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Stratovarius: Stratovarius

It's no secret all the controversey that has surrounded power-metal legends Stratovarius over the last two years. With band members coming and going, hospital stays, and fits of rage between members of the band towards each other and the fans being posted on the internet, this has been a group in turmoil. However, things seemed to have calmed down and everyone looks to have come to their senses, as the classic line-up of Stratovarius is back together with their brand new, self-titled album. During the recording process they stated that the new record would be different, and it is. If you are looking for the "been there done that" speedy, double bass driven symphonic power metal of the past, you're not going to get much of that here. In a way, that's a good thing, as I think the band had pretty much done that style to death and needed a new direction.

Stratovarius is mainly about grooves, melodies, and straightforward, good old fashioned hard rock. Songs like "Just Carry On", or the single "Maniac Dance" contain plenty of catchy hooks and chunky guitar work, and not a double bass drum stampede in sight. The cheesey synth noises though on the latter are a little hard to take and sound a tad juvenile. "Fight!!!" is a great rocking piece, and one of the heavier tracks on the CD, featuring tasty guitar leads from Timo Tolkki and soaring vocals from Timo Kotipelto. The requisite ballad is called "Back to Madness", and while nicely done and featuring lovely piano work from Jens Johansson, just fails to go anywhere and is not overly memorable. "Gypsy in Me" also never really seems to connect, sounding more like a song that could have been rejected from Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II than anything else.

The band bounces back on the head banging anthem "Gotterdammerung (Zenith of Power", complete with thick rhythm guitars from Tolkki and an overall doomy vibe on the chorus thanks to the evil twist given from Kotipelto's vocals. On "The Land of Ice and Snow" Stratovarius turns in a great progressive rock styled performance, but it's way too brief. Thankfully they continue on with that vibe on the next track "Leave the Tribe", a moody yet powerful piece that sees Kotipelto soaring through the heavens, complemented by powerful drums from Jorg Michael and symphonic keyboards from Jens. This one has it all, and is perhaps the most well rounded song on the album. They end with the keyboard driven "United", a decent song, but one that just doesn't get the blood flowing much.

This will either be a release that will satisfy the legions of Stratovarius fans who are simply just happy to see the band still together as a unit, or it will polarize the fanbase completely. Regardless of the outcome, this is still decent symphonic hard rock, and in my opinion it was a good thing for the band to change their speed-metal ways in favor of this slower style. Now they just need to grow into this new sound a bit and I'm sure all will be fine.

Track Listing
1. Maniac Dance
2. Fight
3. Just Carry On
4. Back To Madness
5. Gypsy In Me
6. Gotterdammerung (Zenth Of Power)
7. Land Of Ice And Snow
8. Leave The Tribe
9. United

Added: October 10th 2005
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Stratovarius Website
Hits: 3763
Language: english

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Stratovarius: Stratovarius
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-10-10 17:07:37
My Score:

Stratovarius has long been considered one of the Forefathers when it comes to Power Metal and the genre as a whole. This Finnish super group has found much of their work respected and admired by fans of the form and other bands as well. The melodic power metal they delivered is often difficult to surpass and over time it has changed here and there yet never really lost the edge that was the nature of the band. Like all things that are together for a long time there does comes some drama and the band faced inner demons and turmoil. This led to the breakup and formation of other groups. Timo Kotipelto went on to a solo career and released Coldness on Century Media Records while guitarist Timo Tolkki briefly replaced him with a female singer who's name I could not recall. Eventually ties were repaired and the band was back doing what they did best together. Their newest release simply entitled Stratovarius is the result of this reunion. The record is very good at best but will surprise the staunchest Stratovarius supporter for it leans a little more on the commercial edge. Catchy numbers, but nothing that will bring you to a power metal daze. In one sense it is a good move to stray from the brand of Metal that they have long recorded. With so many bands coming out these days, people are sampling all different areas of the music. If one band remains the same for too long, their music might be considered too repetitive and the same old thing. The reunited lineup is Timo Tolkki (guitar), Timo Kotipelto (vocals), Jorg Michael (drums), Jari Kainulainen (bass) and Jens Johannson (keyboards).

On the record there are a couple of heavy numbers and those are quite good. You will find this primarily in songs like "Fight" and "Gotterdamerung (Zenith Of Power). Both of those were among my favorites as well as "Gypsy In Me" which has that traditional fist pumping quality to it. The single for the release is called "Maniac Dance" and I admit after a few listens I found myself humming along to it. Timo begins singing the number with "this year has been a nightmare" almost as if he is outlining the recent trials the band had faced. Overall Timo Kotipelto is the star of the record and his voice impresses on every single track. "Back To Madness" is a nice power ballad filled with the keyboard of Jens. "Land Of Ice And Snow" has anthem possibilities and should be an incredible song in the live setting.

I cannot say that I recommend this for most of the older Stratovarius fans for it will disappoint them by its direction change. However I can recommend this to fans of solidly produced and good sounding Hard Rock music performed by a band of Legendary status. Will Stratovarius be able to remain a "United" lineup and keep the demons at bay? Only time will tell and we fans of the Finns can only hope more is to come.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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