Longtime members Timo Kotipelto, Jens Johansson and Jorg Michael decided to keep the band afloat by recruiting unknown guitarist Matias Kupiainen to replace the outspoken Tolkki. Stratovarius is now about to unleash their third post Tolkki era release Nemesis.
Recently the band was dealt another blow when longtime drummer Jorge Michael had to leave the band due to personal reasons (Michael was diagnosed with cancer back in 2010). He has since been replaced by in demand drummer Rolf Pilve, who also contributes to Solution 45 and Code of Silence.
Stratovarius’ last two releases were both solid metal slabs, but nothing that quite lived up to their past legacy. Can they continue the strength that they built on 2011's Elysium?
The answer is a resounding yes. Nemesis finds the band recapturing the magic of their glory days. Most importantly, the songwriting is excellent as the band seems determined to capture memorable songs that sit alongside the best of their catalog. As is the case with every Stratovarius release, the musicianship is on par with the best in the genre. New addition Pilve does an admirable job taking over the drum throne.
The star of the show is longtime frontman Timo Kotipelto. Every song on Nemesis captures him at his most prolific. The record is filled with memorable melodies that you will want to experience over and over again. Anthemic choruses are captured in every song and I believe this is Kotipelto’s best and most passionate performance since 2000s Infinite.
There isn’t a weak song on Nemesis, and the band does an outstanding job of diversifying their sound from the thrashy riffs of opener “Abandon” and “Halcyon Days” to the incredibly hooky “Unbreakable” and “Stand My Ground.” In fact, the latter two songs are some of the catchiest material in the Stratovarius catalog.
Again, I cannot overstate the remarkable job done with the melodies. The pace is nicely changed on the acoustic ballad “If the Story is Over,” an epic song that showcases Kotipelto stretching his vocal range, overlaid by a simple keyboard melody that accentuates the song effortlessly.
The record does take a few listens to sink in, but once it grabs you it doesn’t let go. Don’t disregard it after your initial listen as it does take some time to grow on you. The overall production could have been improved, as the keyboards are mixed a little heavy and I would have liked to see the guitars a little punchier.
Overall this is their best release since Infinite and definitely the best release since Tolkki exited. Nemesis sounds like a band that is gaining confidence and have finally found themselves since the struggle they have endured over the last few years.
They sound comfortable moving forward with the current lineup and are ready to once again regain their place at the top of the power metal genre. It is great to see in 2013 legendary bands like Helloween and Stratovarius release such strong and vital albums to show younger power metal bands how it is still done.
(Released February 26, 2013 on Armoury Records)