without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
The voice of Stratovarius, Timo Kotipelto, returned last year with his 3rd solo album after 3 long years. The last one 'Coldness' (2004) was a disappointment for me, because 'Waiting for the Dawn' (2002) is a really good heavy metal platter, having stood the test of time without bending a single bit. That's why I had a lot of expectations towards 'Serenity'.
But what the fuck has happened? Mr. Kotipelto's composition quill has gone blunt. Badly. Was this album collected around the movie song 'Sleep Well', which sadly is one of the better songs on offer? "Vares 2" is the movie where the song is featured in, but Raid kicks Vares' arse 100-0! The main problem with most of these ten songs is the blandness they are filled with. As the lyrics of 'Mr. Know-It-All' say fittingly: "Time and again the same ol' song." Yep, that's the problem here, because it is same old stuff, just without anything special, anywhere. I think it's more straight than ever, which could work, but as said, the songs feel old. There is catchiness, as always with Kotipelto's music, but that alone isn't enough. The highlights are the closer, multi-parted 'Last Defender', and punch-packed 'Dreams and Reality' which harks back to the wonderful feelings of the debut album. 'Once upon a Time', 'Sleep Well', the title track and 'Angels Will Cry' are all good enough songs, but the rest are average or even crap. The ballad of the album (why on Earth must there be a ballad on every fucking heavy metal album anyways?!), rosey 'After the Rain' is close to totally gay except for Timo's wonderful calm vocals (the line from the lyrics: "As the rain pours on and all is g(r)ay"). So, half of the songs are so-so or bad, not a good thing! I have to credit Mr. Kotipelto for keeping up his characteristic work, as this is a individual mixture between neo-classical (Symphony X) and older hard rock (Rainbow etc.), not so much Stratovarius.
Speaking of Symphony X, guitarist Tuomas Wäinölä is playing a bit in Mike Romeo style. The rhythm section is also good, which is no surprise as the drums are handled by Thunderstone skinsman Mirka Rantanen and the bass by Lauri Porra, who is the new Stratovarius four-stringer. Children Of Bodom's Janne Wirman plays the keyboards, but he utilizes some truly crappy sounds for some reason (e.g. on 'Serenity' and 'Angels...'). How about Mr. Kotipelto himself? He's an okay singer, but he usually is way too extravagant, singing more than his skills approve. So here, too. And trademark Kotipelto Enklish is not too nice to hear... The lyrics are based on real life, but aren't very good. Soundwise this is of high quality, heavy, organic and well balanced. Cover artwork reminds me of Sonata Arctica, but does bear careful examination, so it's pretty well done.
Better than Mr. Tolkki's solos... And as we Finns say: "Even at the crappiest the heavy metal is the best." That's not to say, that this is crap, no, but this ain't the best either, just about average only effort. Hopefully Kotipelto will journey back to ancient Egypt, or some other mythical land, in the future, because this real life stuff does not give anykind of mythic experience.
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2008)