Few Against Many
Century Media Records
Of all the power metal bands that I have encountered over the years, Firewind remains one of the staples in my metal diet, with The Premonition easily being one of my favourite power metal albums of all time. Over the course of its history, the band has encountered numerous shifts in the lineup and Apollo has quickly become one of my favourite singers as well. Few Against Many sees the departure of previous drummer Mark Cross and the inclusion of Johan, who is also involved in Nightrage, the melodic death metal band that Gus G was previously involved in.
2010’s Days of Defiance saw Firewind further exploring their sound with the inclusion of a wide variety of influences into their music, with Gus G even including some thrashy riffs into his playing style, and Few Against Many sees the band continuing in that direction, with album opener Wall of Sound being a rather aggressive opening track. The melodic guitar playing style of guitarists Gus G and Bob and that unique and unmistakable vocals of Apollo are all immediately familiar, a nice welcome after listening to too much extreme metal of late. The band also makes unabashed and generous usage of keyboards throughout the album, and somehow manage to prevent themselves from sounding overly cheesy, enhancing the overall feel of the music for the most part. And of course, there are the duels between guitars and keyboards that spice things up further.
As per most power metal albums, apart from the usual aggressive and speedy numbers there are also the slower and more emotional ballads. Ballads of Firewind have always been a point of contention personally, with albums like Forged by Fire see the band being too indulgent in these moments, often ending up as the least favourite songs for me. Fortunately this time round the band almost manages to find that intricate balance, with longer songs like Losing My Mind containing some of the album’s slower and more emotional moments, and at the same time containing some of the heaviest riffs as well, though the track is far from being my favourite one on the album. The only true ballad, Edge of a Dream, though, is surprisingly good, with Apocalyptica guesting on the track and helping to create that feeling of sorrow.
While I would have loved to heap praise on every new Firewind release, compared to past releases, Few Against Many seems to pale in comparison. Despite the distinct musical style of the band and the guitar playing of Gus G (both in terms of riffing and lead playing), there is a lack of memorable or catchy moments on the album which made albums like Forged by Fire and The Premonition such enjoyable albums. Perhaps it is the production on this album that makes the band sound held back, but there are also moments when the band sound rather uninspired, sounding as though they were being aggressive for the sake of it, and this seriously affects the enjoyment of the album, especially on songs like The Undying Fire. For example, Apollo’s vocals, while improving in consistency and range since his introduction in 2006’s Allegiance, which was one of my least favourite in the Firewind catalogue, are unfortunately mixed rather low compared to the other instruments on the album, not allowing him to really shine.
Fortunately things start to look up as the album progresses, with Glorious being one of the stronger tracks on the album and subsequent tracks generally of typical Firewind style and quality. Things don’t look so bad for Firewind after all, I guess!
Interview with Chity Somapala