Review Summary: Changing up their brand of power metal, Thunderstone offer up their greatest release yet, and a contender for album of the year.
Meet Thunderstone. They're a power metal band in the mould of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica. Formed seven years ago in Finland's capital city, Helsinki, by guitarist Nino Laurenne they've released three solid albums up to this point. In terms of sound, the first two, Thunderstone and The Burning, were definitely the closest to their influences, but with their third album, Tools of Destruction, it was apparent that the quintet was interested in making a change in their formula. As 2007 rolled around the band announced that their next album would be titled Evolution 4.0. An obvious reference to their stylistic changes, I was quite sceptical to what I was about to hear. Well, until I heard it anyways. Truth is, Evolution 4.0 is a superb album, and might very well be Thunderstone's finest yet.
Thunderstone's fourth album is far heavier than anything they have done in the past. If you thought tracks such as Tool of the Devil and Welcome to the Real from Thunderstone's 2005 release, Tools of Destruction, were heavy, than Evolution 4.0 could be a surprise. Each of the album's 11 songs takes the musical experimentation heard on the aforementioned Tools of Destruction songs and takes it one step forward. Yes, the heaviness which was previously used to spice up and adds variance to the flow of the music seems to be seen with much more importance this time around. The guitars play a large roll in this new found heaviest, and are probably the most well utilized of each instrument. Whether it is through crushing rhythms, blistering solos, or atmospheric effects, Nino Laurenne proves to be a very valuable musician in the band. Another important band member would definitely be vocalist Pasi Rantanen. If anything should not have changed from Thunderstone's previous outings, this would definitely be the element. Arguably the most consistent part of Thunderstone, Pasi has incredibly vocal range, a vocal range which he does not hesitate to make use of throughout the record. Though none of Rantanen's performances manage to top the effort he gave on Land of Innocence on Tools of Destruction, he still manages to sound a passionate and heartfelt, while still maintaining a gritty sound in his voice. Quite fitting for the music that Thunderstone plays, I must say.
The most powerful song to be heard on Evolution 4.0 would definitely be 10,000 Ways. One of the tracks which make immediate use of the band's new found love of aggression; it opens with a short but sweet heavy double bass segment which eventually rearranges itself into a riff which the likes of Nevermore could have come up with. Both Nino and drummer Mirka Rantanen have incredibly solid showings throughout the entirety of the four minute track, but once again Pasi steals the spotlight with an impressive and definitely well put together vocal offering. 10, 000 Ways is home to what has so far not only been the catchiest chorus of 2007, but also the most powerful and emotional one. Another of the album's best songs would be Great Man Down, the album's closing track. The keyboards are much more prevalent in this track, but Thunderstone still manages to retain the heaviness and aggression stressed. The keyboards and guitars work together very well, providing the song with an excellent rhythm (the guitars) and excellent leads (keyboards). Pasi's Finnish accent is probably most noticeable here, but apart from when he sings heroes as hiiros, it isn't the least bit irritating. If one thing disappointed me about he song selection on this album, it would be the lack of a Land of Innocence-esque epic. Though it is good to see the band branch out (in power metal terms, anyways), Land of Innocence is probably the greatest thing that Thunderstone has produced thus far in their career, and it would be nice to see the band piece together a song of similar ilk.
After being so impressed by the likes of Tools of Destruction and The Burning, I wasn't so sure that Thunderstone would be able to top their previous works. And with a title like Evolution 4.0, was remained sceptical about the direction which would be taken. But just as when I first listened to the Finnish power metal stalwarts last July, they have managed to surprise me once again. Evolution 4.0 is definitely a fitting title for the album, as Thunderstone moves beyond the traditional Finnish power metal scope, one which bands such as Sonata Arctica employ (and craft nicely, I must add), and plays a much heavier, more original sounding style of power metal. Each member of the band enjoys varying amounts of success, especially the band's founding member and guitarist, Nino Laurenne, and frontman Pasi Rantanen. Thunderstone has themselves an album which could be considered one of the contenders for album of the year with Evolution 4.0, and I would definitely recommend it.
Great Man Done
Face in the Mirror