"The old cliché “you can’t go forward by moving back” might be true in the sense that without new music we wither and die, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we need every single album to be a stylistic revolution onto itself, lest we find ourselves with no genre or categories within it left to speak of. The truth is that when it comes to rehashing a format that works, the devil is always in the details, and an approach to crafting newer material that is attentive to nuance is an excellent way to bridge the gap between consistency and novelty. Insofar as Firewind goes, the name of the game is consistency, and the particulars go to the charismatic and virtuosic persona of Gus G and his uncanny ability to turn a few signature riffs into a celebration of neck wrecking goodness that can also be sung along to.
“Allegiance” is a new beginning for Gus, as he has parted company with his entire musical past with 3 other highly respected projects, and has completely revamped the lineup of this, his now solitary project (at least until he began hanging with the Ozzman). However, this new start is really a reassertion of what his music had been about since he began putting out label supported material under the Firewind name, a sleek yet simplistic approach to heavy, powerful metal that doesn’t skip up on the former while putting a lot of the latter into every single memorable melody. It is a format where guitars and drums rule the arrangement, where the vocals are raucous and husky (exuding a bit more depth and masculinity than a lot of other bands in this genre), and the keyboards are present yet mostly playing support. In other words, this is the same overall sound that typified the first 2 albums under this moniker.
In many respects, this album could be seen as a reminiscence of the catchy mid to late 80s heavy metal that grew out of the NWOBHM, combined with a slight helping of the German love of speed and mayhem here and there. A single listen to mid paced grooving monsters like “Deliverance” and “Where Do We Go From Here?” will reveal a band that definitely knows how to kick forth the spirit of Saxon and Judas Priest through the medium of a thunderous modern production. Simultaneously, the riff happy cruiser “Ready To Strike” takes a few tricks out of the Dio playbook (think the first two albums with Vivian Campbell with all the rapid power chords and guitar screams), while the flashing “Dream Chaser” seeks to escape the speed of sound while ushering a beautiful combination of George Lynch style guitar shredding and Grave Digger oriented riffing.
There are, naturally, a couple of areas where the band flirts a little too closely with genre straddling, likely for the purposes of scoring a few radio hits. The particular point where this really becomes blatant is the obvious single cut “Breaking The Silence”, which is an earlier attempt at what was successfully done by Primal Fear when they brought in Simone Simons for a guest slot alongside Ralf Scheepers. Unfortunately, the singer brought in here sounds too much like a goofy R&B singer, albeit with a different accent, and the whole thing gets stylistically muddled. It doesn’t quite hit the low of inviting Christina Aguilera to do a guest slot on a metal album, but it definitely goes in that direction. “The Essence” is also a weak link, though not nearly as much of one, and comes off as extremely forced during those obligatory acoustic sections typical of Gus’ various half ballads.
While this is just a little behind the impressive brilliance of Firewind’s previous work, this is definitely a fun and entertaining album that will have its audience singing along the second time through. It is easy music to like, and has very little that can be described as either adventurous or otherwise ambiguous. This is metal at its most predictable, but done in such a way that it isn’t grating nor stale. Vocalist Apollo Papathanasio isn’t quite the gravely bellower that Stephen Fredrick is, but he is probably the closest thing that Gus’ could find, and definitely gets close to recapturing that same massive vocal sound that is needed to match the massive production going on behind it. But as always, the real treats are found in the guitar playing, and everything else is along for the ride, and in this rudimentary approach to metal, that is way it should be." - Metal Archives