Stratovarius_EternalEuro-power is in a bit of rut lately, with very few releases really grabbing my jaded ears with the proper blend of bombast, cheese whizardry and over-the-top exuberance. Stratovarius was once a no brainer when I needed such sonic excesses, but the past few albums have been hit or miss affairs, especially 2013s Nemesis where the band explored a more commercialized, and dare I say it, poppy style. With long-time front man Timo Kotipelto delivering one of his best performances on this year’s Cain’s Offering album, I resisted the urge to get my hopes up over Eternal, because nothing kills quite as swiftly as unrealistic expectations (except rating a White Wizzard album 5.0). After some quality time with Eternal, it’s obvious Stratovarius felt the need for a course correction after Nemesis, as this is a heavier, more aggressive album, returning to their older sound and plying the listener with one speedy power anthem after another. The writing is closer to the classic Stratovarius template and everything seems ratcheted up a few notches toward the mystical realms of 11. And here I was worried they didn’t have it in em’ anymore. Silly Steel!

Opener “My Eternal Dream” initially had me thinking I was in store for Nemesis II, as it opens with tons of cheddar flavored, cheap-sounding symphonics and fluff. Luckily, it quickly dials down into classic Euro-power speed and provides all the guitar wanking and keyboard noodling any fan could hope for. It’s actually a very lively tune full of classic Strato-power and it sends the message the boys are back to their old tricks. First single, “Shine in the Dark” also sounds like tried and true material; mid-tempo but full of epic vocal lines. The lyrics sound like they were borrowed from a 13 year old’s love note, but the music itself keeps the testicle wattage high enough to stay respectable.

And the rest of Eternal follows suit admirably, with one zippy, easy to digest power ditty after another. “Lost Without a Trace” has a nicely brooding and emotional vibe and delivers big come chorus time. Other standouts include “Man in the Mirror” with its uber memorable refrain, classic keyboard/guitar duels and punchy attitude; “Few Are Those,” which sounds like a lost cut from Episodes or Visions, and the fist pumping simplicity and speed of “Rise Above It.”

Things end with the nearly twelve minute “Lost Saga” and though I’d prefer the band didn’t attempt these big showpiece tracks, this one isn’t bad at all. Over its lengthy runtime it mixes heavy riffing with 80s synths ripped from the Rocky IV soundtrack. As the music wanders through various peaks and valleys, it sometimes sounds like a heavier version of Kiske/Somerville, but it holds the listener’s interest and it doesn’t feel as long as it is.

Stratovarius_2015a

There are no bad songs, and though I could do without the obligatory power ballad “Fire in Your Eyes,” even that is done well. This is a much more “metal” album than Nemesis and though the highs were higher on Elysium, this is much more consistent from song to song and doesn’t suffer from that album’s occasional energy deficit.

AMG will doubtlessly disagree, but Kotipelto sounds great here, making the most of the above average songs with his classic Euro-power singing style (and no, he doesn’t sound like a mouse trapped behind a door). He’s backed up well by the frenetic keys of Jens Johansson (Cain’s Offering, Mastermind, et al) and the heroic fret-board noodles of Matias Kupiainen, with the tandem providing a goodly amount of tasteful yet overblown solos and interplay. There’s quite a lot of interesting music here, all contained within memorable, straight forward songs which stick almost immediately. It’s like a big wad of cotton candy with a hidden layer of prime rib, and that my droogs, is a tasty confection indeed.

This is the best and most complete Stratovarius album since Infinite and it feels good to see these vets back on the right track after a few less than stellar outings. They may never recapture the power and glory of albums like Destiny, but this shows they’re still a major player in the Euro-power sweepstakes. Keep on trucking, Stratovarius, no matter how much it annoys AMG!


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: EarMUSIC
Websites: stratovarius.com | facebook.com/stratovarius
Release Dates: EU: 2015.09.11 | NA: 09.18.2015

Tagged with →  
Share →
  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    “…and everything seems ratcheted up a few notches toward the mystical realms of 11.”

    Should the band’s mixes get any louder upon further releases, I guess you could call them…

    Flatovarius…

    I tried. Sick review, the embedded track is giving me a mullet

    • Take 2 Zima and sleep it off.

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        What happened to this? I thought this review went missing!

        • It was posted too early. Now it’s back!

  • Siege Bantayan

    I am guessing you will all be eternally firing shots at that White Wizard review whenever possible hahaha. Savage!

    Now this has piqued my interest; while listening to the embedded track I am being taken back to my university days playing video games all day, ergo good shit.

  • El_Cuervo

    Say what you will, but Visions has to be in contention for my favourite Europower releases. I’ll give this a shot.

    • I agree with you, but this band hit a stride in the late 90s up until about 2000 that they have never been able to recapture. On theit best day, if Visions was a 10, this new stuff is MAYBE a 6.

  • Borja

    I really want to listen to this one. I think Nemesis is actually one of their best albums.

    • How much of their back catalog are you familiar with? Have you ever given Episode or Visions a good listen from start to finish?

      • Borja

        Yes, of course, and I really like those albums.A lot of the band classics and songs that I really love are from those discs. But Nemesis was the first thing I heard after Tolkki left and by the time I thought that Stratovarius would die without him. But oh boy, I really was surprised but how Nemesis sounded. Really catchy EuroPower with great melodies, great Keyboards and great Kotipelto.
        For me, it was like a Kick in the nuts.
        I expect a lot from this one!!

        • JL

          I agree. I don’t see all the hate for Nemesis. Even if it sounds different from their old style, it still sounds totally kick ass and has everything solid power metal should have – excellent guitar melodies, great vocal lines, cheese here and there etc. Love that record.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Haven’t really fell in love with a Euro Power metal album since Elvenking’s Pagan Manifesto, so looking forward to this.

    Will AMG start listing Testical Wattage (TW) scores alongside the DR scores?

    • We totally should. Then we’d be the metal site with the most balls.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        You could start scoring Testicle Wattage by doing a Yer Metal Is Olde feature about Accept´s “Balls to the Wall”

  • Martin Knap

    me like this sort of wankery…

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Your avatar kind of gives that away

      • Martin Knap

        indeed :-)

  • Stratovarius was one of the first European bands I discovered back in 1997-98 and I loved their earlier releases, Episiode, Visions, and Destiny. I havent been able to listen to anything new by them in almost 15 years now. Occasionally I check out a track or two from an album when they come out, but I am always disappointed. Lets see what happens with this….

    • I found them with their cover of “Bloodstone” on the Judas Priest tribute album… I’ve been a fan ever since. (I didn’t enjoy the self-titled album that much), but I’ve been happy overall the post-Timo era.

      Episode and Visions were my two favorites… :)

  • CarvedInStone

    Truth be told I had kinda given up on Stratovarius. When the whole split with their former bandleader and mastermind happened back in 08 I was fully on their side and couldn’t wait for their new album to come out.

    And once I listened to Polaris it turned out to be a huge disappointment.
    It was very obvious from the start that they were trying their best to emulate Tolkki’s style of songwriting and return to their glory days of the mid-to-late 90. And in theory returning to the sound of their prime wasn’t a bad idea given how the last Stratovarius album (the 2005 self-titled one) turned out. But they ended up sounding like cheap copies of their former selves. It seemed like without Tolkki the spark was gone.

    On their next two albums they found a new sound of their own but I simply wasn’t able to get into that music anymore. You can say about Timo Tolkki what you want but In his prime he was one of the best europower guitarists and songwriter and you could easily pick a Tolkki song out of a line-up of random europower songs. There was something unique about his compositions. He kinda lost his touch when he left Stratovarius but even with his weaker new stuff you can without a doubt tell that you’re listening to a Tolkki album. Without him they just sound like any other generic keyboard-driven europower band. They’re all very capable musicians but they don’t have the composing chops that Tolkki had. Hell, Tolkki himself isn’t even the songwriter he used to be.

    But this review sounds promising enough. Maybe I should give them another chance?

  • Neb Bojer

    I’m glad this is turning out better than Nemesis. I was disappointed in that one after Elysium. Had some good songs but some songs were too cheesy even for me. The embedded song sounds like it came off of the latest Cain’s Offering CD.

  • I can’t help it that Kotipelto sounds like a mouse trapped in a door.

    • Flämmer

      I disagree with your assessment.

      He clearly sounds like a door trapped in a mouse.

    • Thatguy

      He does too.

      And the leads are weak…..and, oh, god, a key change. It has everything that makes me hate the genre.

      The embedded song should be entered in the next Eurovision contest.

      Not suitable listening for an evening at the Korova Milk Bar, my droogs.

      • Here’s Johnny

        stop trying to sound cool..you aren’t.

    • Mauro Bossetti

      Shit I thought I was the only one here to think that Kotipelto is not a singer. He sounds like if he is singing in falsetto even in mid tones. A friend of mine saw him live in the 90s and told me that live he was even worse.

    • Here’s Johnny

      What? He’s a great singer, you got power metal mice?

      • Now I’m imagining mice with flowing locks of hair and cutoff jean jackets. Thanks.

        • King Aurthoar, Dragon Puncher

          Now, do you want the death mouse or the death rodent?

  • strato wins the euro power pop festival again, thanks to all the goddies of poppy cheese!

  • Here’s Johnny

    I really liked Nemesis, full of great songs(awesome songs like Unbreakable were heavy and catchy). Since when have this band not been poppy anyway?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    You didn’t mention Jens Johansson was in Yngwie Malmsteen’s band. I think there is a law that every mention of Jens Johansson must include his stint with Malmsteen. Althoug it may only apply in Scandinavia and Japan.
    If there isn’t such law, there should be.

  • JL

    I really like this band. When they’re at their best they’re almost untouchable, but they have been somewhat inconsistent, though. I thought Nemesis was amazing and it was my favorite power metal release of that year (2013?). I think they nailed it on that record, and I also think the trilogy of it along with Polaris and Elysian is a very solid accomplishment; mostly kick ass songs throughout all records with some filler here and there.

    I’ve got high hopes for this because the single is good and as you said, Timo absolutely crushed the Cain’s Offering record a few months back. His vocals lines are so fun to sing along to. Nice review and I’m excited for this album.

    • Paul McGuire

      I’m so glad for this review because of all the mentions of Cain’s Offering. I had never listened to that band or knew it had the same singer. I agree that Nemesis was a fantastic album, totally kickass. I still need to give Eternal a few more listens before I can decide for sure.

  • sickbroski

    After the Nemesis disaster, I’ll have to cautiously listen to this.

  • I don’t agree with Johnny much, but he’s right about this.

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    is good to hear this because since Polaris they have been kinda meh, but Stratovarius is not a great band anyway, Episode, Visions, and Elements pt 1 are great, then they have great songs in every album but it has never been a GREAT band, lets see how this one turned out, love the cover tough is very illuminati and yeah, kotipelto is not a great singer

  • nunka

    Stahp it, Timo. Staaaaaaaaahp. You’ve made my ears bleed for too long!

  • TULFich

    Reading this made me wonder, what do fans actully want? I think stratovarius has been up-scaling theri albums, most tracks from nemesis are amazing, and I don´t found any commercial themes at all. Maybe people want a 90´s album, that ain´t gonna happen. Stratovarius is still an amazing band and they are finding out how to deliver new sound experiences, after all as a fellow metal fan I think we should be more open to changes, I bet Eternal will be amazing!!! :)

    • King Aurthoar, Dragon Puncher

      You… you’re the kind of metalheads I like. More optimistic and less gloomy.

      • TULFich

        and you man are proof of a good open mined metalhead. By the way Eternal is fantastic album!!!

  • Very good album!!! Best since “Infinite”, with no doubt!

  • Vesa Tamminen

    This is way better than Destiny. WAY better. I was a huge Visions and Destiny fan since their release. But if you listen to Destiny and then listen to this one. This is a lot better. Destiny even has a few fillers despite the masterpieces it contains.

  • Jose Ernesto Galindo Alatorre

    I believe that the album should have been given at least a 4.0 it’s maybe the best we have heard of Stratovarius in a very long time, btw I don’t know why the heck people call Elysium a anthem, I mean it’s too long to hear before you get bored, I love all of the solos but I don’t really believe it’s at all a power metal anthem. XD