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Photos by Anthony DeCrisantis

At its beginning stage, heavy metal was primarily an export of the Anglosphere that made its way about Europe and eventually the rest of the world. Now more than 3 decades following the genre’s decline in its original stomping ground, things have arguably come full circle and the favor has been returned with the continual metal invasion from Europe to the continental United States. To be fair, the Americas have managed to maintain a strong metal remnant since the ascent of grunge that has blossomed into a resurgent movement with its own unique character. Indeed, one need look no further than the first leg of Firewind’s 2024 Stand United Tour in the United States to see how both scenes have come of age, with one of its more up close and personal events taking place throughout several shows of the tour.

Opening attraction and South Texas turned Vegas power progressive upstarts Immortal Guardian pulled no punches in this regard as they brought a madcap level of technical flair and visual intrigue to the table. Led by Brazilian-born vocal impresario Carlos Zema and his skull microphone like an outtake from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this quartet would rivetted the huddled metal masses with a concise, 30-minute opening set that largely favored their recent released 3rd studio LP “Unite And Conquer,” though an impassioned performance of their 2018 debut “Age Of Revolution” entry “Aeolian” would arguably steal the show. Also of note was the wild virtuosic showmanship of guitarist/keyboardist Gabriel Guardiola, whose ambidextrous display on both instruments rivaled that of Michael Angelo Batio and arguably channeled the spirits of both Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci respectively, while the rhythm section pummeled with the force of a mighty sonic titan.

Immortal Guardian Photo Gallery

Next to hit the stage each night would be Los Angeles-based symphonic rock outfit Edge Of Paradise, and with an elaborate stage show that titled things heavily into the theatrical side of the coin and a highly eclectic set list, there was little mystery as to why they’ve become a touring and online sensation in recent years. Led by the boisterous voice and flamboyant persona of Margarita Monet, this outfit would erred on the side of infectious hooks and a less tech-obsessed approach to metallic thunder, flanked by a fairly impressive light show considering the stage’s small size and a massive video display in the back.

Monet herself would perfectly replicate every nuance in each song’s respective studio incarnation, blending seamlessly with the accompanying backing tracks to make the resulting sound as grandiose as possible, and wowed with a stage costume decked out with flashing lights for the first few songs while continually working the crowd with boundless zeal. Standout performances included their rendition of recently released single “Rogue (Aim For The Kill)”, alongside the heavy-ended industrial rocker “Hologram” and the dance-pop infused melodic romp “Universe”, but overall this band’s 10-song set was an exercise in consistency that kept every onlooker engaged and heavily animated.

Edge Of Paradise Photo Gallery

The headliners of the evening, namely 20 years plus veterans of the European 2nd wave power metal explosion and virtuoso guitarist Gus G’s flagship project Firewind, would take things to a perfect balance of technical flair and stage showmanship with more of a traditional flavor. Those who were in attendance needed no introduction to the majestic chops that Gus has been bringing to the table for more than 2 decades, as his brief tenure with Ozzy Osbourne several years back had already endeared him heavily to shred trustees on both sides of the Atlantic, but in his capacity as Firewind’s axe-slinger and mastermind, many surprises were beheld.

Perhaps chief among them would be the signature blend of Malmsteen-infused Neo-classicism and Helloween meets Stratovarius’ styled melodic craftsmanship that a bit different from what American metal had become since the 90s, though the Helloween-like grit and splendor of vocalist Herbie Langhans was no less a factor in the uniqueness this performance would hold for the average fan, but also in the interpretation of the band’s massive back catalog given his newness to the fold.

Their massive sets were a masterful display of veteran poise and precision, as the generally stripped down four-piece arrangement channeled a modern, heavier version of 80s heavy metal inspired bluster that shook the foundations of each venue and the surrounding neighborhoods. The lion’s share of individual entries would come from the band’s latest studio excursion “Stand United,” with swift bangers “Salvation Day” and “Destiny Is Calling” raising the greatest ruckus among the crowd. In an almost equally auspicious capacity was this outfit’s 2017 opus “Immortals,” a conceptual album covering the historic war between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states, which would see two gargantuan performances of “Wars Of Ages” and an especially powerful encore showing of “Ode To Leonidas” with a healthy amount of in-between commentary by Gus.

But in total, this were events that left virtually no stone in Firewind’s expansive past unturned, as even old school entries like the blazing power metal anthem “Destination Forever” and the thrashing shred-infused instrumental “The Fire And The Fury” would rock the house, to speak nothing for a metalized revamp of Michael Sembello’s Flashdance soundtrack classic “Maniac” that turned more than just a few heads.

When all was said and done, these could have easily had been an arena event given the level of energy and elation that had been achieved. Perhaps the lone difference was that the smaller turnouts made it possible for every attendee to interact at length with every artist both just off stage and at the merchandize tables. This humble journalist even had the distinct honor of bumping into none other than former Iced Earth vocalist Matt Barlow at the Pennsylvania tour stop, who was among the crowd incognito until just after Firewind’s set when he was recognized by and subsequently shook hands with several fans including Immortal Guardian’s Carlos Zema. All in all, the metal scene has thrived and continues to do so by way of camaraderie, and there was no shortage of it during the Stand United Tour.

Firewind Photo Gallery


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