It hasn’t been easy for Stratovarius. Plagued with numerous lineup changes over their lengthy career, new album Nemesis is the first featuring Rolf Pilve, who replaced their long-standing drummer Jörg Michael last year.
Opening track Abandon is catchy and instantly gives off a typical ‘Stratovarius’ vibe with strong melodies and solos dancing between the guitars and keyboards, and is the perfect choice to open the album with.
Third track Stand My Ground is a little different, taking a slower and slightly more orchestral approach, with a massive-sounding chorus, and featuring an insane keyboard/guitar solo in the middle. The track that follows, Halcyon Days, is the best track of the album, so catchy that the keyboard melody alone could easily get stuck in your head for days and the solo in it taking a more unique, techno/dance style, which is a first for them, but worked incredibly well. Similarly, Fantasy – the only track contributed by bassist Lauri Porra – gives a new spin on the band’s older style.
Out Of The Fog is one of the two tracks where vocalist Timo Kotipelto collaborates with long-time friend and ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist, Jani Liimatainen. At 6:58, it’s the longest song on the album, but nevertheless kept my attention from start to finish, the track being full of energy and massive melodies. However their second collaboration, If The Story Is Over is much weaker, sounding more like it belongs on Blackoustic – the acoustic album they released together – than a Stratovarius album.
The latter part of the album drags a little in general, with tracks Castles In The Air, One Must Fall and the aforementioned If The Story Is Over not standing out, lacking the promise and individuality that earlier tracks on the album showed.
Thankfully, last track Nemesis sends things out with a bang, returning to a faster, more energetic style, and instantly picks up the lost momentum, leading the album into a satisfying close.
Overall a great album, but was let down by the “safer” songs. The songs that took a twist on the standard Stratovarius style were amongst the best tracks of the album, so if they’d been a bit more adventurous and included more unique songs like Halycon Days, then this could have been one of their best releases.