Founded in 1984 in Finland under the name of Black Water, Stratovarius has become one of the leading and dominant figures in Power Metal today. Led by guitarist and virtuoso Timo Tolkki, the band first hit the scene with their debut, Fright Night
. This album being most notable for having Tolkki himself on vocals produced such greats as Witch-Hunt, Night Screamer
and Fright Night
. Following this album came the release of the highly successful Dreamspace
, an album that found the band featuring new bass player Jari Kainulainen. At this time Tolkki decided to stop singing and drop into the lead guitar position, thus Timo Kotipelto was hired and has remained the lead vocalist for Stratovarius to this day. At this time Swedish keyboardist Jens Johansson, and German drummer Jorg Michael were also added to the mix, completing the line-up that has become the Stratovarius of today. Their lineup was and is as follows:
Timo Tolkki – Guitar
Jens Johansson – Keyboards
Lauri Porra – Bass
Timo Kotipelto – Vocals
Jorg Michael – Drums
This lineup sees Stratovarius finally finding their trademark epic and melodic sound, while producing such greats as the highly successful Episode
. These albums featured such Stratovarius classics as Speed of Light, Eternity, Kiss of Judas, Black Diamond
and my personal favorite, Legions
. These albums saw Stratovarius gaining a new following outside of of Scandinavia, particularly in Japan. 1997 saw Stratovarius releasing their 7th album Destiny
, the album that first introduced me to Power Metal and remains my favorite Stratovarius cd to this day. This cd has changed the way I've viewed heavy metal, and ultimately helped me in discovering a new genre of music I had never heard prior.
being one of Stratovarius' all time greats does not sway far from what we can see as the Stratovarius formula. This formula being the guitar laden intros leading so often into the simple verses in which Kotipelto sings backed by keyboards for mood, with simple drumming as a base. These atmospheric yet simple verses lead into the epic, melodic, trademark Stratovarius choruses in which the band as a whole emerges together in one thunderous force. Such songs as S.O.S, 4000 Rainy Nights
and Venus in the Morning
can be seen as following this formula, but in a way, this is a good thing. I mean, why try to change the Stratovarius we all love?
Other songs remain fast paced from start to finish, showcasing Tolkki's technical skill on the guitar. Tolkki may not be any Herman Li, but as a good Power Metal guitarist, he is able to lay down great sounding riffs that pair hand in hand with Johansson's keyboarding. No Turning Back
shows Tollki playing a galloping riff that is both catchy and technical throughout the song. This riff is matched with Johansson's keyboards, and ultimately adds to the overall feel of this song. Towards the end of this song we are even able to hear a keyboard guitar solo in which Tollki and Johansson play hand in hand, showcasing their ability's as musicians together. Unfortunately the bass on this cd is pretty much non existent, and for the most part serves as background. This however does not deter from the overall song of the album as for the most part, every member of this band plays their part extremely well. Kotipelto's singing with his Finnish accent is spot on, every song shows the range of emotions that he is able to sing. Some songs he is able to sing in an eerie and sorrowful voice while others he is able to sing in an energized and frenzied manner. You will never hear him growl, or scream, but instead hear his crystal clear voice. Some may be turned off by his high pitched voice but then again, this is Power Metal, if you don't like it this genre may not be for you. To me Kotipelto's voice sounds great with Stratovarius and I couldn't imagine the band without him.
Stand out tracks on this cd include the epic Destiny
and Anthem of the World
. Both of these songs clock in at around 10 minutes and are truly beautiful songs. Destiny
begins with an eerie keyboard intro that is eventually paired with Tollki's powerful guitar playing. At 2:03 Kotipelto comes in singing of freeing your mind and body.
Every second of day it is coming your way
Future unknown is here to stay
Got to open your mind
of you will be led to astray
There's a time to live
There's a time to die
But no one can't escape the Destiny
This is followed by a guitar solo by Tollki paired with Johansson's atmospheric keyboard playing. Overall one of the more memorable songs on this cd. Anthem of the World
starts with a catchy and epic keyboard intro that slowly builds up, until it is eventually joined by Tollki. These two drive the music until the verse in which a simplistic keyboard riff is laid down as the background for Kotipelto's singing. The verse then slowly builds towards the chorus, and this chorus is honestly one of the catchiest I have ever heard. Timo Kotipelto sings:
Sing the Anthem Of The World
But will we ever learn
To control our hate and to forgive
We must learn to find the way
To just live another day
And be free like an Eagle in the sky
This song invites you to sing along as you listen to powerful lyrics of Kotipelto. This paired with the mood inspiring keyboards of Johansson and the thundering guitar of Tollki help to create what I feel is one of the greatest Stratovarius songs there is. This song along with such stand out tracks as Destiny, S.O.S.
and No Turning Back
help make this album one of Stratovarius' greatest.
-No Turning Back
-Anthem of the World