September 20, 2023

Firewind initially began life way back in 1998 having been formed to showcase the remarkable shredding skills of the Greek guitarist Konstantinos Karamitroudis or more simply known to the masses as Gus G which is much easier to say but scores less on the scrabble board! Many will recall that Gus was with the legendary Ozzy Osbourne for a period but he has also run a successful solo career alongside Firewind and has had extended periods with Mystic Prophecy, Nightrage and Dream Evil as well more guest appearances than can be sensibly mentioned with a host of other groups.

Photo: Ioannis Livanos

It was actually three years after the formation of Firewind that a real band took shape with the debut Between Heaven And Hell announcing the exciting and mercurial new outfit to the world in 2002. Firewind have now put out nine albums with the last being the well-received and self-titled release of 2020 so a new album must surely be on the cards sometime soon. In the meantime, we must be content with this rather fine double CD and Bluray set of the band live in concert in 2022 at the Principal Club Theatre in Thessaloniki, Greece which was recording during the 20th anniversary tour.

Now, Gus is a musician who is happy to shake up the status quo which means that there have been many quality musicians through the Firewind revolving door and the changes were rung again for 2020’s Firewind release which saw vocalist Henning Basse leave to be replaced by the stunning Herbie Langhans (Sinbreed/Seventh Avenue) who is now, rather remarkably, the sixth singer used by Gus and each has brought his own level of dynamism to the mix. I am a big fan of Henning Basse and was a little concerned when he was replaced but Langhans has proven to be an ideal addition to the band and his Dio-esque delivery and love for a Sabbath/Rainbow/Dio sound has very much moved the band to a new level. He is such a talented performer with a huge set of lungs and I’m confident that his collaboration with Gus will be a long and fruitful one. It was also noted that the long-time second guitarist, Bob Katsionis also left after Immortals and has not been replaced but Petros Christodoulidis (bass) and Johan Nunez (drums) were retained and it is these four musicians who have combined quite spectacularly for this incendiary and quite essential live album.

Photo: Ioannis Livanos

The set contains 20-tracks for 106-minutes of exceptional hard rock/power metal with songs taken from throughout the Firewind catalogue with, rather understandably, the last two releases, Firewind and Immortals, making up around half of the set but there are also several delights with early tracks from the first two albums as well as four from 2006’s Allegiance. There is a drum solo too but please remember that this is only to be expected as it is a live album and it is the law that there must be one! Almost taking pride of place, in an album of continual delights, is a magnifiscent cover of Maniac from the 1983 film Flashdance originally performed by Michael Sembello; I would have feared the worst but it did actually feature on the 2006 Allegiance album and all will be amazed at the fire and passion that Gus, Langhans and band bring to the track.

Everyone knows of the prowess of Gus who can shred, riff and solo with the best and his skills allow him to sit comfortably alongside the like of Uli Jon Roth, John Petrucci, Yngwie Malmsteen, Axel Rudi Pell and Michael Schenker and I just love the Rainbow/Dio element that now pervades the band’s sound.

This was a hometown gig for Gus and there is a real rapport between the band and audience and they give almost as much as the musicians as they all thoroughly engage with the music, the banter and stunning lights and it looks like it was a fabulous experience in the flesh but this recording is a very good alternative to being there and it is something that will be cherished forever. Curiously, it is the same venue and film crew that produced the 2008 video Live Premonition and you can tell that there is a real love that has gone into all aspects of the work as this shines throughout the recording. Greats lights, fully interactive audience and a band playing out of their collective skins so what’s not to like?

Photo: Ioannis Livanos

Still Raging (Live At Principal Club Theater)

CD1

  1. Welcome to the Empire (5:11)
  2. I am the Anger (4:18)
  3. Head Up High (4:50)
  4. Devour (4:31)
  5. Destination Forever (4:56)
  6. Orbitual Sunrise (5:24)
  7. World on Fire (4:37)
  8. Drum Solo (4:13)
  9. The Fire & the Fury (4:05)
  10. Ode to Leonidas (6:18)

CD2

  1. Overdrive (4:37)
  2. Mercenary Man (4:29)
  3. Lady of 1000 Sorrows (5:31)
  4. Break Away (6:03)
  5. Between Heaven and Hell (5:24)
  6. Rising Fire (4:38)
  7. Maniac (7:26)
  8. Hands of Time (5:25)
  9. Few Against Many (7:28)
  10. Falling To Pieces (6:09)