Review Summary: Visions is an album like few can match. Words may make it sound like it isn't classic, but the music itself takes a strong stand saying otherwise. There are metla songs with the great riffs and solos, but the band shows its soft side with several breathtaThere shall be heard in the air the noise of weapons
And in the same year, the divines will be enemies
They shall unjustly put down the holy laws
And by thunder and war true believers shall die
About a month after I said I was going to do this, I'm doing this. I never thought one of my favorite albums of all time wouldn't have a review on one of the few competent review sites out there. I'm surprised a band as important to the Power Metal genre as Stratovarius isn't bigger on the site. They're much more popular in Europe, and even Japan, than in the United States. Go figure.
Formed by a member that isn't even in the band any more, the group is now made up of vocalist Timo Kotipelto, pianist Jens Johansson, Timo Tolkki on guitar, Lauri Porra on bass and Jorg Michael on the drums. The band's members aren't ideal. Timo has that rather high pitched power metal voice, but just as it is in any other good power metal band, you don't really care. You also don't care for the sometimes mediocre lyrics, but you enjoy the sometimes good poetry. You care more about the power metal guitarist (singular, since apparently there's only one guitar), who plays the power metal solos and the power metal riffs, and the power metal drums, which aren't exactly completely insane. The drummer is more than a basic hat/snare/bass drummer, but less than a crazy death metal, double-bass-addicted, tom-roll to drum-roll to everything combined drummer. He's only that sometimes, on the more extreme songs. He has a satisfying number of nice fills and does his job well. And of course there's the bassist, whose name is feminine but is actually a guy, making him somewhat of a hermaphrodite, is there too, though it's sometimes a bit difficult to notice. He's leaning closer to being an "I don’t mind him" member rather than "the perfect bassist" kind of member. The guitarist is the closest thing to desirable, being the power metal guitarist he is. He has the necessary skills to take the carry his band to the next level. He has the needed riffs and tremendous soloing skills for any power metal band, especially one as important to the genre as Stratovarius, to be respected and loved by other fans and groups.
For forty years, the rainbow shall not appear
For forty years, it shall be seen every day
The parched earth shall wax drier every day
And a great flood when it shall appear
The introduction of the album is a rather poor representation of the rest of the album. Even though it is very catchy, it does not show very much skill at any position. The drums are very simple, as is the bass and even the guitars a bit. The next two songs are much, much stronger everywhere, especially in the drums. There are some excellent fills throughout the songs, and they easily flow through to the next part of the song. The guitar solos are much more advanced and impressive as well. The lyrics are lagging behind in "Black Diamond," with "Your gaze, those eyes are tantalizing openly/ inviting me to get close to you/ I can't help myself." "Forever Free" is a tremendous improvement though, with "The thing I need is privacy, some guiding, depriving, misleading, and combining/They're watching our every move/They try to bind our arms but they can't chain our minds or hearts...we're forever free." In all, the lyrics are up and down, from painfully bad ("Many miles are between us/I'm sending my love from this payphone") to inspirational ("As we are reaching the end of the century, there's a message we can send/Be strong and bold and never lose your mind 'cause we are the last"), to even quoting Nostradamus, one of the great philosophers of the 1500s.
The drums continue their strong performances through the rest of the album. Excluding the ballads, the drums provide great fills, double-bass-ing and roll in every song, from the hats to toms to snare. As mentioned, the guitars are very good everywhere. From the ballads to the actual power metal, there are great parts, from riffs to solos in the harder, more metal songs, to beautiful acoustic passages, even reminiscent of Opeth in some passages. Every song has at least one memorable riff, solo or fill, or all of them. The best of the best guitar parts make the best of the best songs.
Of course, there are the ballads. The beautiful, mellow and calm, perfect to chill to and say "ah" when it starts ballads. They're often my favorite part of any album, and this is probably true to this one. There's "Before the Winter" and "Coming Home," with acoustic passages in "Holy Light" (the instrumental) and "Visions" (the title track). My favorite by far is "Coming Home" because it has an absolutely beautiful, shockingly simple, and plainly lovely acoustic part on the guitar. No the lyrics aren't perfect, even cheesy at times ("I'd cross the seven seas just to see your smile again"), but it's just so damn beautiful that I simply don't give a crap. Same goes for the acoustic passage in "Holy Light" and "Visions." They're so friggin' good that every time I hear those guitar parts, everything else doesn't matter. The electric guitar parts following flow too, making them even better. "Coming Home" is a great ballad too, with another great guitar part, even a catchy drum part, and includes a wind solo, probably a clarinet or something of the like.
As you can see, this is a very worthy album deserving of a lot of credit and love. But it doesn't have it. It has excellent guitars and drums, which is exactly what a power metal album needs to be great. It has that, and then some, with the amazing ballads and even good lyrics in certain spots. This album is near perfection in my eyes, and if it's not, it's pretty damn close.
Visions (Southern Cross)
Twenty years of reign of the moon having passed
Seven thousand years another shall hold his monarchy
When the sun shall resume his days past
Then is fulfilled and ends my prophecy