It is only one year ago since Firewind / Ozzy Osbourne – guitarist Gus G (born Kostas Karamitroudis, september 12, 1980) released his debut solo album I Am The Fire (reviewed here), an album that had a bunch of different singers on it, such as Jeff Scott Soto (Soto, W.E.T., Talisman, Eyes, Axel Rudi Pell, Yngwie Malmsteen), Alexia Rodriguez (Eyes Set To Kill), Jacob Bunton (Adler / Lynam), Michael Starr (Steel Panther) and Tom S Englund (Evergrey), but the bulk of the songs were sung by Mats Levén (Candlemass, Therion, Treat, Swedish Erotica). I was never a Firewind fan and even though Gus did a good job as Ozzy’s guitarist, I had no clue how good a songwriter he might have been. Needless to say, that album didn’t spark any big expectations at all. To be honest, I really only checked out the record out of curiosity. But in the end, I’m glad that I did because the record was surprisingly good, full of heavy but melodic hard rock tracks and all of them with brilliant lead vocal efforts. Gus G (how on Earth did he come up with that name???) also went on tour with that record, using Jeff Scott Soto as his touring vocalist, but Mats Levén also did some dates. The very short time span between that record and the new one makes me a bit suspicious. Is Gus such a fast worker? When did he have time to both write songs and record them with all the different musicians – and tour on top of that? Were all the songs on this album leftovers from the last album? Or were the songs written alongside the release of the last album but put aside to be recorded for this album? No matter what, I sure was curious to see if Gus just might had rushed this one to get a product out as soon as possible. Just like on its predecessor, there are multiple singers on this record, many of them are the same as on the last record, only this time Jacob Bunton does the majority of the lead vocals. But we get to the singers in a bit. Just like on the debut, the rhythm section is made of Firewind’s drummer Jo Nunoz and Lita Ford’s bass player Marty O’Brien, a real tight rhythm unit, in my book.
Gus open the record with an instrumental track called “The Quest” and that one might just be the best Yngwie Malmsteen track Yngwie Malmsteen never wrote. At times, this song is a carbon copy of Yngwie’s style, but I must admit that it is still a damn good hard rock track. The title track that follows and its follower “Burn”, both sung by Jacob Bunton, sounds a lot like Bunton’s two other bands, Lynam and Adler and without having seen the song writing credits for this album, it’s quite obvious that Bunton had a hand in the songwriting here. Bunton is the singer on “We Are One” as well. It’s a really catchy song that also has a bit of a Yngwie feel to it, but this is more in the Melodic Rock vein. I’m not the world’s biggest Amaranthe-fan, I actually don’t like them at all, much because I have issues with the modern Metal – or Metalcore or whatever the Hell it’s called – that Amaranthe and shitloads of other bands play these days. But you can’t argue with the fact that their singer, Elize Ryd, has an amazing voice, beautiful with a wide range. She also happens to be drop dead gorgeous which doesn’t hurt – not that that has anything to do with the music. Anyway, she sings on the ballad “What Lies Below” and even though it’s a ballad on the edge of modern radio Rock, I really, really like it. It’s a beautiful song, very catchy and has all the possibilities to be a big radio hit! Go for that one, Gus! Bunton is back for “Behind Those Eyes”, a slow rocker that sounds a lot like Adler (yes, that’s ex Guns N’ Roses Steven Adler’s band!). So much that I, again, believe that Bunton has a big song writing credit here. For “Gone To Stay” we get the brilliant Jeff Scott Soto at the mike. It’s a very melodic and catchy Hard Rock song, the way Jeff usually write and sing them. Great hook and a great refrain! Bunton is back for “One More Try” and you have to be a huge fan of 80’s / early 90’s Melodic Hard Rock to dig this one. I am so I dig it. The song is so 80’s sounding, I get a Steel Panther vibe, without the piss-take. It took us to song # 9 before we finally got to hear Mats Levén sing. As always, Levén does a killer job – that goes without saying – but the sad thing is that “Come Hell Or High Water” is a mediocre Hard Rock song that really goes nowhere and is saved here by Mats’ fantastic voice! But things get better with Levén tune # 2 “If It Ends Today”. The tune is a real beast, a great Hard Rock song with some Metal on top – and Levén just sings the shit out of the song! Soto is back for “Generation G”, but on this tune he sounds a bit strained and almost hoarse. But the song is really good and has a killer melody. Soundwise, the song would fit well on Jeff’s latest project, called Soto (reviewed here). But the best is apparently saved for last – the Levén sung “The Demon Inside” is a real killer. It’s dark, heavy, aggressive and Levén really owns the whole thing. I hear small parts of Malmsteen here as well and I can also find traces of Levén’s movie project Ludor (reviewed here) for which he wrote all the songs together with guitarist Jimmy Lagnefors (Dan Reed).
First thing first – the album isn’t rushed at all, at least it doesn’t sound that way quality-wise. At first listen, it doesn’t really stick, but it grows with each listen. But where the debut sounded like an effort by an artist, using the help from outside singers while keeping a certain style throughout all the songs, this one feels more like Slash’s first solo album did, where all the singers got to write all the lyrics and melodies, making the whole thing sound like a compilation album with different artists using Slash’s gifted guitar playing. And that is exactly how this sounds – like the singers has used Gus’ talent instead of the other way around. Also, after a few spins, I really think the debut was stronger – not by much, but still stronger. I am also a bit curious of how Gus sound as a singer himself. Maybe next time? Still, this is a very good album and for people into melodic Hard Rock and Metal, I just don’t think that anyone of them will hate this, quite the contrary. So for all of you, I recommend this record for sure.
01. The Quest
02. Brand New Revolution (feat. Jacob Bunton)
03. Burn (feat. Jacob Bunton)
04. We Are One (feat. Jacob Bunton)
05. What Lies Below (feat. Elize Ryd)
06. Behind Those Eyes (feat. Jacob Bunton)
07. Gone To Stay (feat. Jeff Scott Soto)
08. One More Try (feat. Jacob Bunton)
09. Come Hell Or High Water (feat. Mats Levén)
10. If It Ends Today (feat. Mats Levén)
11. Generation G (feat. Jeff Scott Soto)
12. The Demon Inside (feat. Mats Levén)