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Artist: Stratovarius
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club - NYC
Opener: Into Eternity
Date: 9/21/2005
Label: Sanctuary Records
Promoter: unknown

It's really a great thing when you are able to participate in a bands first appearance to your City. I find it is all the more special with me being a native New Yorker. This will the second time in two weeks that this would be the case many others who form the Metal Legions in the Big Apple. Last week it was Therion and this week the one and only Stratovarius would be coming to pay us a visit. Similar to Therion’s show; the band Stratovarius would also be a featured performer at the ProgPowerUSA Festival while in the States. This band in particular has had a dramatic couple of years which featured break-ups and line-up changes among them. Lead singer Timo Kotipelto left for a solo career very briefly after bad in-fighting with guitarist Timo Tolkki and was replaced. This year the band mended fences and reunited and recorded a new CD entitled very simply “Stratovarius”. Touring was soon to follow this release and rightly so for the group has long been recognized as one of the key forces in Melodic Heavy Metal music. They are well known for their catchy musical experiments and powerful shows with a lineup that is made up of some amazing musicians. Timo Kotipelto on vocals, Timo Tolkki on guitar and Jens Johannson on keyboards are legends in the genre and all are held together by drummer Jorg Michael and new bassist Laurie Porra. The band recently had lost bassist Kainulainen who left shortly after the album was released.

Opening the show this evening would be Into Eternity and this band has had some of the greatest slots over the past few months with no sign of this changing anytime soon. Their CD “Buried In Oblivion” (on Century Media Records) is a powerhouse of Black and Progressive Metal hooks with intense vocal harmonies over it all. They have been tearing up the stage lately on shows with Amorphis, Hate Eternal and Hammerfall and are set to open some of the Opeth shows along side Nevermore. Lead singer Stu Block does not do much talking onstage instead choosing to dole out the Metal screams while twin guitarists Rob Doherty and Tim Roth provide blistering riffs. It was also great to watch as the band develops a stronger and stronger following with each performance. The rhythm section of Troy Bleich and Adam Sagan work very well together. The other fun part about this band is the fact that you as an audience member will always find them mingling with the crowd shortly after their performance. They love to meet their fans and also want to enjoy the main acts and raise the horns high.

When Stratovarius hit the stage it was electric for Timo Kotipelto is probably one of the best singers in the Metal industry today. Kotipelto released a solo CD last year entitled “Coldness” on Century Media Records and it was received by the Metal Community very well and being at this show gave you the reason why. I felt that watching their show was also very exciting because of the aspect of the audience getting to see see a band repaired after all the past years problems. They looked as if they were having a great time and enjoying getting to play for this audience very much. The band would return also with a new bassist in Laurie Porra, who was a fantastic player. I felt that he shared the same level of energy as Kotipelto and he surely could play. He is a good replacement for the slot left by Kainulainen. It was nice to see Timo Tolkki is good form after his bouts of health and depression. His playing has been admired for so long and this performing has to be better for him than doing sitting around doing nothing. As I watched the drumming of Jorg Michael I could swear he did not lose his smile once. Slamming down the thunder on his beautiful drum kit, his playing did not lose one second of time as everyone displayed their melodic metal styles over it. I have to admit that I have always enjoyed the playing of Jens Johansson, but felt a lot of the new Stratovarius material holds his level of play back from what he has shown us he is capable of. The new Stratovarius CD is very different from the last few that we have gotten from them. While it is still melodic it does not extend out into far-reaching progressive journeys that the original fan base would expect of them. The band performed a very mixed set that found them opening with new material and closing with their staple numbers. It was a capacity crowd at B.B. King Blues Club with a count of what I observed to be about 800 or so audience members. Not a bad showing of support by any stretch of the imagination.

Has the mighty Stratovarius truly returned to continue their Melodic Metal journey or will the problems of the not too distant past arise to plague them once again? Only time can tell if the band can continue; this new album and tour will be the litmus test to it.

Set List:
1. Maniac Dance
2. Speed Of Light
3. Kiss Of Judas
4. Legions
5. Twilight Symphony
6. Will The Sun Rise
7. The Land Of Ice And Snow
8. United
9. Against The Wind
10. Season Of Change
11. Father Time
12. Coming Home
13. Destiny
14. Hunting High And Low
15. Forever
16. Black Diamond

Official Web site: www.Stratovarius.com
Official Web site: www.IntoEternity.com

--Ken Pierce




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