STRATOVARIUS

"Elysium" (Armoury Records; 2011)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

Moving past the drama that plagued them while battling it out in the press with founding member Timo Tolkki, Finnish power metal force Stratovarius snap back into form and get back to business on the reinvigorated troupe’s latest offering, "Elysium."

This nine-track endeavor boasts the expected bounty of progressively minded harmonies and symphonically shaped melodic metal (“Under Flaming Skies”), yet features a few surprises such as the 18-minute tour de force title track, bursting with a bevy of stylistic twists and turns to close out this release.

"Elysium" offers dollops of dramatic heaviness (“Fairness Justified”) with a plethora of double bass drum-driven musicality (“Event Horizon”) completed with the blistering guitars, omnipresent keyboards and soaring vocals that have made this band one of the premiere acts in the genre.

For more information, check out http://www.stratovarius.com.

"Polaris + Polaris Live" (Armoury Records; 2009/2010)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I won't bore you with another full review of Stratovarius's "Polaris" CD. Metal Mark did a fine job reviewing that CD below and, for the most part, I agree with him (although I think I probably like the album a little more than he did).

What I will tell you about his this new Special Edition from Armoury Records that includes not only the original "Polaris" CD but a second CD, recorded live on the Polaris World Tour 2009/2010.

The second CD is a 14 track, 75-minute live concert, featuring five songs from "Polaris" and nine additional songs from throughout the band's career. As you'd expect from a Stratovarius album, the live album is exquisitely produced, and the band sounds tight and energetic throughout the performance. This is one of those bands that you'd think would have difficulty sounding good in a live setting but this CD proves they still sound great. This is a live album that would stand on its own but, as part of a two CD set including the original "Polaris" album, it's hard to beat.

The only downside here is that the title is a little misleading. Remember, "Polaris Live" is not the band performing the "Polaris" album in its entirety but rather a live recording from the band's "Polaris" tour. And the bonus disc is only included if you buy the CD version; the MP3 version includes only the live recordings.

Fans of Stratovarius who don't own "Polaris" need not think twice: this is the version to get.  Those who already have the CD might do better by just purchasing the mp3 downloads.

For more information, check out http://www.stratovarius.com.

"Polaris" (JVC; 2009)

Reviewed by Metal Mark

Stratovarius has gone through multiple break-ups over the years. Timo Tolkki, the lead guitarist, seemed to be lacking inspiration as the main writer on some recent efforts and he must have been losing enthusiasm as well because, when he ended the band for the final time, he waived the rights of the name to Jens Johansson -- the band’s keyboardist.

The band lost guitarist Timo Tolkki, but brought in guitarist Matias Kupiainen and bassist Lauri Porra. So what does a band who has lost their main writer and a lot of momentum do to right the ship? In this case, I think they tried to get back to some power metal basics and Johansson really pushes to use his playing and effects. Where they excel is by staying to the point and not getting to caught up in the excess flourishes that too often come with power metal.

The fantastic production helps keep them grounded by emphasizing the heavy elements when needed but keeping the keyboards in focus as well. This is a genre that all too often has bands who become long-winded and forget about the "metal" part of "power metal." Stratovarius stay on track and even make it fun.

The only major flaw I heard was that the CD was moving along at a nice quick pace and then, suddenly, the last three songs are all very slow. It was like driving on open roads and then hitting a traffic jam. Simply switching the track order may have fixed that problem.

"Polaris" is not perfect and far from innovative. Yet this is a band who had every reason to fail and they managed to put together an album that works well enough on its own plus shows the potential for the latest line-up to build upon for the future.

For more information, check out http://www.stratovarius.com.

"Stratovarius" (Sanctuary; 2005)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Stratovarius is a rock'n'roll machine. Every facet of this self-titled CD runs like a well oiled machine that had my head spinning until I finally got a grasp of what was happening; then it was just a fun ride.

Power metal ... or whatever you want to call it ... Stratovarius does it flawlessly from song to song throughout this CD. I think what puts Stratovarius in a class by themselves is 1) their unique storytelling ability and 2) their very powerful music. Put one and two together and you've got an epic project to listen to. 

CDs like "Stratovarius" are why I listen to music: It has the ability to transform the listener to another plane of existence. This CD does that and more. Truly an outstanding listening experience.

For more information, check out http://www.stratovarius.com or http://www.nuclearblast.de/

"Elements Pt. 1" (Nuclear Blast; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Rock'n'roll has had such incredible staying power because it can take on so many forms. Just think about the number of sub-divisions of heavy metal, for example, and you'll get a general idea.

Another reason is that rock'n'roll can speak to so many emotions. If you're in a simple party mode, there's bands like KISS; if you're feeling seriously political, you can turn to Rage Against the Machine or U2. And, if you're looking for something that has the grandiosity of classical music and intelligence as well, you can choose bands like Stratovarius.

Before you're even ten seconds into "Elements Pt. 1," you'll realize this is a special CD. The sound contained on this album is so full, so rich and so powerful, it feels as though there isn't room for another single note to squeeze out of your stereo speakers. The musicianship is exquisite - the perfect balance between the roughness of rock'n'roll and the perfection of highly technical performance. 

Each song plays like is a mini-opera, an aural movie, of its own. Every track has its own attitude and its own sound. Many of the tracks even seem to have their own three acts and six of the nine tracks run over six minutes long. Stratovarius take the time necessary to tell their stories; there's no forced effort here to produce "radio hits" under four minutes long. Needless to say, the songwriting is nothing short of brilliant.

The CD begins with "Eagleheart," one of the CDs shorter tracks (at 3:50) and a powerhouse beginning. From that point on, every track has something to offer, most offering lots. "Stratofortress," nothing short of outstanding, is a high point. It's a shredfest of a keyboard/synthesizer attack that will leave your head happily spinning. "Soul of a Vagabond" starts out with a crunch guitar riff and then expands into an irresistible classical/metal hybrid.

The production throughout is top notch, as it would have to be for a recording of this sophistication. Our only gripe: sometimes the vocals get a little "screechy" (not only the lead but guest vocals, too). This is a minor complaint, however, for a recording that succeeds so completely on every other level.

Stratovarius make rock'n'roll bigger than one might think possible and "Elements Pt. 1" is marvelously colossal.  

STRATOVARIUS: Jens Johansson, Keyboards; Jorg Michael, drums; Jari Kainulainen, bass; Timo Kotipelto, vocals; Timo Tolkki, guitar.

For more information, check out http://www.stratovarius.com or http://www.nuclearblast.de/

"Infinite" (Nuclear Blast; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Stratovarius’ brand of melodic power metal hasn’t really changed over the years. “Infinite” has improved production and sharper mixing, but basically the Stratovarius formula hasn’t really diverted from their established history. However, sometimes changes for the sake of changes aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be and consistency is to be admired. With Stratovarius consistency is a good thing.

The lyrics speak of the necessity to make changes for the better, following your dreams, and being true to yourself. The positive thinking is heightened by the spirited music. It sure beats listening to rap-metal and aggro-rock all day.

My favorite tracks are the up-tempo “Phoenix” and the epic “Infinity.” “Hunting High And Low” has the anthem-like quality that is so prevalent in power metal. The mid-paced “A Million Light Years Away” exudes charm while the ballad “Mother Gaia” is a bit lacking. 

“Infinite” was produced by Timo Tolkki.

Stratovarious is Timo Kotipelto on vocals, Timo Tolkki on guitar, Jari Kainulainen on bass, Jens Johansson on keyboards, Jorg Michael on drums.

For more information visit http://www.stratovarius.com

"Destiny" (F.A.D. Records; 1999)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Stratovarius is a group of virtuosos who combine killer technical ability with strong song-writing and stellar charisma to deliver a hard rock album that qualifies as art without boring the pants off its audience.

Some of the CD's songs can only be considered epics: The title track, with its running time of 10:15 and  "Anthem of the Mind" at 9:31 come immediately to mind but song of more traditional length - such as "SOS" and "Rebel" - qualify on the massive strength of their sound. Stratovarius plays music that is big and bold - there are no watered-down ballads here (although "4000 Rainy Nights" just misses).

"Destiny" is progressive rock with intelligence and bite.  A CD that fans of hard rock of all types can enjoy and get into.

STRATOVARIUS is: Jens Johansson, Keyboards; Jorg Michael, drums; Jari Kainulainen, bass; Timo Kotipelto, vocals; Timo Tolkki, guitar.

Check them out at http://www.stratovarius.com or purchase their CD directly through the following: http://www.fadrecords.com or http://www.noiserecords.com.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2011 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 24 Sep 2017 15:29:52 -0400.