Apparently, after releasing eight albums in 11 years, the best power metal band in the world is officially on hiatus. Finland’s Stratovarius reportedly won’t release a studio follow-up to last year’s Gold-certified Infinite until at least 2003. To bide its time and keep fans hungry for more, though, the quintet has issued the aptly titled Intermission — a collection of seven rare tracks, three cover songs, a live version of “Hunting High and Low” that was recorded in Helsinki, Finland, in November 2000, and four new studio songs. And while Intermission is infinitely better than Stratovarius’ recently released and disappointing home video, Infinite Visions, it doesn’t really hold up as well compared to most of the band’s “real” albums.
Of the four new tracks that open Intermission – “Will My Soul Ever Rest In Peace,” “Falling Into Fantasy,” “The Curtains Are Falling” and “Requiem” – two are low-key affairs that accentuate singer Timo Kotipelto’s vocal nuances, one is a double-bass scorcher that sounds more like earlier Stratovarius than anything heard on Infinite or 1998’s Destiny, and one is a brief lightweight instrumental. Meanwhile, the band’s covers of Judas Priest’s “Bloodstone” and Rainbow’s “I Surrender” (also recorded live in Helsinki) and “Kill the King” leave little to the imagination.
More diverse and intriguing are the seven rare tracks offered here — even though, again, many of them are ballads. While the album’s promo sheet claims these tracks were previously only available in France or Japan, “When the Night Meets the Day” also appeared as a bonus track on Noise Records’ U.S. version of Episode and “Dream With Me” was featured on Noise’s 1999 compilation, The Chosen Ones.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the songs on Intermission, it’s painfully clear that the album lacks cohesion and direction — characteristics seldom in short supply on the band’s studio records, which can be argued sound practically flawless. That said, there’s no denying the overflowing talents of Kotipelto, guitarist Timo Tolkki, keyboard player Jens Johansson, drummer Jorg Michael and bass player Jari Kainulainen. For years, Stratovarius have successfully walked the line between sophisticated metal and pretentious posturing. On Intermission, unfortunately, they occasionally cross that line.