Cain's Offering_StormcrowIt is written that man greatly displeased his finicky but beneficent Creator, and thus did God come to curse Mankind with various and sundry plagues of pestilence, locusts, skinny jeans and metal super groups. Over time some of these curses have proven more tolerable than others, but I’ll take a good locust swarm over the typical half-baked, so-called super group. Of course, there are exceptions, and one of the less boil-ridden star clusters of the past decade was Cain’s Offering – a pairing of Stratovarius vocalist Timo Kotipelto and ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen. Their 2009 Gather the Faithful outing was a solid mix of their respective band’s styles and it left quite a positive impression on yours truly (even the terminally jaded AMG admitted liking it, with all the expected caveats, of course). Six years later and following another project between Timo and Jani called Blackoustic, we finally get a follow up in Stormcrow. And as if they weren’t super enough before, now they boast the well traveled Jens Johansson (Stratovarius, Mastermind, Dio, etc.) on keyboards. But is their musical progeny truly super or do we risk angering the powers that be, thereby inviting an old testament smiting of buttnormous proportions?

The band still sounds like a mash up of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, but Stormcrow is better than anything either of those bands has released in years. The songs are better, more memorable and interesting and several will be in contention for best of 2015. While Gather the Faithful had an air of melancholy draped over many songs, that’s lacking here as apparently all personal shit was sorted out last time, and the boys came to rock. This time the music is heavier, faster, more urgent and memorable. The opening title track is classic Euro-power, done as it should be with speed, verve and pompous grandiosity. Timo sounds great [Insert rabid anti-Timo screed here, AMG] and the song builds to a towering chorus of glistening cheese that could only be sung  in a windstorm replete with birds and pink-hued lightning. Big stuff.

The hits keep coming with gems like the Acrtica worship of “The Best of Times” which is catchy as all hell and packs another killer chorus. “A Night to Forget” borrows a page from Timo’s softer solo work but the chorus is bigger than Jesus and sticky as molasses mixed with Crazy Glue™. You know things are going particularly well when even the sappy power-ballad knocks you flat, and “Too Tired to Run” does just that with its emotional excesses. Timo brings his A+ game and delivers a great performance, making the kind of song I usually skip a must hear. Yes, it’s maudlin, but in the same way a lot of the best Arctica stuff is, and before you know it, you’re caught up in the pathos, swaying to and fro with lighter in hand.

Other choice cuts include the very Nightwish-y symphonic diaper explosion of “Antemortem” (try your best not to hear “Storytime” as this one spins by), the textbook Euro-speed of “I Will Build You a Rome” and the fist raising thunder of “Rising Sun.”

Cains_Offering_2015

The standards remain quite high throughout, but the front half of Stormcrow is definitely stronger and more memorable. The instrumental “I Am Legion” could have used trimming and its take on Trans-Siberian Orchestra braggadocio wears thing after four minutes, though it’s quite the impressive wank-fest for Jani and Jens Johansson. Another issue is the production, which is too compressed and squashed. It doesn’t ruin the material, but it does become quite noticeable when the music gets really busy.

Although certain metallic overlords don’t share my affinity for Timo Kotipelto’s singing style, he has the classic Euro-power vocals down cold after a lengthy career with Stratovarius and he does some of his best work here, expressing power and emotion as needed. Jani also acquits himself well with some inspired and fiery playing and there’s no denying the strong Arctica influence he imparts to the material. as for Jens Johansson, he runs utterly amok whenever given a chance and his keys are plentiful, noodleful and way over-the-top in a fun, power metal way.

If we must suffer the endless parade of super groups, may more of them be this super. When these Finns get together, you can count on something worthwhile and this may be one of the finer power metal outings of the year. Don’t stone this crow.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Frontiers Records
Websites: facebook.com/cainsoffering
Release Dates: EU: 2015.05.15 | NA: 05.19.2015

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  • robpal

    Very good indeed. I always had a soft spot for “carnival power metal” and this one has the right amount of cheese in it, so it’s fun to listen and not vomit-inducing. Sure, nothing original (like the debut), but this album was recorded by professionals and is just solid. Nice review, SD, as always.

    Good to see some non black-metal reviews here!

  • Feytalist

    Now including Jens Johansson? I’m halfway sold already.

    I’ve always liked Timo’s vocals, and these guys tend to put out solid music at the least. Not expecting something hugely new, but if it’s anything like their respective bands, I’m happy.

  • Martin Knap

    The unicorns copulating with dolphins and rainbows that show up on this website all the time would match with this music very well …

    • sickbroski

      We’re all ready to celebrate and you’re welcome to join us.

  • I like this. I need happy music when sitting all day long over my notes on whatever exam I’m studying for.

  • brutal_sushi

    Yes! Been waiting for this and the new Pyramaze!

    • robpal

      Pyramaze might be the best power metal album of the year!

      • brutal_sushi

        Im waiting for my physical copy… but holy shit am I freaking out waiting.

      • Cnaiür urs Skiötha

        From what I have heard so far I expect “Disciples of the Sun” one to become my personal No. 1 album 2015.
        Innerwound are such a fantastic label. Last year they brought us great stuff by Persuader and Axenstar and now this. Thumbs up!

    • That Pyramaze sounds promising!

  • As the Troll crouches restlessly behind a mossy stump, his dank hand clutches the stone ripe for hurling.

  • Wilhelm

    I’m not usually big on this type of power metal, but that chorus is goddamn epic.

  • brutal_sushi

    This years power metal releases have been SO DAMN GOOD!!!

    • JL

      what have i missed?

      • CarvedInStone

        Orden Ogan, Blind Guardian, Angra (if your’re not from Japan where the album was released at the tail end of 2014), Blackwelder, Lancer, Civil War and Serious Black have all released good albums.

        And there is more coming what with Helloween, Stratovarius, Pyramaze, Black Majesty, LT’s Rhapsody and Powerwolf also releasing music in the next few months. Primal Fear and Masterplan also seem to be working on new material.

        • sickbroski

          Anything from these that has decent production?

          • CarvedInStone

            That depends on what you consider a decent production.

          • sickbroski

            Too bad. At least Stormcrow sounds decent.

          • CarvedInStone

            I didn’t mean to imply that these albums have a terrible production. I just don’t know what you consider to be a decent production so I can’t really tell you if you’d like these albums or not.

        • Aguy

          God I hope Powerwolf brings us something fresher than their last album.

          • CarvedInStone

            I think their last album was by far their best album and I’m curious whether they can one-up themselves.

        • Cnaiür urs Skiötha

          I would also like to add Within Silence – Gallery of Life which has just been released.
          Somehow releases by Ulterium Records are not featured on this side – or have I missed out on the reviews of last year`s spectacular albums by Harmony or Black Fate?

        • Neb Bojer

          I would like to add Lords of the Trident’s latest as some really good US power metal.

  • El_Cuervo

    Excellent stuff

  • Kotipelto = Mouse in a door.

  • CarvedInStone

    I love Cain’s Offering. When their debut came out I enjoyed it much more than the Stratovarius comeback “Polaris”. To be honest Stratovarius lost me as a fan since their reincarnation without Tolkki.

    And I’m in no way a Tolkki-loyalist by any means. With a maybe 1 or 2 exceptions Tolkki’s output since his split with Strato has been thoroughly lackluster. But when he left Stratovarius lost what made them special.

    On Polaris they tried to copy Tolkki’s style of songwriting on some songs and failed horribly. On the next two albums they found their own sound. But to me it just isn’t the Stratovarius I fell in love with anymore. That does’t make the music bad and I I’m not begrudging their success but I won’t force myself to like them.

    And Kotipelto can be annoying. Especially on the last few albums with Tolkki when he forced Kotipelto to sing as high as his vocal chords would allow it. But since Tolkki left he sings in a much more comfortable range.

  • sickbroski

    What I heard so far made it seem that the production was a lot better than on the first album.

    Some of the lyrics are really painful to hear, however. You’re too generous.

  • Adam

    2015 is truly the year of power metal…glorious

  • JL

    This is probably a 4.0 for me. I have been listening to it nonstop since I got it. I love the songs, riffs, melodies ad production. It sounds great at loud volumes. I’m not sure if it’s better than the debut, though…probably not. The debut is one of the best power metal albums ever as the band really captured some great energy and atmosphere. This is a little more streamlined, but still great. I think Timo should put Strato on hold for a while and just work with Jani in CO.

    • I almost went with a 4.0, but I was on the fence and the back end isn’t as strong as the front.

  • sicknick

    I agree with the rating, only I don’t think it’s better than Nemesis; I’d give it around 3.5 as well.
    Quality review as usual anyway.
    ps: I like Kotipelto but sometimes his bad English really annoys me. I’m Italian so I can barely imagine what it must sound like to a native speaker.

  • Rob Nine

    I like this! Sounds like a DragonForce 45 slowed down to 33-1/3. I’m ready for the verbal lashing now…

  • sir_c

    I can see what people like in this music, but I believe it is not my cup of tea. Good review though.

  • Troy Putland

    I’m glad you reviewed this and not AMG, I feel it’s rating would be worst due to the uncessary hate towards Timo ;) this is a killer album, my only problem is the lyrics ‘a spoon full of sugar makes the poison go down’, like an anti-MP haha!

  • Feeblejocks

    An approving fist in the air for cheesy Euro-power as reviewed by Mr. Steel “Supergroup” Druhm. Count me in for yet another high energy power ride!!