Review Summary: An enthralling and mesmerizing power metal album, Dreamspace is one of Stratovarius' best records.
When you look at the most influential power metal bands of all time, chances are that Stratovarius will be high on anyone's list. They were in league with Helloween and Blind Guardian as one of the 80's pioneers of the genres, even if they came a tad late. Formed in 1984 by Timo Tolkki, Stratovarius released their first albums, Fright Night and Twilight Time, to admittedly mixed critical/user reception. However, their third album Dreamspace sees them finally becoming a one-of-a-kind metal band; and what a beast the album is!
Admittedly the album is a tad long for power metal (clocking in at a little over an hour) and its also unnervingly dark for the genre, but the musicianship is top-notch and the compositions are rock solid here. There are definitely some moments where the band stutters and gets a bit off-key, but as a whole, the album is quite superb in its own right.
The Power Metal Portions:
"Chasing Shadows" kicks off the album and immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album: dark and gloomy. It's a solid power metal number with some progressive tendencies, such as a nifty 3/4 transition during the speedy chorus. Many of the power metal numbers have a similar feel to this one, with lots of energy and occasional technical moments. Timo Tolkki's guitar playing is great here as well, offering diversity and shredding into one definitive style.
Another power metal song that's worth noting in particular is "Hold on to your Dream." It happens to be one of the only songs on the album that was used in later live setlists, and indeed is a great live number. With solid pacing in the rhythm section and great solos, it is ideal for performances.
The last example I'd like to mention for the power metal parts is "Magic Carpet Ride." A very interesting song, it starts with somewhat of an Egyptian harmonic riff before blazing into a Symphony X-esque verse. Overall, it's a very entertaining song.
The Dark/Prog Portions
Many songs on Dreamspace display an array of progressive sections that have unnerving dark effects within them.
"4th Reich" is a song about the world with a new dictator after the 3rd Reich. It's a very interesting piece that tunes its guitars for that aforementioned "dark" effect. Some parts include palm-muted tapping and well-placed acoustic sections that further flesh out the cold feel of the track.
"Tears of Ice" is my personal favorite and is an absolutely beautiful ballad. It's an extremely sad love song, most likely about a breakup, and the violins and brooding synthesizers make it low and depressing, but impressive nonetheless.
Finally, I'm going to mention the title track, "Dreamspace." There are many, many altering tempos on this one, as well as some interesting time signatures. The latter is exemplified by the chorus, which is extremely fast headbanger material, but it's in 3/8 time. Then the song dips down into a very odd acoustic section that sounds like someone is falling into some sort of abyss. It picks up speed, though, and ends on a strong note.
Now it's time to talk about two weaknesses on this album. The first comes in the last track in the album, "Wings of Tomorrow." It's not a bad track by any means, but it feels quite out of place compared to the others, and is an odd ending for the album. The chorus even has echoes of alternative rock! The other weakness is that some songs can get tedious after a while, the biggest example being "Thin Ice." It starts out with an interesting acoustic line, but the parts after it are quite odd and boring.
Overall, though, Dreamspace is an excellent album for a growing band. Soon Timo Kotipelto (Two Timo's?) and the band would edge toward a more neoclassical power metal sound. As for this one, though, Dreamspace is superb.
Excellent guitar work
High replay value
Slightly tedious at points
Sometimes loses direction
Wings of Tomorrow
Timo Tolkki â€" Guitars, Vocals
Jari Kainulainen â€" Bass
Antti Ikonen â€" Keyboards
Tuomo Lassila â€" Drums and Percussion
Sami KuoppamĂ¤ki â€" Session drums on tracks 3, 4, 6, 7, and 13