FIREWIND – The Few Against The Many
Songwriting within the Firewind camp is usually a group affair, though guitarist Gus G.’s live commitments as a member of the Ozzy Osbourne band from June 2010 until October 2011 prevented group songwriting sessions taking place. Instead, Gus wrote much of the material for the Thessaloniki, Greece-based power metal outfit’s seventh studio full-length, submitting six to seven demos to his fellow Firewind members. Vocalist Apollo Papathanasio subsequently began to pen lyrics and vocal melodies.
“We kind of went back and forth like we always do when we write songs,” recalls Gus G., founder of the unit. “Once we got all of the material completed, we entered the studio and rehearsed the material – we always do that. Once we were ready with that, we started recording. I think it’s different for a Firewind record, compared to the previous ones. There’s a lot more guitar, and much heavier production.”
Touring as part of the Ozzy Osbourne band arguably influenced that extra heaviness. “It made me a much better player; it was a big step up for me,” the musician exclaims. “I started practising guitar a lot more than I used to. Maybe that’s because I had to come up with all these guitar riffs again, and all these guitar parts. My goal was to make a guitar-based heavy metal record. I leave judging my guitar work up to other people, but I am happy with my playing on Few Against Many. I think my guitar playing is a step up from the previous records, not that the guitar playing on them wasn’t good. It was awesome and I am still proud of the previous albums, but I think I just became a much better player. When it came to my melodic stuff I played a lot more soulful, and when it came to the technical parts I did a lot more technical shredding parts. I think I was able to capture the best of both worlds when it came to guitar playing, both the melodic and technical side of it.
“This is the first album technically since I joined the Ozzy band, so I knew that there were a lot more people listening and a lot more people watching. I’ve never really… I shouldn’t say that I didn’t feel pressured or anything but I was aware of it, so maybe it was in my subconscious.”
A heavier effort, Few Against Many consequently treads a darker lyrical path. “A couple of people have said that it’s a darker record,” Gus acknowledges. “There’s not really any concept, or anything. We always have a dose of positivity to our messages, even though we talk about darker stuff. If you look at ‘Few Against Many’, it’s about fighting the fight – whatever that is – in your life. You can translate that whatever way you like… What else?… I guess ‘Losing My Mind’ is bit of a darker song when it comes to the lyrical concept, but I think you can always find the positive message if you look into our lyrics.”
Greece’s economic climate was an influence on Firewind’s previous outing, October 2010’s Days Of Defiance. “We were a bit more angry about what was happening at the time, and really about political leaders and religious leaders,” the axeman reflects. “The fact that people don’t really buy that stuff anymore, and the fact that people don’t trust anyone anymore. The only song on Few Against Many that has that revolutionary kind of vibe is ‘Wall Of Sound’, but it has more to do with a musical revolution and isn’t really about what’s happening in politics. It’s really all about uniting under the heavy metal sound. That’s the most revolutionary type of song we have on the record, and also probably ‘Glorious’ as well. That song has a little bit of a political theme.”
Lead cut ‘Wall Of Sound’ argues the case for a musical revolution, to be precise. “I think every generation has to have a soundtrack, and I think music can play a vital role,” Gus reckons. “If you look at it that way, you need a good soundtrack to help you with what you’re doing and music is a part of our lives. I’m not saying we’re part of a movement or anything, but I guess in every generation there has to be an artist or artists that hopefully can help with the changes. If you look back at the 60s The Beatles were big, but the world was changing a lot back then. The world is very different nowadays of course. People are a bit more lazy, I should say. Today, there’s no major movement. There’s purpose and all that, but they’re eating what they’re feeding us. I’m not sure how pro-active the new generation are. Maybe we have to toughen up.”
Perhaps today’s generation are too busy signing internet petitions? “Yeah, exactly,” the songwriter agrees. “It’s all happening online.”
‘Losing My Mind’ was the first composition to be authored for Few Against Many. “That was actually a good starting point for me,” Gus enthuses. “When I was making demos for the record, I actually came up with the song on acoustic guitar. The main riff I wrote in an American hotel somewhere on tour with Ozzy. At some point during a tour break, I just put all my ideas and riffs down and came up with a bunch of songs. ‘Losing My Mind’ was the first one that I did, and I felt it was a really refreshing kind of sound for Firewind at least. It’s a bit heavier, and has a different kind of groove that we didn’t have before. It’s a six-minute epic song that keeps adding up and changing up all of the time; even after the solos, there’s new musical parts coming up. It keeps building up, even up until the end of the song. I think that was a very good starting point for me to see what direction my new material was taking me to.”
The album’s title number took awhile to come together, meanwhile. “That was a hard song for me to write for some reason,” the axe-slinger muses. “I had a lot of riffs and put them together, but it just wouldn’t stop. I just kept building up the song, and then at some point I just had to strip down and rearrange the song from the beginning. That was kind of when I ended up with what the song became. We really tried to work hard on the lyrics and the vocal melodies, and it was the kind of song where it just took us many versions to get the right one. It’s not like it was written in ten minutes or something.”
Gus favours a quicker riff upon ‘The Undying Fire’, a tempo at odds with the drumming of Johan Nunez (Nightrage). “That was originally the idea from the demo,” the Greek explains. “I wanted a fast riff, and then I wanted to have a mid-tempo groove for the drums in the background. We kept it like it was on the demo basically, but he played excellently. ‘The Undying Fire’ was also a song which had more musical parts, and a bigger, longer intro. We took awhile to get it together, but I think that was the tempo from the beginning more or less as far as I can remember, yeah.”
Few Against Many is the first Firewind full-length to feature Johan behind the drumkit. “Jo is a much younger guy than we are, so he brings a new energy to the band,” the performer compliments. “When he first helped us out on our 2011 European and US tours, it was really refreshing to play with somebody else. He brings a cool energy and a cool vibe to the band. It’s good to have some young blood in the band, actually. Jo also comes from a death metal background, so he’s a much more technical drummer. He was able to play all kinds of weird shit that we asked him to, or whatever I would come up with on my demos. He was able to play with no problem. If you listen to a song like ‘Another Dimension’ having a blast beat almost, we’ve never had that stuff before.”
Gus has touted ‘Another Dimension’ as the most extreme Firewind track to date. “It’s close to thrash metal and even death metal, and we’ve never had those kinds of sounds or influences before in our music or on our records,” he supplements.
Firewind might perhaps explore their more extreme tendencies further on future material. “I don’t know…,” the arranger ponders. “It depends. Basically, it was originally an idea that Bob (Katsionis, keyboards) sent me. I had this brutal riff, and said ‘I want to have a song start with an extreme riff, almost like a death metal beat.’ We put our ideas together, and that’s how ‘Another Dimension’ came together.”
Apollo wrote the tune ‘Glorious’. “I added the main riff to the end, and that’s how we got it together,” Gus remembers. “It’s more of a hard rock song, the only song on the record which reminds me a little bit more of the old Firewind. I like it. It’s a cool song; we actually do it live, and it goes down very well.”
Firewind has arguably become more overtly metal over the years. “Yeah, I would say so,” the founder judges. “On the new record, it’s just heavier stuff. That’s totally what we’re going for.”
‘Edge Of A Dream’ features a guest appearance from Finnish cello metal ensemble Apocalyptica. “It was a different song,” Gus appraises. “Originally I was thinking about whether I wanted to have a piano-driven song on a Firewind song. I thought it was a different idea, and something fresh for Firewind. I’m very happy that we did it; I think it’s a nice departure from what we do, and something different for the band. It was a great piano ballad, and I felt it would be even more epic if we had some cellos. The idea was to call Apocalyptica, and see if they would be willing to play. We just sent them a demo through our management, and they got back to us two days later. They listened to the song, and decided to play.”
To date, ‘Edge Of A Dream’ has been performed live on only one occasion. “We’ve played it once, but rearranged it,” the guitarist notes. “We actually did it with a full band, and it was pretty cool. We might do ‘Edge Of A Dream’ yet again at future shows. If we were in the same place as Apocalyptica where we could actually jam that song onstage, that’d be great.”
Directed by keyboardist Bob Katsionis, ‘Edge Of A Dream’’s music video was shot in Greece during January 2012. “It was pretty fucking cold,” Gus laments. “The location that Bob scouted was amazing though; it had some cliffs, and stuff like that. It was a really cool background, with sea and mountains and stuff like that. We just shot all the stuff there basically, and it came out pretty cool.”
‘Destiny’ sports a chorus with a punk rock vibe. “It starts out like bit of an older style Firewind song with bit more of a melodic riff,” the musician analyses. “It then goes into that punk rock vibe with the chorus like Bad Religion or whatever, which is great. When I first presented it to the guys they were like ‘You can’t do that,’ and I said ‘Why not? It’s something different.’ I just wanted to experiment with different beats, different grooves. Stuff that we hadn’t done before, and hadn’t dared to.”
Of Few Against Many’s tracks, ‘Long Gone Tomorrow’ is the closest to Black Sabbath in nature. “It definitely has an Ozzy vibe,” Gus concedes. “It has a heavy vibe in general, but it’s definitely a page out of Tony Iommi’s book when it comes to the riffs, for sure. You can find all kinds of influences on there.”
‘No Heroes, No Sinners’ rounds out the album. “I think it’s a pretty cool track, and it changes a lot during the song,” the axeman critiques. “Actually Apollo had vocal melodies and lyrics for another song that he wrote, but the music wasn’t really happening there. He put those melodies over my demo though, and that’s how the song came together.”
Few Against Many was mixed by Jason Suecof (Charred Walls Of The Damned / Capharnaum) and Eyal Levi (Dååth) at Audiohammer Studios (Trivium / All That Remains / Death Angel) in Sanford, Florida. “I knew Eyal from way back, actually,” Gus divulges. “We met through a mutual friend who hooked us up, and then when I was in LA I hooked up with Eyal. He played me some of the stuff they were doing at Audiohammer Studios, and I was sold immediately because I thought they had made really killer productions. I thought it would be great if we spiced it up a little bit and actually had an American mix our band, because we usually do our records in Scandinavia. I spoke to the guys, and told them what I had in mind. They really liked it, so I contacted Audiohammer to handle the mix and that was it really. They put in a lot of hard work, and you can really hear the details in the mix. It has a heavier production, but a more modern production as well. At Audiohammer, they work with groups like All That Remains, Trivium, and all those kinds of bands. You hear a little bit of that modern touch to it.”
The composer has several favourite tracks to perform live off of Few Against Many. “I really like ‘Losing My Mind’, ‘Few Against Many’, and ‘Glorious’ – that’s a cool track to do live,” he cites. “I like all of the songs, man. I like ‘Another Dimension’ as well, for example.”
Firewind’s back catalogue has grown over the years, meaning the quintet have a wider range of cuts to choose from in devising a setlist. “It’s getting harder with every album,” Gus confesses. “Seven albums in, it’s kind of hard to keep everyone pleased. We try to cover material from each record.”
Debut full-length Between Heaven And Hell celebrated the tenth anniversary of its release in July 2012, an occasion Firewind is due to mark. “What we plan to do is play a lot of songs that we’ve never, ever played live before, and do a different setlist every day,” the axe-slinger reveals. “We’re gonna do that in December. We’re gonna try to do some of the more obscure songs from our catalogue.”
At the time of writing, plans to record an 11th Ozzy Osbourne studio platter aren’t in the pipeline. “I think Ozzy is gonna be doing Sabbath for the next year, and I’m gonna be doing Firewind naturally,” Gus discloses.
The performer has authored a wealth of riffs should the opportunity ever present itself, though. “I have all kinds of stuff – it’s not like one specific thing,” he stresses. “There’s some stuff that’s pretty heavy that have a Sabbath’y vibe. I’ve then got riffs with bit more of an 80s vibe, and I’ve got more rocking stuff, like Southern rock. I also have some heavier, darker stuff. They’re a bit closer to the older Ozzy. Randy Rhoads-era (1980-1982) or No More Tears-era (1991), stuff like that – the first six albums. I always keep writing ideas, so I guess whenever he’s ready and gives me a call I’ll have a bunch of stuff to show him. When the time comes I’ll just present him with a bunch of stuff, and he can choose what he likes and what not.”
Few Against Many was released on May 21st, 2012 in Europe and subsequently on the 22nd in North America, all through Century Media Records.
Interview published in September 2012. All promotional photographs by Hatzakis Photography.
Related Posts via Categories
- AVENGED SEVENFOLD – As They Like It (January 2017) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- DEVILMENT – Waltzing Under The Thunder (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS – Taking Aim (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- IN FLAMES – Underneath Their Skin (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- HAMMERFALL – Hammering High (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- GRAHAM BONNET BAND – The Next Chapter (November 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- DEMON – Turning On The Magic (October 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- TESTAMENT – Ruling The Den (October 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- BRANT BJORK – Luvin’ Stoner Life (October 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine
- OPERATION: MINDCRIME – Taking On The Music World (October 2016) | Features / Interviews @ Metal Forces Magazine