (as low budget metal videos go, it's pretty damn good). The song has all the traits of a classic metal anthem - this one'll be stuck in your head all day.
Then things get a little bit dodgy. There`s nothing exceptional wrong with the middle order tracks, but to my ear they are just a tad dull. Enjoyable, but lacking a vital ingredient to make them really exciting. The instrumental too, is a let down. `Northern Skies` on Between Heaven and Hell` is a standout in its own right, featuring some amazing guitar melodies. The Fire and the Fury on Burning Earth is neither firey nor furious. Things definitely pick up on Brother`s Keeper, my pick of the album, and the final track, The Longest Day is an exceptional song.
Sadly though, this album lacks the flair of the first. Gus G has refined his playing, and is infinitely more restrained on this album, which is a bad thing. Just when his solos are beginning to take off, he cuts them short, or reverts to simple rhythm playing. I`m sure he thinks he`s maturing as a musician, but the simple fact is I want to hear him spooging all over his guitar ala Yngwie Malmsteen.
Nonetheless, Burning Earth is a good, solid heavy metal album in its purest form.
1. Steal Them Blind
2. I Am The Anger
3. Immortal Lives Young
4. Burning Earth
5. The Fire & The Fury
6. You Have Survived
7. Brother`s Keeper
8. Waiting Still
9. The Longest Day
10. Still The Winds (Instrumental / Japanese Bonus)
Review by Liam Phillips