01. Abandon
02. Unbreakable
03. Stand My Ground
04. Halcyon Days
05. Fantasy
06. Out of the Fog
07. Castles in the Air
08. Dragons
09. One Must Fall
10. If the Story Is Over
11. Nemesis

RATING: 7/10

Much was made of Timo Tolkki's awkward exit from Finnish power metal institution STRATOVARIOUS, in 2008, amidst a series of bizarre incidents ranging from physical assaults to on-stage urination (don't ask!), which he later admitted to have fabricated for no apparent reason. The band's founding guitarist and chief songwriter went on to confuse fans even further by first announcing the band's imminent breakup, then signing away their trademark so that his erstwhile band mates could carry on without him.

Perhaps he underestimated their ability to do so, or felt the damage done by a string of mediocre albums had finished off STRATOVARIUS already, but things turned out quite differently than expected. But while Tolkki's subsequent career has generally floundered in a number of short-lived, halfhearted projects, the members of a reconfigured STRATOVARIUS led by vocalist Timo Kotipelto, guitarist Matias Kupiainen and keyboardist Jens Johansson unexpectedly managed to reinvigorate the band's trademark, via two, much improved albums in 2009's "Polaris" and '11's "Elysium". Which is to say, both were filled with entirely predictable, but significantly refocused power metal, the likes of which STRATOVARIUS fans obviously still hungered for, and should likewise be appeased by with 2013's ensuing "Nemesis".

Aside from introducing new drummer Rolf Pive in place of long-time journeyman Jorg Michael (bassist Lauri Porra completes the lineup), "Nemesis" does virtually nothing to upset STRATOVARIUS' power metal apple cart. And why should it? Despite the band's assertions to being inspired by "darker emotions" throughout the album's long creative gestation (culminating in four, painstaking months assembling it in the studio), there are still plenty of pop-metal singles ("Fantasy", "Dragons") and outright ballads ("If the Story is Over") to go round.

What's more, as commercially aware and song-oriented as it is, "Nemesis" doesn't fail to deliver the sort of semi-symphonic, quasi-progressive material ("Halcyon Days", "Out of the Fog", "Castles in the Air"), filled with hyperactive instrumentation (dominated by Kupiainen and Johansson's ever-thrilling guitar and keyboard jousting), that established STRATOVARIUS in the first place.

And what of the rumored folk elements in "Out of the Fog"? The supposed medieval melodies adorning the title track? No, not really. At least not by folk or, errr... medieval metal standards, but we're sure they're buried in there somewhere, just like you say, Mr. Press Release.

In sum, while serious innovation obviously has no place on STRATOVARIUS' present songwriting agenda, there's little point in castigating the band for delivering such an undeniably infectious and expertly executed collection of pure power metal tunes. Don't forget that taking their eyes off the prize almost led to STRATOVARIUS' utter ruin just a short time ago, so it would be folly for the band to attempt reinventing their wheel and risk alienating their loyal fan base a second time on "Nemesis".

As tried and true power metal goes, STRATOVARIUS are clearly still a force to be reckoned with.


To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@) with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).