Firewind – Stand United Review

Review: Firewind's 'Stand United' Offers Melodic Power Metal Brilliance, Yet Falls Short in Album Structure...

Released By: AFM Records

Release Date: March 1st, 2024

Genre: Heavy/Power Metal

Links: https://firewind.gr/

 

Line Up:

Herbie Langhans – Vocals

Gus G. – Guitars, Keyboards

Petros Christo – Bass

Jo Nunez – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Salvation Day

2. Stand United

3. Destiny is Calling

4. The Power Lies Within

5. Come Undone

6. Fallen Angel

7. Chains

8. Land of Chaos

9. Talking in Your Sleep (The Romantics cover)

10. Days of Grace

 

 

Sometimes pre-release singles can have an unintended effect on my listening experience once I hear a full album. If the singles are better than expected, they could get me overly excited, only for the full album to not quite live up to my expectations, while a weaker set of singles could cause me to be a bit worried, leading me to be relieved when the full album is better than I expected. I’ve had many cases of both in the past several years. “Stand United,” the tenth full-length release from Greek power metal band Firewind, falls decidedly closer to the former, with its first three singles in particular making me think it could be their best album to date. However, when I heard the full album for the first time, I was a bit disappointed. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad album, far from it, in fact. However, I do feel it’s a slight step back from the band’s self-titled album, and while it’s an entertaining album overall, the tracks released as singles are definitely stronger than the rest of the album.

As expected, little has changed with Firewind since the release of their previous album, with the lineup remaining unchanged, and the overall sound of “Stand United” is very much a continuation of that album. It strikes a balance between heavy, technical guitar work and strong vocal melodies, with some fantastic choruses and plenty of memorable hooks. Perhaps even more so, this is a very melodic album compared to some of the band’s past works, with even the heavy tracks having moments of nice melodic guitar work, mixed in with some light keys and huge vocal lines. There’s plenty of heaviness to be found, especially in the first half, but there’s also plenty of more melodic sections, even on those tracks, while the second half is fairly toned down overall.

Performances are strong across the board, with guitarist/keyboardist and main songwriter Gus G. in top form, as always, delivering plenty of crunchy riffs, nice melodic lead guitar work, and some excellent shredding as well as some very technical solos. As with the previous album, keys are fairly light and largely serve more of a secondary role, though they are very noticeable at times, especially on tracks such as “Destiny is Calling” and “Come Undone”. Vocalist Herbie Langhans is also in top form, once again, giving the tracks an extra edge with his deep, aggressive, and powerful voice. He shines during the choruses, and while he’s at his best when he sings with extra intensity, he still sounds very good on softer passages as well. Production is top-notch all around, with no issues whatsoever, as usual.

Songwriting is the one area where I find this album to be a bit uneven, both in terms of quality, with the last three tracks all being a bit weaker than the rest, but also in terms of structure. The previous album was perfectly balanced, flowing fluidly from track to track with a nice mix of speedier tracks and slower tracks. On the other hand, “Stand United” feels very front-loaded with up-tempo tracks and backloaded with slow to mid-paced tracks, so fans who tend to prefer one style over the other are likely to be fully impressed by one half of the album, and less than thrilled by the other half. More disappointingly, while I really liked the slower tracks on the previous album and the single “Chains” left me optimistic for this album’s batch, the last three tracks on this album fail to reach the level of quality I’ve come to expect from this band.

Leaving the negatives behind for now, the album gets off to a fantastic start, with the second single “Salvation Day” leading the way. After a short vocal tease and light keys to start things off, the rest of the band kicks in and some nice melodic guitar leads take over, leading into an upbeat opening verse which alternates between some bouncy keys, heavy riffs and powerful vocals, before giving way to a chorus that moves at a fairly quick pace without fully speeding up, and while it’s not one of the more melodic or catchy choruses here, it has some excellent vocals and is a ton of fun. The guitar solo that follows has a very classic power metal sound and is one of the highlights of an already great track.

Next is the title track, an explosive song with fast and furious drumming, heavy, super technical lead guitar work with plenty of shredding, and a fantastic, very melodic and powerful chorus, where the temp slows down to give Langhans a chance to really shine with his intense, powerful voice, somewhat channeling the likes of Jorn Lande. The guitar work is the highlight of the track, with the solo section in particular having some of the most technical and most complex instrumental work on the album, though the chorus is also fantastic, and the verses are also a lot of fun. It’s my personal favorite on the album and was the last single, released on the same day as the album. Released over a year ago as a bit of a teaser, “Destiny is Calling” is another personal favorite. It’s very fast-paced and melodic, and it’s one of the tracks where the keys are more prominent, adding a bit of a playful feel to the opening and the chorus. The track as a whole is still very guitar-driven, with more melodic guitar work during the chorus, mixed with heavy guitars during the verses, while the instrumental section has a bit of a crunchy heavy metal feel to it, but it’s all very well done and fits in perfectly. The chorus is the highlight, thanks to those energetic keys, fantastic vocal melodies, and an excellent vocal performance by Langhans.

The first slower track on the album is “The Power Within,” and it’s another absolute killer. It has a strong heavy metal feel to it, especially the main riff and the verses, which sound very crunchy and powerful, and Langhans sounds right at home screaming during the verses. The chorus falls more into melodic metal territory, with slightly lighter guitar work, though the vocals are still as intense as during the verses, while the instrumental section is once again quite heavy and technical. Out of the slower tracks, this is probably my favorite. Rounding out the first half is “Come Undone,” another single, and unsurprisingly, it’s yet another instant killer. It opens up at a fast pace, with heavy guitar work and bouncy keys, before slowing down for a darker, more atmospheric opening verse, where the guitar work stays heavy and the vocals have a sinister feel to them. This leads into one of the speediest, most explosive choruses on the album, where the drums are blazing fast, the keys play a leading role and the vocals are extremely fiery and intense, paired up with some of the best lyrics and vocal melodies on the entire album. The mix between speedy and slow passages is done absolutely perfectly, and the track is yet another personal favorite.

Yet another single is next, with “Fallen Angel,” and while it’s not as strong as some of the others, it’s still another excellent track. This one moves at a consistent tempo throughout, not as fast as some tracks are at full speed, but still very up-tempo and high energy. It has a nice mix of heavy riffs and melodic guitar work, accompanied by more strong vocals, though I find the verses offer up a fantastic buildup, while the chorus is solid, but not as strong as some of the other tracks. The mix between guitars and keys is excellent, though, and the track as a whole is very good, if not one of my favorites here. The last remaining single is “Chains,” a more restrained, slow-paced track. It has light keys, accompanied by slow, subtly heavy guitar work, though overall the track has a more relaxed feel to it, with a mix between melodic metal and classic hard rock. The chorus has some big vocal melodies and is the highlight of the track, though the guitar solo is also excellent, and the track overall is very good, probably the strongest on the second half.

One song I feel I should love, but for some reason, it just doesn’t quite get there is “Land of Chaos.” It’s another track which blends heavy metal and power metal fluidly, alternating between slow verses with crushing guitar riffs, and a slightly sped-up more melodic chorus with some very powerful vocals. The verses are strong, while the chorus is solid, but for some reason, it doesn’t quite work for me, and it’s hard to explain why. The more aggressive and technical guitar playing during the solo is excellent, though, Overall it’s a solid track, but it feels like a slight step down from any of the previous seven tracks.

However, things only get worse from there. Cover songs can be very hit or miss, and unfortunately, the band’s take on The Romantics classic “Talking in Your Sleep” is a big miss. They do give the 80’s pop track a slight metallic edge, and Langhans is excellent as always, but sadly, that’s where the positive points end. The original has a smooth rhythm and a nice groove to it, which isn’t as noticeable here, but worse, the original has a repetitive guitar melody which lingers on and off throughout the verses and chorus and the band manages to enhance that effect greatly, both in terms of making it more pronounced, drowning out nearly everything else, as well as the guitar tone for that part sounds awful, so it quickly becomes irritating. Suffice to say, this is easily the worst track I’ve ever heard from the band, and it’s downright painful to listen to. The album closes out with “Days of Grace,” a soft acoustic guitar-driven ballad. Musically, it’s very simple but also quite nice, and it has all the expected elements, with Langhans killing it on the mic, especially during the chorus, and the guitar solo towards the end is emotional and sounds great. The thing is, while it’s a nice track and no element of it feels less than solid, it also doesn’t do anything to elevate itself, and I feel the band has done better ballads than this in the past. Part of it may be that I’m always checked out following that previous track, but overall, while this song is nice, it feels like a disappointing way to end the album.

Stand United is a bit of a frustrating album because if it had ended with “Chains” and perhaps been a slightly long EP instead of a full-length album, it could have been possibly the band’s best work to date. However, with those last three tracks added on, it ends up falling just a bit short. There’s still plenty of great tracks here, with the first half in particular showcasing some of the band’s best speedy, melodic power metal to date, with enough heaviness to give it an extra edge, and the next two tracks are also great. Sadly, it ends on a bit of a weak note, with that cover track, in particular, being an abomination. Power metal fans may be disappointed by that stretch of the album, though melodic metal fans should enjoy it. For existing Firewind fans, the album is still a must-listen, as it has some of the band’s best tracks to date, while newcomers may be better off starting with either the self-titled album or an earlier album such as “Allegiance” to hear the band at their best. However, there’s still a lot to enjoy here, even if the singles are clearly the highlights.

 

Ratings: 8/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

 

About Author

 
Categories
Album ReviewsNews
HEILUNG’S LIVE SPECTACLE AT THE RIVERSIDE THEATER IN MILWAUKEE, WI ON SAT, APRIL 20TH, 2024: AN IMMERSIVE JOURNEY OF SOUND, STORY, AND SPIRIT
HEILUNG’S LIVE SPECTACLE AT THE RIVERSIDE THEATER IN MILWAUKEE, WI ON SAT, APRIL 20TH, 2024: AN IMMERSIVE JOURNEY OF SOUND, STORY, AND SPIRIT

HEILUNG’S LIVE SPECTACLE AT THE RIVERSIDE THEATER IN MILWAUKEE, WI ON SAT, APRIL 20TH, 2024: AN IMMERSIVE JOURNEY OF SOUND, STORY, AND SPIRIT

Photo Credit: Chris Rugowski

Evergrey - Falling From The Sun

Collateral Releases Third Single ‘Just One Of Those Days’ from Sophomore Album

BABYMETAL and Electric Callboy Push Musical Boundaries with “RATATATA”

Circus Maximus Returns: Fans Await New Music and Tour Dates

Bloodbound – The Tales of Nosferatu – Two Decades of Blood Review

RELATED BY

G-TQ58R0YWZE