Thursday, 7 February 2013

Stratovarius - Nemesis Review

Stratovarius - Nemesis [Power Metal]

It's February, and finally I've gotten around to writing a proper full-length review on an album.

Anyhow, it is pretty much accepted among fans of Scandinavian/power metal that Stratovarius are, if anything, predictable - you know what you'll get from them each and every release, which isn't necessarily a bad thing nowadays, what with bands and artistes overextending their capabilities and consequently producing rubbish tracks/albums.

Well, listeners are in for a bit of a curveball.

'Nemesis', which is set to be officially released later in February, has many of the typical Stratovarius elements but, surprisingly, doesn't play too much too stereotype. If anything, tracks like 'Unbreakable' and 'Halcyon Days' have a decidedly Japanese-anime-rock feel to them. Some people will like it and some won't - my actual reaction to it was pleasant surprise with a dash of 'WTF?'.

I mean, just have a listen to 'Unbreakable' (the album's second track and first single).

The keyboards that lead into the intro riff, the intro riff itself (enmeshed with some key work), the pace and tone of the vocal delivery and the way the verse introduces the chorus - all of them scream 'DIGIMONNNN'. If you're reading this as a criticism or a pot shot, don't. I love Digimon. I haven't even gotten to the best part - this song is a friggin' love song. In all seriousness, Kotipelto's lyrical and vocal delivery don't match his best efforts - but then again, who says he's even trying to do so? The track is fun, catchy and a remarkably easy listen, even for people who aren't into metal. Jens Johansson proves his genius on here once again - if there is a metal keyboardist out there who combines technical skill, musical feel and cross-genre versatility better than this man, find me him. Johansson's accents and fillers add a delightful, breezy touch to this song.

Here we have 'Nemesis', the album's title track, which is more typically Stratovarius. The riffing and drumming are up-tempo and energetic, and the chorus is catchy and anthemic. If 'Unbreakable' is for the new listener, 'Nemesis' is for the longtime fan. The keyboard and guitar sequence starting at 2:47 is a particular delight.

The album, overall, isn't groundbreaking or avant-garde by any means. However, as far as entertainment value goes, this album is more than worth a listen. Stratovarius must be commended for putting together such a fun collection of tracks while not compromising on their musicianship and production (a separate note on the production: the guitars are a treat. They absolutely slice through the mix, yet aren't overpowering or jarring. Bravo).
★★★★☆ Good - Strong flow, immediately grabs you

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