Few bands survive the removal of a prime creative force. Bucking this trend, Finnish power metal veterans Stratovarius have done more than just keep their heads above water level since the exit of guitarist/songwriter Timo Tolkki in 2008; instead, they have actually flourished.
Nemesis is the new-look group’s third full-length studio release and, impressively, their 14th since forming almost three decades ago. It once again features the prodigious talents of Tolkki’s successor Matias Kupiainen, who also produces and engineers their output. Kupiainen’s arrival hasn’t altered the quintet’s direction, though it does provide a more serene, stress-free environment in which to work.
By singer Timo Kotipelto’s admission, Nemesis is marginally darker and more modern-sounding than predecessors 2009’s Polaris or 2011’s Elysium, though only a connoisseur would notice or care. Bobbing and weaving over Jens Johansson’s orchestral keyboard infusions and the thrusting axework of Kupiainen, and not forgetting the soaring tonsil acrobatics of the ever-impressive Kotipelto, songs such as Abandon, Fantasy, Dragons and the first single Unbreakable offer echoes of prime-era Stratovarius.
The band’s name is no longer synonymous with nervous breakdowns, stabbings or drunkenly urinating upon one another onstage. In short, Nemesis offers welcome proof that good guys win… sometimes.