Review by Gary Cordwell
Release Date: 17 March 2014
These guitar hero types – give them an ounce of fame and recognition and they think they have a solo album in them! Such is the case with Gus G (six-string maestro for Ozzy Osbourne since 2009). Thankfully for us he does, and it’s a blinder! Gus has chosen the tried and trusted Santana/Slash route of multiple guest vocalists but those expecting more power metal in the vein of his band, Firewind, may just be in for a surprise as this is classic hard rock, through and through. Perhaps the lack of an appearance by Ozzy is a statement of intent… this is rock, not metal!
The album blasts off with two rousing, radio-friendly earworms featuring Mats Leven of Candlemass. Leven and, erm, G seem to fit, hand in glove, with each other and if the guitarist decides to tour on the back of this album then Mats should definitely be his Myles Kennedy. You get the feeling that Gus sees this release as a good old fashioned album rather than a collection of downloads and it is paced brilliantly (and very deliberately). The two instrumentals are a perfect example of this, breaking up the album and giving you breathing space to appreciate the vocalists. They also add a more metallic edge to proceedings, giving Gus (ably assisted by Dave Ellefson and Billy Sheehan holding down the bottom end) ample opportunity to display his stunning musicianship, although never at the expense of melody. These type of projects can, by their very nature, be somewhat fragmentary and disjointed and a spot of multiple personality disorder does rear its head mid-way through but thankfully, Mats Leven returns with the Zep-tinged ‘Eyes Wide Open’ to snap the album back into shape and cohesion is restored.
We are then into the final third where it really starts to get interesting! Steel Panthers’ Michael Starr plays it straight on ‘Redemption’ and serves up a big slice of good time 80’s hair rock. Then it’s up to Journey/ Trans Siberian Orchestra frontman Jeff Scott Soto to deliver the killer blow with ‘Summer Days’, an instantly memorable monster which really could be huge if the rock radio stations pick it up. The album, oddly, finishes on two ballads. Tom S. Englund brings some of his brooding Scandinavian melancholy to ‘Dreamkeeper’ which leaves Mats Leven to wrap things up with the bluesy Whitesnake-esque ‘End Of The Line’ – although thankfully without any of Dame Daves latter day histrionics.
The real stars of this show, however, are the songs, which is a fitting testament to the man with his name on the sleeve. Gus G’s restraint is admirable, you are never in doubt of his considerable technical brilliance but it is reined in, he holds back and uses his talents to serve the song and not to smother it, which is what makes I Am The Fire such an unexpected joy.
8 out of 10
- My Will Be Done (feat. Mats Leven)
- Blame It On Me (feat. Mats Leven)
- I Am The Fire (feat. Devour The Day)
- Vengeance (feat. Dave Ellefson)
- Long Way Down (feat. Alexia Rodriguez)
- Just Can’t Let Go (feat. Jacob Bunton)
- Terrified (feat. Billy Sheehan)
- Eyes Wide Open (feat. Mats Leven)
- Redemption (feat. Michael Starr)
- Summer Days (feat. Jeff Scott Soto)
- Dreamkeeper (feat. Tom S. Englund)
- End Of The Line (feat. Mats Leven)