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An Exciting Offering from the Finnish Veterans - 90%

ibthecrusher, March 2nd, 2013

At A Glance

I’m going to be honest, it’s been a few years since I’ve popped a Stratovarius album in, so some of the changes I’ve noticed may have been happening gradually, but let me just say:

This is a much, much more modern sounding band than what I’m used to.

Not to say it isn't signature Stratovarius (because it totally is), but there are some definite changes to the rhythm guitar tone, and how much electronic and pop influence has made its way into the backing tracks and keyboards. Now, this isn’t always a bad thing, and the shred is still oh-so-alive in this band. Neoclassical fanboys, as well fans of the genre as a whole will definitely be satisfied.

The Details

Dramatic keyboards and some intense riffs hail in Abandon and abruptly hang back for the-like it or not-iconic, high wail of Timo’s voice. The drums are pounding and the overall package gets pretty intense for power metal.

Unbreakable and Stand My Ground also reveal some major groove influence on Stratovarius. Distorted voices, chugging riffs and a more hollow, solid-state rhythm guitar sound give the overall textures a little more bite, and really brings out the stunning lead work (not that this is anything new for these neoclassical veterans). Stand My Ground has one of my favorite solos on the album.

Halcyon Days is the first track where I’m not a fan of what this bold, new Stratovarius has to offer. While the sophisticated instrumentation and operatic singing is still there, it at times sounds like a bit of a perversion-almost the sort of mistake we know Kamelot for making. The sort with too much mixing going on, a backing track that sounds too-techno, vocal effects that are too heavy… I can’t say that I completely dislike the song, though. Stratovarius have a charm to them that makes the electronica sort of work. And if Timo doesn’t grab you in that one, he really shines on the gleaming, yet oh-so-cheesy followup, Fantasy.

Out of the Fog is power metal to the max, with some serious melodic attack and blistering solo work from Matias and catchy keys courtesy of Jens. Castles in the Air follows it up, and presents us with some major vocal chord showboating.

Dragon threatens at first to be another mistake like Halcyon Days, but it quickly proves to be classic Stratovarius, despite the techno-keys lurking in the background.

One Must Fall may be the only other track that doesn’t really impress me. Now, there’s some great passages in this song (particularly the slow keyboard solo that starts at 3:12), but as a whole, it doesn’t really hold up. It is a slower song, to be fair, but it’s not quite ballad status like the next piece, If the Story is Over-which I can’t help but love, despite being generic in every way.

The titular track, Nemesis, is an excellent way to end any album. It effectively incorporates, within its structure, various elements from throughout the entire disc (including the dreaded techno-keys, but they get a pass on this one for being well utilized). At times it also proves to be the heaviest track on the album thus far. An endearing song-I believe Stratovarius saved the best for last.

Overall Impression

Now, while it may sound like I’m making this album out to be neigh-flawless, it is a bit of a chore to get into. Stratovarius is one of those bands that’s infamous for rubbing you the wrong way until you really give them a try, but I think, in this case, it’s definitely worth it.

Featuring some powerful vocal passages and thunderous guitars, Stratovarius manage to “modernize” their sound without too many growing pains. Nemesis is simply epic: an almost monumental collection of songs that I believe will stand out, even in a catalog this vast.

Adapted from a review originally by Forged: Western New York Metalzine.