Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Stratovarius' 'Nemesis' - Album Review

It feels like it has been a long time since I have written an album review. I have a list of ones I want to do and now that my dissertation has finally been handed in and I am up-to-date with my live reviews, I can crack on with some albums. Up first is the new album from legendary Finnish power metal pioneers Stratovarius who have been on a run of form of late. Since a major overhaul of the band's line-up in 2008, the band have written and produced two great albuums: Polaris in 2009 and Elysium in 2011. 2013's Nemesis is a natural continuation from those albums. It is arguably slightly darker than the two previous albums and features a good use of electronics rarely heard in Stratovarius songs in the past. It also marks the debut of new drummer Rolf Pilve who replaced long-time sticksman Jörg Michael last year. The overall sound is power metal, pure and simple; something which the band have been doing successfully for years.

The albums starts off with Abandon. Some of the afformentioned electronics herald the arrival of a monster riff that says that the band are back in style. What is evident right from the outset is that frontman Timo Kotipelto still has a great voice and has not lost any of his range over the years. His power can be felt in the massive chorus that carries this song before a great keyboard and guitar duel puts the fun back into virtuosity. Unbreakable follows. The intro is a lead by a driving piano melody that is eventually backed up by crunching guitar and some excellent electronics. Lauri Porra's bass work is strong in the verses and help to add a little diversity to the overall sound. The song features another great chorus - as many Stratovarius songs do - and is sure to be a hit live. The next highlight is single Halcyon Days. It is full of the electronic elements that play such an important role on this album. The verses have an almost haunting quality to them before another soaring chorus takes over. Layers and layers of keyboard work create a big sound for a relatively simple-sounding song. Fantasy is up next, written by Porra, and is a really catchy despite some questionable lyrics. Not surprisingly, it is quite bass-heavy but some nice keyboard fills help to flesh the verses out well. The chorus is what makes this song catchy. It is a fun song with a nice guitar solo, but just blank out the rather mundane lyrics!

The next highlight is the epic Castles in the Air. It starts off like a ballad with some neo-classical style piano from Jens Johansson and Kotipelto's delicate voice crooning over the top before the rest of the band comes in and cranks it up to 11. Keyboards still play a big role throughout, and the chorus - with Kotipelto backed by a huge sounding choir - is spine tingling. Matias Kupiainen plays a guitar solo that mixed traditional power metal shredding with some almost jazzy phrases before the neo-classical elements return in a keyboard solo from Johansson. Up next is Dragons. This is more back to basics power metal with a big keyboard riff to lead the proceedings and fairly upbeat drum beat. The song is very old-school Stratovarius and would have not seemed out of place on either Visions or Infinity. The final highlight is the title track. Again, we have some great melodic power metal with quick footwork from Pilve and an epic sound from the rest of the band with big guitar chords and layers of atmospheric keyboards. It is a great way to end the album as is features bits of what made the other songs great and throws it all together in a big blender. It is full of melody and  solos and just feels epic. Overall, this is another great album from a band with the big history and that will leave an even bigger legacy. I am sure the band has a lot more to say yet though, and with this new line-up seemingly working well together, I predict great things for the future!

The album was released on 22nd February 2013 via earMusic. Below is the band's promostional video for Halcyon Days.

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