Immortals is fun, wild and a bit ridiculous.
Power metal is a subgenre that trades darkness for light, themes of death and destruction for those of triumph and fantasy and uses the speed, technicality and over-the-top raditude of traditional metal for different purposes. Firewind is a power metal band, and is rad by definition. Its most recent effort, Immortals, delivers on all fronts, Even though there are better power metal records from better power metal bands, it’s still a pretty good time.
Immortals isn’t exactly a concept album, but like many power metal records, it makes sure listeners don’t miss the fantastical through-line with imagery of epic battles, swinging swords and triumphant victory over the forces of darkness. “Ode to Leonidas,” for example, begins with a spoken-word monologue by Leonidas himself (well, a guy playing Leonidas, anyway) promising he will not be defeated easily. The tune is a driving, palm-muted, riffy reiteration of that promise. The rest of the album dispenses with dramatics in favor of straight-up power metal tunage, but keep this in mind.
The album begins with “Hands of Time,” essentially a fleshed-out version of the 8-bit video games of yore, whose incredible but tinny soundtracks players longed to hear performed by full bands. The guitars riff over speedy, double-bass-fueled drums and could make the most modest metal fan feel like getting on their armor to throw themselves into battle. This tune is righteous in execution, the epitome of the word as defined in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Once the chorus strikes with all its operatic, epic glory, there’s only one conclusion to come to: best power metal album ever.
Unfortunately, despite the stand-out opener, the rest of the album does not bear this out. “We Defy” shows off the band’s love for speed metal, and has many of the same elements that launch the album; but it just doesn’t have the same excellent vibe. “Live and Die by the Sword” begins as a lame power metal ballad and quickly morphs into a triumphant metal tune with a heavy downbeat which then picks up the pace again and again until it reaches break-neck speeds. But again, it’s good, not great.
“War of Ages” doesn’t waste time with the ballad piece and just jumps right into a Painkiller-era Judas Priest stomper. “Lady of 1000 Sorrows” is the worst butt rock you’ll hear this year. “Warriors and Saints” picks up right where “War of Ages” left off but with a more triumphant chorus filled out by tremendous sweeping guitar arpeggios. Check “Immortals” for a short but sweet example of instru-power-metal. Believe it or not, the only track that comes close to “Hands of Time” is the bonus track, “Vision of Tomorrow.” It’s bright, shiny, fast and utilizes the keyboards like no other track does (everything gets all shimmery). And with lines like, “Carry on/ And be strong/ For a vision of tomorrow,” it’s a metal track that’s encouraging—who would’ve thought?
There are better examples of power metal—see Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian to name a few—but there’s nothing wrong with a little extra gossamer in life. Which is an accurate way to sum this one up. Immortals is fun, wild, a bit ridiculous and a perfectly fine way to spend an hour. And if you’ve got a broad sword handy you’ll have even more fun.