Album Review: GUS G Fearless
Of any guitarist within the heavy metal realm, Gus G debatably has had one of the most turbulent careers in regards to the limelight. While the Greek guitarist impressed the masses through brief stints in acts like Nightrage, Dream Evil, Mystic Prophecy, and Arch Enemy, his personal project, Firewind, was where he truly flourished. With building success via six studio albums, Gus G found his big break joining Ozzy Osbourne to tour and record the Scream LP. Granted, Zakk Wylde has since taken over, but I feel as if you were once hired by Ozzy, you're doing something right and one would assume inevitably heading for success.
Remaining prolific, Gus G has continued to release material with Firewind as well as some solo records. His previous solo albums featured a variety of guest vocalists, yet in this latest endeavor, he decided to go a more traditional route and exclusively work with one singer. Vocalist/bassist Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Unisonic) and drummer Will Hunt (Evanescence) joins Gus G on Fearless. Considering the guitarist has had far more experience than most musicians his age, I think the expectations for this release should be high.
My initial reaction to this release was a bit of shock and confusion. I had this impression that a musician as virtuosic as Gus G would be keen towards more instrumental, lead guitar-based compositions. On the contrary, a large percentage of the tracks were very vocal-driven. To be blunt, I was a tad disappointed by this revelation, but I'll admit that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Almost every song has a damn good catchy vocal melody.
The first two pieces, "Letting Go" and "Mr. Manson," are without a doubt ear-worms. As for the latter track, the vocalist milks the vocal hook maybe a tad too much. The vocal hook on “Mr. Manson” was quite fun the first few times, but after the 10th time hearing the same chorus line, I grew annoyed. On a side note, the repetition in "Mr. Manson" seemed somewhat similar to Ozzy's "Mr. Crowley."
A solid percentage of this record also feels fairly throwback, which could either equal nostalgic or cringy depending on your take of the 80’s. “Nothing to Say” and the Dire Straits cover “Money for Nothing” is on the far side of the feeling dated spectrum. Part of me wants to blame the new vocalist for this stylistic shift, however, I do feel the need to compliment Dennis Ward in some aspects. I honestly believe that he is very consistent in his ability to construct infectious vocal melodies, as seen on songs like "Big City," even if the cheesy level is at an all-time high.
When I finally reached like the title track, I was so relieved. Although the vocal tracks had their moments, this instrumental piece is where Gus G truly shines. His neoclassical influences are presented in a more modern, progressive shred perspective alike Plini or Angel Vivaldi. I'd confidently claim that the "Fearless" composition is one of his most adventurous pieces to date and I hope he continues down such a path in the future. The other instrumental track on here, "Thrill of the Chase," was also pretty impressive and on par with his previous two solo records.
Although I do appreciate the strength in vocal hooks throughout this LP, the fact that there were so many vocal-driven songs on here was a letdown, especially considering that Gus G’s guitar talents were held back to accommodate the vocals. The stacking heap of virtuosic guitarists in modern times is unbelievably competitive to the point where you absolutely need a compelling unique aspect about your musicianship and playing ability to stand out amongst the crowd of thousands. Although Gus G may be a household name due to his loaded resume, I'm not sure that this release is nearly as innovative or attention-grabbing as other modern guitarists like Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders) or Jason Richardson. This record may appeal to those with a knack for 80's hard rock, yet besides the catchiness, Fearless just does not warrant much beyond a lukewarm, nostalgic listen.