Stratovarius - Stratovarius - 2005 - Sanctuary Records
1. Maniac Dance 2.Gotterdammerung (Zenith Of Power) 3.Fight!!! 4.Back To Madness 5.Gypsy In Me 6.Leave The Tribe 7.The Land Of Ice And Snow 8.Just Carry On 9.United
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.
-- Ken Pierce 10.12.05
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