Thunderstone - Thunderstone

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Nuclear Blast
Catalog Number: NB-1002-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:26:00

I've been listening to a lot of metal lately, from the growly harshness of Ram-Zet and NonExist to the classically influenced metal of Symphony X to the classic metal of Onward and think it is this middle group, the progressive power metal that I find I like the most. While the cover artwork, another Thomas Ewerhard creation, might lead you to believe that Thunderstone fall into the first category, they instead are a band in that middle category, a band that is able to balance dark subject matter with melodic and clean vocals. I'd think maybe it was a "girl thing," but I don't see how in any way Thunderstone, or any band in this genre, is directing anything at their female audience. Nor should they, I might add. That'd make 'em sound like a harder edged Backstreet Boys and believe you me, I'd sooner go deaf forever more than listen to that concoction. Okay, perhaps a little hyperbole on my part. It's not that I demand clean vocals only, as I like a little gruffness at times (maybe no more than James Hetfield-gruffness or Rod Stewart, say). And I actually like the aggressiveness of some of the prog metal bands, though folks who know me, know that I got into this whole prog thing through Marillion - technically, tough I'd been listening to Yes and Kansas years before.

Okay, actually this is not about me, but Thunderstone. Thunderstone, who hail from Finland, are one of the latest signings from the Nuclear Blast label, and as the name implies, the band have a heavy sound ("Let The Demons Free" itself comes thundering out of the gate) - they are a progressive power metal band. Saying you're from Finland, however, engenders thoughts of very dark and gloomy metal, told all in dark and gloomy tones. In fact, that's the impression of bands from all of Scandinavia and northern Europe. It's no lie to say that a lot of the bands from those regions are dark metal bands, tackling very dark subjects in a very muted and morose ways. There are exceptions of course and Thunderstone is another one of those exceptions. The delivery here is energetic and lively, despite the darker themes. Dark themes, yes, but I wouldn't say these are as dark as to suggest an individual depressed to the point of suicide. Though, I'd say he's not all-together chipper either.

Bands that come to mind listening to their self-titled debut is Vanden Plas, though vocalist Pasi Rantanen sounds more like Threshold's Mac (and at some points like James LaBrie with an accent). Listeners might be familiar with the name, as he contributed vocals to Stratovarius' Infinite release. In return, Timo Tolkki plays on "Like Father, Like Son." The press sheet that accompanied this advance promo (it was released this past June) makes the comparison to Stratovarius as well. Folks more familiar with the music of Stratovarius, will be able determine the truth of that statement (don't hold it against me, but I'm not one of them, though I do have Infinite in my collection).

The use of keyboards is especially what makes me think of Vanden Plas. But, I also have to say that I thought a bit of Whitesnake, too, in terms of the music. The lyrics themselves are dark and aren't about sex but rather more internal, emotional concerns. There is also a classic metal feel about the band... an 80s serious metal aspect (versus the hair metal feel that was a little more popular). This should suggest to you that this isn't a difficult album to get into or like. There is an immediate comfort level associated with Thunderstone. I don't want to go so far as predictable, but the term "progressive" should be applied in its "genre" or "stylistic" sense rather than a "dictionary" sense. Here are speedy guitar runs from Nino Laurenne that belie a classical influence (can we say Michael Romeo and the like?). Drummer Mirka Rantanen does rely perhaps a little too much on the "bash-bash" element and I like to hear a lot more dynamic use of the kit, and given where the drums are placed in the mix, they often dominate. The classical keyboard runs are courtesy Kari Tornack, the bass duties falling to Titus Hjelm. "Will To Power" is the track that will most put them in the progressive metal category, though there are some progressive rock elements here -- a guitar style and phrasing that made me think of Steve Rothery and Karl Groom - that is, those well thought out, leisurely leads that I'm so fond off. Actually, where this piece is concerned, Threshold is a very good touchstone. But you can hear the Dream Theater influence here in Pasi's LaBrie like delivery. Through in a few sprinklings of Queensrÿche as well, and I'm saying that not just because Thunderstone, too, have a track called "Eyes Of A Stranger" (not a cover). "Me, My Enemy" will recall Angra, Artension and Royal Hunt.

"Weak" is the power ballad, and like the best of 'em, Pasi sings with just the right amount of emotion and heartbreaking agony. It's not a wimpy track, though. Here, just because it popped into my head, I thought of Enchant. "Voice In A Dream" is more like hard rock, blues-based hard rock. Only because I was listening to them last week, I'll say Baltimoore come to mind. But again, we can Whitesnake, Def Leppard, etc. without the sexual context. The catharsis-release track is the closer "Spread My Wings." You can almost see the video (and why does Creed come to mind?) -- aerial shots with the band playing on a hill top, while during the chorus Pasi stands with arms outstretched. Yeh, clich? images with a clich? image, but then...well, um...we know why the caged bird sings. The track ends with a swell of strings that complete the album like the end of a story.

It does seem like they speed right through pieces that would have benefited from a slightly slower pace, "Let The Demons Free" and "Me, My Enemy" being two such examples ("Like Father, Like Son" would be another to some extent, though here the speed seems a little more right). While it makes the album seem compact, and the pace makes the pulse race, it also seems limiting. This is counterbalanced by the slower pieces, of course, but these tracks just leave you breathless... too breathless and not enough because of dexterity.

"Will To Power" is probably my favourite track of the album, but I don't dislike this album at all. As I said, there are things I wish had been done a little differently, but overall it's a very strong debut from a band that seem to know exactly what niche they want to be in.

Released in North America by Nuclear Blast USA

Let The Demons Free (3:59) / Virus (4:49) / World's Cry (4:20) / Me, My Enemy (3:41) / Will To Power (8:33) / Weak (3:10) / Eyes Of A Stranger (5:23) / Like Father, Like Son (5:35) / Voice In A Dream (4:39) / Spread My Wings (5:17)

Pasi Rantanen - vocals
Nino Laurenne - guitar
Titus Hjelm - bass
Mirka Rantanen - drums
Kari Tornack - keyboards


Timo Tolkki - guitar

Thunderstone (2002)
The Burning (2004)
Tools Of Destruction (2005)
Evolution 4.0 (2007)
Dirt Metal (2009)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin FI

Added: December 15th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 479
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]