Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: November 3rd, 2023
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
Georg Neuhauser – Vocals
Chris Hermsdörfer – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Marco Pastorino – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Fabio D’Amore – Bass, Backing Vocals
Andreas Schipflinger – Drums, Backing Vocals
1. Memoriae Alberti Dureri
2. The Fall of Man
3. Ritter Tod und Teufel (Knightfall)
4. Soldiers Under the Cross
5. Reflections (of AD)
6. Sun of Justice
8. The End of Babylon
9. Crowned by an Angel
10. The Sky is our Limit
11. The Fall of Man (Orchestral Version)
Ever since their third full-length album, Death & Legacy, back in 2011, Austrian symphonic power metal band Serenity has been one of my absolute favorite bands in the world, never leaving me less than fully impressed with any of their subsequent albums. I admittedly was a bit nervous going into the release of their previous album, The Last Knight, as its two lead singles initially felt a bit weak by their standards, but after hearing the full album, I was as satisfied as always. The band has just released their eighth full-length album, Nemesis AD, and while it’s not one of my personal favorites by the band, it’s still fantastic as always, and if anything it has some moments where the band shows potential for something even better next time around.
The band started as a more traditional power metal band with strong progressive tendencies and only slight symphonic elements on their first couple of albums, but Death & Legacy saw them go all in on the symphonic side of their music, and they’ve only taken it even further with each release that has followed. Needless to say, the trend continues with Nemesis AD, which is easily their most epic, most cinematic feeling album to date, as well as probably their darkest release so far. Their core power metal sound is of course still fully intact, as always, and a couple of particular tracks are quite heavy and intense even by their standards, but the album also has some of their softest, most symphonic material to date, especially in the back half. I’ve seen other reviewers compare the band to Kamelot quite a bit in the past, but while I’ve noticed slight similarities between the two before, I never really agreed too much with the comparison, but on this album, I can hear it a lot more clearly. There are times when the music gets very dark, the pace slows to a crawl and even the symphonic elements have the kind of atmospheric feel one would expect from the American band. Of course, the fact that Roy Khan makes a guest appearance certainly helps make the similarities even stronger, even if the song he appears on isn’t one of the songs where I most notice the musical similarities.
Not too much has changed for Serenity since The Last Knight, with all band members from that album remaining in the band, though there has been one addition since that album, and it’s a very big one, which I’ll discuss more when I get to a particular track where the new member makes a huge impression. Regardless, the album mostly sounds how fans would expect the band to sound, with the symphonic elements, keyboards, and vocals dominating many of the tracks, while the guitar work can be very thick and heavy at times, and very melodic at other times, especially during some of the solos. Production is fantastic as always, and each musician does a fantastic job. Vocalist Georg Neuhauser has always been the band’s biggest star, and that’s as true as ever on this album, as he sounds as smooth and fully invested in the tracks as always, while also dialing up his intensity a bit more than expected at times. However, while he’s as fantastic as ever, one could argue that he’s outshone on two separate occasions on this album, which I’ll bring up in just a bit. Lyrically, the album once again continues the band’s trend of tackling historical topics, this time detailing some of the works of legendary German artist Albrecht Dürer. As expected, the lyrics go to some very dark places right from the beginning, and that continues for much of the album, before offering listeners a bit of hope right at the end.
Songwriting is one area where Serenity always delivers, so even on an album like this, where I feel they’re not quite on top of their game, they still deliver plenty of instant classics, and no less-than-enjoyable tracks overall. One difference between this album and past albums is a slight lack of variety, in that where the band usually alternates fluidly between fast and mid-paced tracks, with the occasional slower track, this album, with one exception, tends to be either fast or slow, with very little in between. This isn’t necessarily a flaw on its own, though I do find the album doesn’t flow as well as usual, starting strong, peaking around the middle, and then falling off a bit in the final stretch, with no real speedy sections past the second title track. With that being said, fans who love the band’s softer side are sure to be very pleased with that final section, and all the tracks are well done, they just don’t quite impress me as much as I would have liked.
As usual, the album opens up with a brief intro full of somber choral vocals, before moving on to the explosive opening track, “The Fall of Man”. This is a very typical sounding Serenity opener, moving at a fairly quick pace throughout, with a mix of heavy guitars, intense drums, some light keys, and of course some epic, cinematic symphonic arrangements, all accompanied by some very strong lead vocals, and a fun, catchy chorus. Of course, the biggest standout feature of the track is the guest appearance by Roy Khan, who sings quite a bit throughout, especially during the second verse, the second run through the chorus, as well as a soft vocal section in the second half. Neuhauser is excellent, as always, but Khan stands out, as the vocal melodies fully showcase his unique tone and his performance is as emotive and powerful as it was when Kamelot was at its peak. This is easily the best I’ve heard from him since long before he left that band, and it makes me very happy to hear him in such fine form.
Next is “Ritter Tod und Teufel (Knightfall)”, the lead single, and another very typical sounding Serenity track. It opens up with a soft intro, featuring some church organs, before speeding up with some very catchy keys, epic symphonic elements, and some slightly heavy but rather subdued guitar work. The track is quite fast-paced, with the verses being intense and heavy, while the chorus is more epic, catchy, and melodic, though Neuhauser delivers some of the most spirited and most aggressive vocals I’ve heard from him with this band, to make it sound amazing. Overall, it’s a fairly predictable track, but it’s the kind of track the band is always fantastic at, and this time is certainly no exception. The first ballad of the album is “Soldiers Under the Cross”, which starts very slowly, with the opening verse mostly featuring symphonic elements, light keys, and some folk elements, which carry on throughout the track. It’s a very dark track, with a strong, emotional performance from Neuhauser throughout. The guitars kick in during the second verse and the track gets a tad heavier, but it stays fairly calm and slow throughout and is very much driven by its vocals and lyrics. The solo towards the end is fantastic, with some melodic guitar work accompanied by more folk elements. Overall, it’s not one of the band’s best ballads, but it’s still a great track in its own right.
The highlight of the album is “Reflections (of AD)”, a huge 8-minute epic, which is absolutely unlike anything the band has ever done before as well as arguably the best song they’ve ever written, and I say that as someone who’s listened to all their albums several times over. It has a unique feel right from the start, initially seeming like a light piano ballad before turning into something much bigger and more epic, with a very theatrical feel to it, as well as a slight classic rock feel. Indeed, the track at times feels like the band listened to Avantasia, saw how Tobias Sammet sometimes likes to channel Meat Loaf from his Bat out of Hell albums, and went all the way with it, to create their take on that style. The track as a whole feels like a mix of classic rock, epic symphonic metal, a bit of a Broadway music feel at points, and of course some intense, speedy power metal. The chorus in particular is unlike anything the band has ever done before, with a very theatrical feel to it and it’s extremely catchy, but the highlight of the track comes around halfway through, during an explosive power metal passage, featuring an incredible vocal performance from the previously mentioned new member, Marco Pastorino. Yep, after working on an album together with Neuhasuer under the name Fallen Sanctuary, the Temperance guitarist/vocalist has officially joined Serenity, and while he delivers some great guitar work and backing vocals throughout the album, he shines on this track, delivering some incredible lead vocals, which are more fiery and intense than Neuhauser, who of course still sounds excellent in his own right, especially on the chorus. Pairing the two together, though, makes for something truly special, and I hope the band does more of that on future albums, now that Pastorino is officially a part of the band. Musically, the track is also perfect, going through multiple different phases, speeding up and slowing down multiple times, and overall it’s easily the most complex and epic track the band has ever done, while still being as incredibly fun, melodic, and catchy as always.
A masterpiece like that is near impossible to follow up, but “Sun of Justice” doesn’t fall too far behind, picking up the pace even further and delivering one of the hardest-hitting tracks on the album, with fairly mid-paced verses filled with thick, heavy riffs, accompanied by a fantastic, super speedy chorus, with fantastic use of symphonic elements, as well as some amazing vocal melodies. It’s another fairly typical-sounding track, especially sounding similar to some of the tracks on Lionheart, but it feels even more epic and inspired than normal and is probably my second favorite track on the album. The intensity continues for one more track, with “Nemesis” being the last really heavy, fast-paced track on the album. It has a slight Middle Eastern feel to it with some of the symphonic elements, while the guitars are once again quite chunky, especially during the instrumental sections and the rather slow-paced verses, while the chorus speeds things up and keeps the intensity going, but is much more melodic and catchy, as expected, with the final run through in particular being one of my favorite moments of the album.
The pace drops off starting with “The End of Babylon”, a track which very much reminds me of Kamelot, with everything from the atmosphere of the track, the way symphonic elements are used, the dark, subtly heavy riffs, the choral vocals and the rather slow pace all reminding me a lot of that band on their more recent albums. The verses honestly aren’t too interesting, but the chorus is excellent, with the symphonic arrangements giving the music a dark, sinister feel, while still being as epic as always, and the vocal melodies are fantastic, with Neuhauser once again stealing the show. The last minute or so of the track in particular is amazing, while the rest is very good, but not quite up to par with the band’s usual material. Next is the second ballad, “Crowned By An Angel”, which is my personal favorite in this final stretch. It’s a light piano ballad, very much driven by the lyrics and vocals, and Neuhauser delivers a stunning, emotionally charged performance, especially during the chorus, which is one of the best on the album, and then the guitar solo towards the end is incredibly emotional and fantastic. Closing out the album is “The Sky is Our Limit”, a track I initially wasn’t impressed with, but it has grown on me a bit over time. It’s another very slow, very cinematic-sounding track, where the symphonic elements dominate and the guitars are only used in bursts. The chorus is fantastic, and the second verse does an excellent job of slowly, steadily building momentum, with some very subtle yet effective guitar work, and overall it’s a very nice track, but as a closer it just doesn’t quite blow me away. It’s hard to explain why, as it is a very good track, but for some reason it just doesn’t quite hit me as hard as any of the band’s previous closing tracks, even towards the end, when it picks up. I think maybe this final stretch needed a bit more variety, or maybe the band’s slower material just isn’t what I want from them at the moment, but regardless, the end of the album leaves me just slightly disappointed, compared to the rest of the album.
Overall, Nemesis AD is a difficult album to fully nail down my thoughts on, because while the ending is a bit disappointing, and while I don’t think the album as a whole is as good as the band can be, it’s still fantastic overall, with “Reflections (of AD)” in particular being an absolute masterpiece and possibly the band’s best track to date. Serenity is one of those bands I’ll likely never be truly disappointed by, and this album is no exception, as it delivers plenty of epics, and speedy symphonic power metal, to go along with some softer, more cinematic, and atmospheric-sounding tracks. Fans of the band are sure to find a lot to love here, while newcomers will likely be impressed as well, though I’d recommend listening to albums such as Death & Legacy, War of Ages, and Lionheart to get a better idea of what the band is like at the top of their game. Still, despite not quite being up to par with the band’s best works, this album is excellent in its own right, and with Marco Pastorino joining the band, I’m very excited to see where they go from here!
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.