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Their new Halcyon Days - 99%

Alberich04, March 3rd, 2013

Wow. It was not too long ago when Stratovarius seemed to have seen its end just after the main songwriter and troubled mastermind, Timo Tolkki, decided to call it quits to pursue his own musical journey away from the band mates with whom he had his own days of grace.

Five years later and after having released the rather insipid, though necessary Polaris and the notable and more progressive Elysium (in addition to have to deal with the lost of long time drummer Jörg Michael), the band, now commanded by Timo Kotipelto, has found the way to deliver not only their finest effort since Tolkki left, but also the most varied and impressive album in the entire history of the band.

What’s to be found in Nemesis is nothing but every single one of the band members plus ex- Sonata Arctica’s guitarist Jani Liimatainen shining bright as the beautiful cover artwork could suggest they would. All of the songs here sound fresh and inspired, with new drummer Rolf Pilve showing from the first moment how he’s more than capable of filling Michael’s huge boots. The extremely young guy’s not only talented, he’s a way more technical drummer than his predecessor living legend ever proved to be, too. Bassist Lauri Porra delivers a nothing short of spectacular performance with his aggressive playing style pumping clear as daring throughout the whole album. Keyboard wizard Jens Johansson surprises with a much wider assortment of sounds than he had us used to with several elements coming from trance to jazz fusion genres while guitarist Matias Kupiainen’s heavy, yet melodic and progressive edge welcomes the listener to recognize him as a guitar genius and brilliant songwriter. Even traditional singer Timo Kotipelto twists his voice to add brand new emotions to the collection of themes, holding on to an spectacular collection of low to mid-range tones and effects that confirm how he has become a more mature and interesting singer nowadays, avoiding hitting the very high tones that once turned impossible when the Elements Pt. I album was released, with songs like “Find Your Own Voice” and “Learning to Fly” being obviously harmful for him.

From the very instant freedom anthem “Abandon” kicks in the album is one highlight followed by another equally enjoyable track, with the mentioned song being a winner due to its heavy opening riffing and glorious choruses that portrait renovated Kotipelto sounding great and comfortable. The particularly complex guitar-keyboard duel doesn’t fail to amaze.

“Unbreakable” is a catchy modern song driven by a beautiful keyboard melody and the best single the band has released since “Hunting High and Low”, with the addictive guitar break being a highlight of the album by itself.

Contemporary delights “Stand My Ground” and “Halcyon Days” keep the bar high, the former one with its almost industrial feeling, hostile verses -amazingly performed by Timo- and neoclassical soloing while the second one being an instant classic, different from anything the band had done before and beautifully accomplished, with Porra and Jens shining as Kotipelto sings better than ever, sounding gloomy at first and bright when the majestic chorus explodes.

Feel good rocker “Fantasy” resembles Stratovarius’ catchiest moments to date with some tremendously cheesy lyrics that do not overshadow the great vibe it transmits. The epic “Out of the Fog” written by both Kotipelto and Liimatainen, the elegant as sophisticated “Castles in the Air” and the paused and heavy “One Must Fall” with its beautiful bridge and keyboard solo are all gems to be listened to once and again in order to discover the whole set of details they are adorned with.

Semi-acoustic gorgeous ballad “If the Story is Over” and classic melodic title track “Nemesis” close the album with both emotion and magnificence.

This is an album any fan of metal should be proud to own that shows a band in a healthy state and working as a team to get something they thought lost once…and they nailed it. Well done, Strato…well done.