Thunderstone – “Apocalypse Again” (AFM Records)
After 7 years, Thunderstone are back – and with no less than original vocalist Pasi Rantanen! Formed at the turn of the century, this Finnish band rose to fame over 4 albums with Pasi until 2007, when there was a parting of ways. Call it disillusion with Eurovision, or everyone just needing break, however, with fan demand still high for him, and replacement Rick Altzi (At Vance) soon keen to jump ship to Masterplan, the odds soon favored Pasi’s return. Although described as ‘power metal’ I would say that’s a bit of an understatement with Thunderstone, given they are a band of many, many capabilities. Sure, they do put out up tempo songs very much in that vein, but equally there’s a lot of heavy metal and given the range of melodic styles and harmonies, I’d also say a very definite nod towards AOR especially in their ballads. As might be expected, Jukka Karinen’s keyboards also gives them a prog element with its futuristic sound but the consistent theme with this band are those rich, abundant melodies delivered throughout and across all aspects of the band’s material – even while Atte Palokangas indulges in his double bass drumming runs! With plenty of soulful backing harmonies, Pasi’s somewhat grittier rock vocals makes for a cool contrast, adding some balls to the aptly titled ‘Fire And Ice’ or the hard rocking ‘Walk Away Free’, while really excelling on ‘Days Of Our Lives’ where he is brilliantly complemented by founder guitarist Nino Laurenne’s superb virtuoso work and an orchestral backdrop. Forget the apocalypse as Thunderstone are back in this grand return to fine form!