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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

REVIEW: Stratovarius - "Nemesis"

Picture this. A Finnish heavy metal band with stars in their eyes and fire in their hearts joined the metal scene in the eighties. Of course, they were constantly competing with the massive wave of fellow European bands with the same dream. Despite the saturated scene, the band managed to create solid material and get noticed by a few record companies, then began building a name for themselves. However, something unknown to the band at the time, was missing. When Timo Kotipelto joined the band in the early 90's, the planets must have aligned, and even the return of Jesus Christ himself wouldn't be as miraculous as this one particular moment in time. After many lineup changes, they finally found their sound and ran with it, creating the impressive, epic, and unforgettable sound that power metal fans all over the world now know as Stratovarius.

Releasing some of the strongest albums in power metal history such as Dreamspace, Visions, and Destiny, Nemesis is a step above nearly all of the previous releases, providing an extremely enjoyable listen from the beginning to end, without any stutter-steps in between. The excitement has been building for months now about the release of Nemesis in February, with an EP titled Unbreakable releasing beforehand at the end of January. As soon as it's available, getting your hands on Unbreakable is definitely advised to prepare you for the greatness that is Nemesis.

This is one of those releases that must be experienced to be believed. The album has countless moments that take one's breath away. The hooks, harmonized solos, and the epic choruses are some of the best that Stratovarius has ever come up with, and every song is full of catchy moments that really make the album stick with you. From the early moments of “Abandon” to the last seconds of the title track “Nemesis” the album is nearly too good to be true. This is easily the best music that Stratovarius has put out in years, and ranks near the top of their best albums of all time.

“Unbreakable” is no doubt a single-worthy song, with catchy keyboard and grooving guitar riffs throughout the verses. Jens Johansson is in the forefront musically, playing a lighthearted keyboard melody that you will likely be humming for days. Coupled with a crunchy guitar riff provided by Matias Kupiainen, this track has everything that a power metal fan could ask for. The moment the chorus kicks in, anyone sitting still in their seats can only be deaf, as that is the only excuse to not enjoy it. Kotipelto's voice is lightly coated with reverb, and bouncing around in his best vocal range, he brings new meaning to the title of the track, as this is a seriously solid metal song. With little time to recover from the awesome that is “Unbreakable”, “Stand My Ground” follows with an angry sounding Kotipelto that quickly breaks into an uplifting “No one can bring me down..” chorus, echoed by many layered voices sounding quite heavenly.

The album moves on to a heavier track, “Halcyon Days” complete with fast-paced drums, roaring bass, and great string work. Eerie instrument layering through the verse riffs open into a god-like vocal presence from Kotipelto in the chorus. The synth, vocal patterns, and drums in this song just scream at you to get up and dance. So at this point in any album, you would expect there to be a song that is “Meh...okay...” so you skip on for a better track... but not on this album. Each song shines bright on its own, yet they flow together wonderfully. “Fantasy” and “Out of the Fog” both boast strong choruses and the orchestration is nothing short of fantastic. Another noteworthy track is the album's ballad “If the Story is Over” written with help from Jani Liimitainen, who works with Kotipelto in Cain's Offering, and graced us with his presence in Sonata Arctica from 1999 through 2007. Clearly no stranger to powerful, emotional music, Jani's help is definitely felt in this track. The lyrics and vocal phrasing are nothing short of stunning, all the while, the song builds from a slow acoustic piece into a massive presence on the album that you will never forget.

The album has a lot of the traditional Stratovarius power metal edge, but they have managed to evolve and develop their sound to much more rounded, matured, and polished heavy metal. Listening to it from start to finish makes me feel invincible, like I can stand up to whatever foe that world can throw and me, and I will remain 'unbreakable'. This album hit the very depths of my core, my will, my heart, and my soul. It came around at the perfect moment in my life to where I feel like I am a better person just for hearing it. It's not too often that an album can bring a tear to the eyes of this metal heart, but this album has done just that. This is more than music, it's a masterpiece, and should go down in the book of heavy metal as one of the best albums of all time. I can only hope for any of you reading this, that you will feel the album in the same way as I have, because I will never be the same again.


Reviewed By,
Mattie Jensen