THUNDERSTONE, Dirt Metal (2009, Sony)
This skull has it all, and when I say, “all,” I mean “all the shit that drives me crazy.” It’s crammed full of gears, tubes, and other cheap biomechanical nonsense, and it’s completely brown but somehow not with dirt, which might have actually justified the brownness vis-a-vis the album title. Like the music within, this cover is totally competent, probably expensive, and thoroughly uninteresting, the kind of pointlessness only Scandinavian-branch-of-a-major-label money can buy.
Thunderstone started as a cheap Stratovarius clone, but over the course of a handful of albums they’ve evolved into a cheap Symphony X clone (minus any trace of that band’s progressive leanings). They’re a perfectly fine, if utterly generic, prog/power band, with a great singer, strong playing, solid songs, and no spirit. If you’re a diehard of the genre, and you routinely spin DGM, At Vance, Bloodbound (the albums without Urban Breed), or Masterplan, then you’ll probably love this. It’s really a pretty good disc, assuming you either haven’t heard much other stuff like this, or you listen to nothing else. I happen to own enough stuff exactly like Dirt Metal that I’m not likely to buy it, but I would probably grab the disc if I saw it for a couple bucks in a used bin. I might never listen to it, but I wouldn’t exactly be ashamed to own it. If I ever found myself in the mood for modern power metal like this, though, I’d probably reach for some Nocturnal Rites, if only out of habit, because this is more or less as good as anything that band’s done post-Afterlife. It’s just no better, which is the problem.
— Friar Johnsen