Calling yourself Firebrand Super Rock implies a certain sense of purpose given that you have a great name to live up to before a note has even been heard. Happily this bunch of Edinburgh metallers live up to their name on this ten track album by writing riffs so large they could swallow planets, while vocalist Laura Donelly has a truly stunning voice – soulful, powerful and oozing charisma – and it is no surprise to see that the band have played shows with acts such as Electric Wizzard, Slayer and Mastadon.
Boasting a sound that is part heavy stoner rock, part black Sabbath part Black Album-era Metallica, Firebrand more or less have it all – rampaging riffs, huge gutsy choruses and blistering solos – while the crystal clear production ties it all together perfectly allowing for every musician to get their moment to shine. Opening with ‘river of the dead’ the band are off and running on the back of an almighty blues/metal riff and pounding drums before you’ve even got yourself settled while the close harmonies of the chorus are the sort of instantly memorable touch that pepper the album as a whole and make it one to revisit time and again for that instant adrenalin fix that all truly great metal offers. Actually improving upon the opening song, something of a mean feat you would imagine, ‘into the black’ simply roars out of the gates with some nimble fingered guitar work courtesy of Jamie Gileheist who does a great job of sounding like three guitarists playing at once, and the intense drumming of Andrew Scott who plays with power and precision throughout the album. Impressively Firebrand have tapped into that rich vein of creativity that allows their songs to sound both suitably forward thinking in terms of production and playing whilst simultaneously sounding like the classic rock they so obviously grew up admiring, the result being that each track sounds just familiar enough to draw you instantly in and yet with an instinctive spin on proceedings that belongs solely to the band. ‘Wheel of pain’ sees the band go for it on a hard rocking NWOBHM lick that has hints of both Priest and Maiden and it’s impressive all over again to see that Laura is as comfortable in the lower registers as she is belting out the high notes. ‘Iron Void’ is, as you might imagine, a more Sabbath-y number, all sludge-thick guitars and minor key vocals helping you to stare down the titular abyss with the band.
Having hammered you with ‘iron void’ it’s time for the NWOBHM-esque ‘the unborn’ which boasts an impressive vocal, especially on the chorus, and a brief but impressive rolling drum into that gives way to a decent, memorable riff. Better is the Evil (with a defiantly capital E) ‘hell’s mouth’ with its harmonised guitars and thumping drums that does pretty much everything you want a hard rock track to do hinting at Sabbath, Dio and Maiden all in one tidy seven minute number. ‘Beneath the nameless city’ segues nicely out of the feedback that closes the preceding track and proves to be a really rather stunning instrumental that is beautifully played and short enough to not outstay it’s welcome, giving way instead to the fiery ‘falling down’ which has an ace riff and some superb double-kick work propelling it ever onwards. The guitars here absolutely sizzle and Laura steps up to the challenge of providing the gutsy vocal nicely. ‘Born to die’ kicks off in ballad mood but soon regains its Mojo with a crushing riff and a decent groove entering the fray in the second half of the lengthy, multi-faceted track. That just leaves ‘cleansed by fire’ with its crunching palm-muted riffs and crashing cymbals to close the album and leave you soaked in sweat from having bounced around your room a little too much during the faster numbers.
What more is there to say? Firebrand Super Rock are all about crushing metal and searing vocals and given the quality of this record it’s astonishing they’re not gracing the covers of rock and metal magazines up and down the country. There are no weak links here, no moments of tedium or cliché – rather each song offers up an invigorating and contemporary take on the classic rock that has burned its way into the collective consciousness over the years. Hints of Maiden, Priest, Sabbath and Led Zeppelin rub shoulders with touches of Machine Head and Mastadon, Alice in chains and Metallica, and the end result is a fresh, exciting hard rock album with equal amounts of visceral hard riffing and subtle grace thanks to the superlative musicianship of the band members. If you’re after a stylish, well played dose of classic-sounding heavy metal then this could well be the CD you’ve been waiting for. It is, all in all, pretty damn spectacular!