Talking about a band that has seen highs and lows! Stratovarius is probably the finest […]
By Michael Dalakos
July 5, 2005
Stratovarius - Stratovarius album cover

Talking about a band that has seen highs and lows! Stratovarius is probably the finest example in this case. Started with two average albums, exploded with a great third one. Gained worldwide recognition and success, released a series of good to very good albums, achieved a multimillion contract with Sanctuary... and then it was time for a downfall. The self-destructive persona of band leader Timo Tolkki ruined the day (members left the band under very bad circumstances, he was stabbed by fans, he saw Christ etc. - you have probably read all this before). So what can a band pull through out of all this? A good album? Is Stratovarius an obligation towards Sanctuary? What can I say... you have to listen to it first to get the picture...
Since I don't feel in the mood to write down the entire history of Stratovarius, I'd like to present to all the readers the way I got in touch with the band. It must have been like a million years ago when a good friend of mine and I attended a Manowar gig here in Athens (Hell yeah!). Just before the show, the loudspeakers started spiting a surgical riff followed by a furious drumming and a really spooky voice. For a moment I was stunned, not knowing what the hell I was listening to. It was a couple of months later when I got an inside tip from a pen friend I had in Sweden (internet my ass, back then) about a really cool band called Stratovarius. You will love them Michael, I mean you do like Helloween right?, yeah, if I recall correctly that was the tip. So a few days later I managed to obtain a copy of Dreamspace (1994) on CD (I wanted the vinyl but it had like 5 or 6 songs less!). Now, try to imagine my surprise when the opening riff of Chasing Shadows filled the room. Yeah, this was the same song I had heard at the Manowar gig. So as you can imagine I have a special bond with this band.
The key element of Stratovarius is surprise. When most fans believed that this would be another average Europower album the band did a HUGE U turn in their sound that really stunned me big time. And maybe the opening Maniac Dance sounds like a parody song of all the shit the band's been through during the last one and a half year, still it doesn't take a lot of time to notice that Stratovarius, in 2005, have almost nothing in common with Startovarius of 2003 or earlier. This album is filled with modern Rock (!) most of the time. Songs like Carry On or Fight will convince you on this. I don't know if the, once, leaders of Europower got bored of their old sound but definitely this time no one can blame them for copy / paste techniques!
There are a couple of songs bringing in mind the old days of the band but NO double pedal in this album, no sir! Forget about the bombastic moments of the Elements albums.  Back To Madness is a bit creepy with the operatic brake in the middle but forget in any way the pumping lines of Episode (1996) or Visions (1997). In Stratovarius the band shows a brand new face. Now, the million dollar question: do we like it? Hmmm... wel,l for sure I appreciated the band's decision to finally get rid of all the cliches they have been imprisoned by. But is there a new vision, something special? Well, not really, but it is a new start for them and it takes a lot of guts to start all over again. So thumbs up for the Strats! I wish them all the best in their new attempt!

7 / 10


"Stratovarius" Track-listing:

Maniac Dance
Just Carry On
Back To Madness
Gypsy In Me
Gotterdammerung (Zenith Of Power)
The Land Of Ice And Snow
Leave The Tribe

Stratovarius Lineup:

Timo Tolkki - Guitars
Timo Kotipelto - Vocals
Jari Kanulainen - Bass
Jens Johansson - Keyboards
Jorg Michael - Drums

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