Released: 2009, Sony Music
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Thunderstone has gone through fire and ice. I mean, if almost a half of your line-up is changed, it necessarily isn´t that easy a task to bring new guys in.
Late 2007 also meant some sort of turning point in Thunderstone´s whole career because both longtime vocalist Pasi Rantanen as well as keyboardist Kari Tornack were out of the band, and were replaced by Rick Altzi (probably best known for his involvement with At Vance nowadays) for vocals - and Jukka Karinen (also in Status Minor) for keyboards.
Sometimes sacrifices are the beginning of something new and worthy - like giving a fresh breath of air to some of those things that one feels getting stuck with for so long. Even the band´s excellent previous album, EVOLUTION 4.0, already proved that the band had left their power metal roots behind them a long time ago, taking a rougher, heavier and more straightforward direction musically. And from those footsteps they continue on their latest 5th studio album in order, titled DIRT METAL.
Whatever meaning that particular title of the album may hold inside (everyone can make their wild guesses now), it still needs to be said that with Rick and Karri, being the band´s newest soldiers in their camp, the band´s musical biceps is still strong as ever, pumping up vital energy that keeps the songs in this certain mould - flowing nicely and kicking a fair amount of ass as a matter of speaking.
Those of you who are already familiar with Rick´s capability to use his voice in his other bands, surely know what to expect from him. Rick´s got a powerful and raspy voice and it works well in the Thunderstone songs as well. Naturally the most die-hard Thunderstone fans who were used to Pasi´s voice, which was kind of like a mandatory part of Thunderstone´s whole sound, may need some time to get fully adjusted to Rick's voice. While both being great singers, they are still different from each other vocally. Rick´s voice slightly softer, more hard rock-orientated - more old school type of voice compared to Pasi´s vocals in general. The first taste of Rick´s powerful vocals can be witnessed in the opening track of DIRT METAL, in a song called "I Almighty", which was also chosen as the 1st single track out of this album. The song itself is pretty varied, containing almost everything from Nino´s really downright heavy guitar shredding to Rick´s strong, melodic vocal performance to Jukka´s progressive keyboard parts. The song is like a fifty-fifty straight shred fest and a ballad type of song. I don´t know what made them to choose this song as the 1st single from DIRT METAL, but there´s certainly more so-called ´hit potential´ in "Ghosts of Youth" - the 6th song on the album, due to its way catchier chorus in my opinion.
Two other songs that tend to grab people´s attention, are "Dodge the Bullet" with its thrashy and wild approach in it, along with Rick´s nicely flowing vocal parts - as well as "At the Feet of Fools" with its somewhat ethereal, Eastern-type of vibe shining through it. The album´s closer tune, "Suffering Song", with Titus´ crawling and pounding bass parts added with a strong epic feel that the song has, feels like a perfect ending to Thunderstone´s new chapter.
DIRT METAL is - despite some fairly expected prejudices against it due to changing their old singer specifically, a very good release from Thunderstone all in all. Thunderstone can surely be proud of their new beginning if this album is any indicator.