Saratoga – Nemesis
Ever since Saratoga released their album Secretos y Revelaciones in 2009, fans of Spanish heavy metal have been eagerly anticipating the return of the four piece from Madrid; waiting with bated breath to see which direction they would take next. Here in 2012, the band has finally released their ninth album, Nemesis, upon the world. While the album may not quite live up to the reputation of Secretos y Revelaciones, there’s plenty here for fans of the genre to enjoy, with loads of surprises along the way to satisfy those who crave a little more than just another clone of their past releases. In fact, Nemesis is the most varied album of the band’s 20-year-long career, with influences stretching from the expected heavy/power metal to progressive metal and even old-school thrash.
The album begins with “Juicio Final” a song which is very reminiscent of the band’s 2009 single “No Sufriré Jamás Por Ti”. This is a strong start to the album, featuring catchy vocal melodies, heavy riffing, and blistering guitar solos from Tony Hernando. Although the song isn’t really anything groundbreaking, it is a very typical Saratoga song, and enough to show the listener that the band hasn’t made any drastic changes to their trademark sound. The second track “Hasta el día Más Oscuro” slows the album down a little with a semi ballad similar to “Luna Llena” from the band’s previous effort. “La última Frontera” takes the band back to 1999’s “Vientos de Guerra”, with the first truly old school Saratoga song of the album. Long time fans of the band will no doubt be very happy with this track, especially those who prefer the style of the Leo Jiménez and Jero Ramiro-era of the group. The album continues with first single “Revolución” – undoubtedly one of Saratoga’s best singles of their entire career. This tribute to their Latin American fans sees the band take full advantage of their ability to write the kinds of melodies that will get stuck in your head for days upon, end and guarantee that you will be shouting along with the chorus like a madman. “Perversidad” is the first unexpected song of the album: showing a side to Saratoga which has never been seen before. The piano is dominant throughout the majority, and Tony Hernando and his guitar take a backseat here with the exception of the solo in the middle section of the track. This one really is something that hasn’t been seen before from Saratoga and is sure to divide fans, though it is a personal favorite of mine…
The second half of the album sees the band add a much heavier element to the mix with songs such as “Después del silencio”, which is slightly reminiscent of recent Symphony X (The keyboards especially remind of “Iconoclast” or “The End of Innocence”). The fantastic “Maltratador” is one of the strongest tracks of the album and is certain to be a fan favorite, while the ballad “El último Vals” slows the pace down again, showing a much more serious side to the band. “Corazón Herido” is one of the more commercial tracks of the album with more of Saratoga’s ultra catchy choruses and stellar guitarwork – a very familiar formula for the band but one that they do well. The penultimate track, “Condenado”, is the weak link here, a song which is quite forgettable compared to the rest of the album, likely going to be the song that you remember least from your first listen. While the song is by no means bad it just doesn’t seem to have whatever magic they put into most of their work. The final track, “Angel o Demonio”, seems to be slightly influenced by 80’s-era Metallica, especially in the intro. This is another of Saratoga’s heaviest tracks to date. After the roughness of the verses, the chorus sees a return to the typical power metal style that you will have come to expect from the rest of the album – one of the strongest songs of the album and a brilliant closer.
Overall, Nemesis has plenty to offer for fans of the genre, regardless of whether or not you are familiar with the band. The vocal performance of Tete Novoa is better than ever on this release and should do more than enough to prove that he is a worthy successor to Leo Jiménez. Tony Hernando is also in top form here with more of his virtuoso guitar playing, and the duo of Niko Del Hierro’s raw basswork and Andy C’s tight drumming provide a worthy rhythm section. This album will no doubt gain new fans for the band while satisfying their already large fanbase and is guaranteed to keep fans guessing once again at which direction they will take next time.
Mike’s rating: 4.0 out of 5