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From Finland comes yet another fantastic act– Thunderstone. This energetic progressive band (although they don’t like being labelled as power or progressive; they don’t want to be “Strato-clones!”) really delivers an outstanding display of capability in musicality as well as a fine ability to write (and to rock!). This is not surprising; unlike many newborn metal bands, Thunderstone’s members are a bit older, having been floating around in Metal Land for a number of years doing different line-ups. Finally, these five members have somehow come together to create something truly worth listening to. Their debut album as Thunderstone, “Let the Demons Free,” is reminiscent of the noteworthy Sonata Arctica– a comparison that the members of Thunderstone would probably resent. Well, it’s just to give you an idea of what they sound like– but they have a truly unique sound worth exploring.
Like Sonata Arctica (sorry– again!), Thunderstone has taken classic elements– love, power, the quest, standing alone, obsession, and of course death– and incorporated them into a unique and very enjoyable album. Unlike acts such as Rhapsody or Virgin Steele, Thunderstone has integrated these themes into a very progressive sound and into music which fits the times. For instance, the track “Virus” tells of a ...well, virus in the computer age. It discusses the inevitable collapse of power, information and communication and how we gaze at computers so innocently, placing them on a pedestal. (This is a really frank, intelligent and somewhat eerie song, displaying a thoughtfulness which goes beyond creating simply catchy music). However, if a more classical-sounding band had written this song, it would probably have been more mystical, or perhaps historical. My point is that Thunderstone has swept components we are used to in metal into the present, making all these concepts relevant again.
There are some really great, hard-hitting songs on this debut album- it begins with the title track, “Let the Demons Free,” whose chorus veers towards an anthem-like feeling, but without the outright cheesiness (there is time enough for that at the end...). The first time I heard this, it was stuck in my head for weeks, no kidding. It’s a fast, powerful song that’s infectious– in a good way. What a great message, too. I’ve already blabbed about the second track, “Virus.” Actually, the latter as well as the third song, “World’s Cry,” are quite similar in my mind. Not musically, but in theme. Both deal with the feeling of “Ok, so we’re screwing up our world: Now what?” Not that Thunderstone is really sending out political messages, only instigating and examining through music. “Me, my enemy,” is one of those tracks that’s “good,” but not overly impressive. I prefer the next three; “Will to Power,” “Weak,” and “Eyes of a Stranger” are somehow connected (if you listen to the album you’ll understand what I mean.). With “Will to Power,” we get a really lengthily progressive-sounding song, with time changes, sound effects... the works. It fades into “Weak,” which for some reason stands out to me. The lyrics are overly simple, however it’s appropriate for this melancholy and very honest little song. Before it can even fade out, “Eyes of a Stranger” comes in with a powerful, catchy riff (which sounds remarkably like “I Want Out,” but never mind that.).
I’ll get into that cheesiness thing I was referring to a moment ago. You’ve heard me praising the band, now I’ll complain a bit. For the most part, Thunderstone is really talented in terms of writing both lyrically and musically– however there are some places where the band is a tad thin. for instance, the final track, “Spread my Wings,” is the one and only ballad on the album. While still quite listenable, I have to be honest in saying that I’m thankful that it is the sole slow song. They have reverted to cliches– which are sometimes fun, appropriate and predicable in that nice, familiar way... but in this case I rather resent it; the rest of the album is really solid and original. Personally, I just think they can do better. Despite this, I sincerely recommend this album to any metal fan– especially to those who are into the progressive/ power scene.
Thunderstone are being marketed as the new Stratovarius babies, and it's impossible not to make comparisons to the latter band and Sonata Arctica. However, Thunderstone, are significantly different from those two. It's "heavier" than those two (Stratovarius sound like pop compared to this), and there's neither the annoying repetitiveness of Stratovarius nor the techno-mixing of Sonata Arctica. Vocalist Pasi Rantanen's sounds like a heavy metal singer and not like a whiny castrated boy typical to most power metal (Stratovarius' Timo Kotipelto!). He's good, sometimes even damn good, and his english is perfect unlike Sonata Arctica's Tony Kakko who's
english is about as hard to understand as the Cannibal Corpse growling.
The sound of the band is excellent. Most songs are good, but only about four or five are great. 'Like Father, Like Son' is masterpiece, which is so ingenious that it's makes it into my top 5 power metal songs (populated with Children of Bodom and Sonata Arctica songs); there's the ultra-cool main riff which only appears two times (and that's why you never get bored of it), and Rantanen showing off his best talent - it never gets even slightly repetitive. 'Weak' is a heavy metal ballad which is great in it's shortness, 'Eyes of a Stranger' rocks hard, and the single song 'Virus' is not
that great but entertaining in a simple way. The rest of the track list consists of less catchy fast songs and numbing ballads like 'Spread My Wings'; funny that the only strong ballad on this CD is called 'Weak'.
I highly recommend to at least check out the great songs I mentioned.
Not a great album as a whole, but among the duller tracks you can find some ear-candy better than smarties or twix, and IMHO this beats most Stratovarius albums. I'd say the track 'Like Father, Like Son' alone is a reason to get this.