Stratovarius - Stratovarius
Finnish band Stratovarius have been figuring in various scandals the past years, including fist fights among members, urinating on each other on stage and even a dissolvement of the band for a while when mastermind Timo Tolkki was treated for mental problems, and that right after Noise Records had payed Tolkki 3 million euros for a new contract. All that aside, they are now back in the setting that has been steady for the past 10 years or so.
The band have made a name for themselves as spearheads in the power metal genre with many clones following in their footsteps and many bands naming Stratovarius as a a main influence. It feels like many have lost their interest in the band after this long running mess in the media but still there is an interest in knowing what they are able to accomplish at this point. So even from me.
Still calling this power metal would be misleading. They have changed direction pretty significantly with this album and it is simple and straight heavy metal with a simple build we are being served. No extravaganza and no real speedy tunes, just more rockier tunes, naked and raw.
The albums starts pretty good with the decent and rock'n'roll-ish tunes Maniac Dance and Fight!!! which both feel fresh and interesting, although nothing spectacular, but they promise good for the rest of the album. Just Carry On continue in the same spirit although not anything special but my interest and attention is still intact at this point everytime I listen to the album.
Back To Madness has a darker atmosphere with opera samples and various effects, and it obviously has connections to Tolkki's previous mental instablity with 15% of the song consisting of spoken parts about being hurt, abandonded, truly scared, not belonging here, not having a home or a chance and claiming death is the only true salvation. Consequently, it is a bit torn between styles and moods and it just does not work. This far into the album it also hits you that the Tolkki trademark, the whirlwind solos and the melodic approach, are almost gone. All in favour for a much darker and stripped down sound.
Gypsy In Me is next out and a classic Stratovarius riff is backing up this mid tempo song where its main asset is the named riff and the refrain but it never makes me go 'wow', far from it. Follows does the more heavy and pumping Götterdämmerung, another decent track and on beforehand debated and lyrically rewritten since the record company did not like the Hitler part of it.
After this, the album unfortunatly takes a dive for the worse and loses everything it ever had up until now. Songs such as Leave The Tribe and United are just as Back To Madness typical examples of standard Stratovarius-fillers and they hold an unusual low standard even to be fillers. The melancholic ballad The Land Of Ice And Snow is cheesy and, although moody, far from their former ballad abilities.
It does not work all the way, as there are too many fallbacks in between the enjoyable songs and no real peaks at all on the album. In order to stay on top in today's metal scene, way better than this is required. But let's wait for the next album before we start to count out Stratovarius as have-beens. I feel they are capable of better than this. Perhaps this was a needed thing for Timo Tolkki in order to get it out of his system before he can start nailing those hits again. I like the change of style they have made but the material is just not good enough.