Release DetailsLABEL Armoury Records
RELEASED ON 2/26/2013
This sumbitch is front-loaded with the sort of sheen that makes a band like Rhapsody of Fire sound like bloody Funeral Mist.
"WHEN YOU'RE DRAWN TO THE GROUND BY THE DRAGONS!!" x 1000
You know, I probably would have scored this record on the opposite end of the sliding scale if I hadn't spent a good part of my youth modeling myself after warblers like Kai Hansen circa 1987. What can I say, I dig a well-executed sprightly power metal album when the mood is right. But the style ain't exactly the easiest sale in today's rough-and-tumble market, particularly in the good old U.S. of "Aaaaaay, you ain't allowed to smile and wear leather pants around here." And Nemesis, boy - Nemesis is the absolute APEX of bouncy, European-styled power metal. The sort of power metal this band's Germanic cousins essentially put on the map. But by Hell, it seems as if the Finns have finally figured out the formula required to beat the masters at their own game; despite the fact that Helloween's "Nabataea" already seems poised to take home Best Power Metal Tune of the Year, the whole of Nemesis is a stronger record** compared to the freshly dropped Straight Out of Hell.
** If you're unafraid of tapping into something that falls so far outside of the spectrum of what's hip in the current U.S. market that your head will spin off its axis and launch into space on the back of a galloping unicorn riffing on a flaming keytar.
Does that 9 up there qualify this an essential purchase for the majority of our readers? Fuh-huck, no! How in good conscience am I supposed to recommend a keyboard-heavy album that often sounds like the power metal equivalent of Mario and Toad bouncing fireballs at a helmeted turtle during a midnight rave on Yoshi's Island to a nation of people who generally hurl at the thought of whimsy colliding with heavy metal? (Unless those good-time rainbows are tossed in your face by the likes of self-proclaimed "thunder pop" bands like Torche, I suppose. Whatever blows your coif back.)
Think I'm pulling your gloomygrim chain about the bounciness? This sumbitch is front-loaded with the sort of sheen that makes a band like Rhapsody of Fire sound like bloody Funeral Mist.
"Unbreakable" - Listen to that piano tinkling at the onset as you slowly survey the land in your trench coat with an incredibly popped collar. "I can feel it deep within my heart and my soul: you make me whole." Damn straight, Shakespeare. Now sit with me and let us drink in this magic missile melee twixt lead guitar and keyboard. And thank you for that insanely catchy chorus.
"Stand My Ground" - Oh God, YES. Let's WIN. WIN FOREVER!! The next time someone asks you what your strengths are for some shitty job interview, just play this pearl on 11 and watch the entire office march in and carry you off to HR on their shoulders. The first round of TGIF jalapeno poppers are on me!! And thank you for that insanely catchy chorus.
"Halcyon Days" - What on Earth is going on with this chorus?? Is this an actual rave tune? To be raved to? You wouldn't even need a remixxx by DJ Scribble-dee-doo to make this thing dance floor ready. I realize that sounds utterly abominable, but Stratovarius make it work like Kool Moe Dee in a Hammerfall shirt. Thank you for that insanely catchy chorus?
"Fantasy" - You know what? Fuck everything. It's all over. This song TOWERS in its ability to not give a shit about trends. That plinking keyboard at the onset sounds like it fell right out of a 80s John Hughes film, and I absolutely love it. I want to stand below a girl's window and blast this tune from a boombox and watch her try to wrap her head around a lyric that emphatically states "climb a hill, learn a skill, all of your dreams you can fulfill." This gem also flaunts the most insanely catchy chorus you'll hear for the rest of your life, so just go ahead and chop your ears off and commit to becoming a floater in the East River right now.
But what really slams the puck home, beyond the fact that there's less than zero pretense behind Stratovarius' decision to completely pie your face with sugary indulgence, is the fact that they also manage to play the serious note pretty damned effectively. The latter half of Nemesis features a slightly darker stance - darkness still glowing with a Masters of the Universe Night Light, sure, but a number of shades darker compared to the first half of the album.
Sing along with the universe and let the healing begin with hits like "Out of the Fog" and "Castles in the Sand" (more keyboard/guitar lead battles? You got your Alan Parsons in my Vinnie Moore! You got your Vinnie Moore in my Alan Parsons! Two great tastes that taste great together.), or witness Klaus Meine's lid blow right off into the stratosphere at the sheer strength of the beautifully whistled melody at the heart of "If the Story is Over." (This ballad would probably be a lot harder to swallow if the first half of the album didn't already drive your threshold of what's normally stomachable through the rafters. Plus, it's just such a pretty tune.) And the closing "Nemesis" ends the journey on another seriously positive note, leaving no question that Stratovarius essentially spent the last 25yrs preparing for the most wholly enjoyable record of their career.
Just look at that album cover. LOOK AT IT. A bright, fiery, explosive end to a civilization getting glossed over by the sort of spread-winged nudity you'd expect to see on a knock-off Boris Vallejo calendar. It's a perfect representation of what's on tap for a post-Timo Tolkki Stratovarius hitting on all cylinders in 2013. Over the top? Perhaps. But it's just so terribly good at being ridiculous that it's brilliant. Nemesis is monstrously extravagant and uncomfortably in-your-face with its saccharine delivery, and it's dangerously infectious to boot. Don't just turn that frown upside-down, take it behind the woodshed and blow its gat-damned brains out.
Elements Pt. 2
Elements Pt. 1