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Stratovarius is a very difficult band to me. They have released extraordinary albums filled with majestic ideas; they have released good and solid albums, a few mediocre records and also a couple of horribly awful records. If the description inconsistence fits to any band, than it fits to Stratovarius. They never fail to surprise both in a positive or negative way. This album here is regarded by many as one of their best ones but I wouldn't agree on that because it is quite similar to the formula of the previous "Visions" and upcoming commercial success of "Infinite". That doesn't mean that it's a bad album as I would still put it in the category of the good and solid albums.
The band has always written great epic songs and it's the same for this record. It's unusual and very refreshing to open the album with the title track that clocks at over ten minutes of running time. The track has an epic and majestic opening that drowns us in a magic mood but I feel quite disappointed about the continuation of the song as it turns very soon into a rather standard power metal anthem. Stratovarius seem to feel the same thing and put some entertaining keyboard and guitar solos as well as a chilling middle part into this track so that the open minded and progressive fans of the band's earlier works like me and the pure power metal maniacs may both be satisfied. "Venus in the morning" is another epic song on the record that takes some time to grow but eventually grows very huge. It's probably my favourite track on the record. I would consider this progressive track as the rare pearl of the album and a return to the majestic opener. The closing "Anthem of the world" than unites once again progressive diversity with power metal kitsch like the opener and the circle is finally closed.
In between those epic songs, there is a lot of light and shade. The single "S.O.S." surprises as it is not the expectable boring standard high speed power metal track and presents at some points a few very interesting Arabian folk vibes and keyboard interludes. "4000 rainy nights" is a great half ballad with a score like atmospheric beginning and presents an enjoyable potpourri of slow and melodic rhythms and melodies. The chorus is a melodic anthem that won't let you go and stay on your mind for a while. This track is my second favourite one in here. "Years go by" is the true ballad of the album with the usual piano leads but this time the track turns out to be really dreamy and beautiful and reminds me of their upcoming masterpiece "Mother Gaia" that goes even further and is eventually better.
Those were the good sides but there are also some really faceless tracks. "No turning back" is the standard high speed power metal track, a homage to the early Helloween years. At least, the song is well executed but that isn't the case for "Rebel" that is another melodic and ordinary power metal track that the band seems to have to put on every album at least once since Timo Kotipelto is in it. The keyboard sounds are well done but the guitar riffs are just annoying melodic shredding and I know that Timo Tolkki can do much more. "Playing With Fire" is another ordinary power metal track but has at least a somewhat thick and modern sound with guts that distinguishes this track from the other ones.
Let's point out that the bonus tracks are not worth your money and all quite crappy. "Cold winter nights" is another ordinary power metal standard track, "Dream with me" an ordinary additional ballad and "Blackout" a mediocre cover version of a Scorpions song. You simply don't need anything of it.
In the end, the epic songs are worth to be listened to and for one of the rare times the single and the two ballads of the album are as well convincing. But the other half of the album is only standard power metal that offers nothing special or new and one couldn't talk about this album as a masterpiece or summit of creativity. I still think that it is a transitory album stuck in between "Visions" and "Infinite" which I prefer both slightly to this one. This one here is neither a masterpiece nor a disasterpiece. But anybody that likes the two other albums might like this record as well. For those who are looking for the band's summit of creativity, you should check out "Dreamspace" as well as the previous "Twilight time" and the successor "Fourth dimension".
It never ceases to amaze me how many great bands there are out there. I consider myself to know a wide variety and amount of music, but I know that I've barely scratched the surface of the amount of music out there. So here I am the power metal freak that I am already a huge fan of bands like Helloween, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Edguy, Sonata Arctica, and Demons & Wizards discovering Stratovarius. Now, they had popped up before but this was the first time I really discovered them. Wow!
I have to say I was impressed at once and in turn downloaded about 30 songs from four different albums. Yet another band that I love added to my collection. This album, Destiny is just another great power metal band showing what they have. So many times I wonder how all these amazing bands aren't popular and how come I can't go to a normal store and buy their albums.
Anyway, Destiny is an almost perfect power metal album, except several flaws. While most of the songs are marvelous romps through the magical land of power, there are some occasional weak spots. At times it gets a little generic and uninteresting, a flaw I constantly find with some bands such as Sonata Arctica. But still after listeneing to a lot of power metal, this does not bore me.
I have to give credit to the title track Destiny. Pushing over ten minutes it never stops coming and it is most likely my favorite Stratovarius song. Starting off with a soft melodic single voice and building into multiple strong voices singing the same line, it creates an awesome effect. The song features some of the best Stratovarius has to offer.
Another song I really like is 4000 Rainy Nights a slower song with just one of the most spectacular melodies to ever grace a power metal disc. The vocals are heartfelt from when they enter to the end and it just flows like a ballad. Something that makes the song unique is that while with some other power stuff I disect it and point out flaws, but with this song I just can't resist sitting back and listening. It's just that good a song. Plus every time I hear the chorus I get the goosebumps because it's so catchy.
Now, on with the rest. We have songs like Rebel with shredding that's fast and good but what band doesn't have shredding. Playing With Fire however chooses a mid-tempo instead of a quick one and chooses a slower heavy yet melodic riff instead. The track isnt a masterpiece but still is a strong track. Another song is one a lot of people seem to like, including me. The song is SOS a catchy interesting metal song featuring a Destiny like melodicm line the song is based around. While not as breathtaking as Destiny the song is a shorter more structured song so it also incorporates a really catchy chorus.
If you can't already hear the album in your ears then I will make it so you can. think of Symphony X shredding, Yngwie Malmsteen style, fused with Michael Kiske like vocals with more edge, then add typical power metal drums beating out triplets and there you go. As for 4000 Rainy Nights, you'll have to hear that for yourself.
Note: Please excuse the bad title, I find it hard to resist.
This is the greatest work by the five person shred machine known as Stratovarius. Throughout their tenure in the metal scene, they have followed the quintessential format of the power metal genre, write songs with melody and amazing choruses, blaze away on your instruments between the vocal sections, and display the amazing range of your singer.
Suffice to say, Stratovarius embodies the very essence of the power metal genre, the merging of traditional NWOBHM and speed metal with Prog. Metal and Shred. You can listen to the whole album and hear influences from such acts as "The Scorpions", "Yngwie Malmsteen" "Helloween", "Dio" as well as prog. acts including "Queensryche" and "Rush".
The line-up that makes this band underscores the integrity that manifests itself on this album. Former Axel Rudi Pell drummer Jorg Michael, and former Malmsteen keyboardist Jens Johannsen join forces with 3 amazing Finnish metal artists to give us both a taste of the old and a little something new. On this album, Timo Kotipelto's vocals basically dwarf all the others, with Jens' keyboard holding it's own quite well. Jorg's drums are triumphant and bombastic, while Jari Kainulainen provides what sometimes sounds like a second lead guitar. Timo Tolkki's riffs are powerful, and his solos have a rather interesting mix of Malmsteen and Hansen mixed together. So here's how the songs break down.
1. Destiny - We kick off this album with a 10 minute plus epic loaded with choir tracks and dominated by a very catchy main melody. The overall structure exists in 3 sections, the introduction which develops the main melody for a few minutes, followed by the traditional song structure section which highlights a highly triumphant chorus, and is concluded with a very beautiful choral section where Timo Kotipelto leads a choir of heavenly and manages to sing above the female back up singers. Astounding is the best word I can think to describe it.
2. S.O.S. (Save our souls) - This one sounds pretty much like a shorter continuation of Destiny at the beginning, though it quickly evolves into a more straightforward rocker. Kotipelto's vocals basically drive this song the whole way through and bring it to an amazing conclusion when he shoots into the upper stratosphere. The keyboard work and the additional female back up singers complement this one nicely.
3. No Turning Back - A high speed thrill ride that reminds me alot of "Speed of Light" off of Episode (which I regard as their second best release). Here Tolkki gives us one of his better riffs and Jorg serves up a powerful blast beat to launch this song into the realm of greatness.
4. 4000 Rainy Nights - A huge change of pace, this is probably one of my favorite ballads by this band. Tolkki proves that he is capable of toning down the shredding when it's called for and gives us a beautiful set of melodic solos, but once again Kotipelto steals the show. The radio-like outro with the rain in the background is a nice touch as well.
5. Rebel - Tolkki is back with another great intro riff, although I must say the lyrics on this one are a bit cheesy. Solid performance by Jorg Michaels on the kit as well.
6. Years go by - Another ballad, but this one having a radically different atmosphere, dominated more by a haunting piano line. Kotipelto's voice is high sub-dued during the verse, and then jumps up for some dramatic wails during the louder chorus. Tolkki gives us another beautiful melodic solo.
7. Playing with fire - Textbook 80s glam rock with heavier guitars and less sleazy sounding vocals. Although this one doesn't have all the speed trappings unique to the power metal genre, it is quite catchy and will stick with you once you give it a chance.
8. Venus in the Morning - This is a highly progressive sounding quasi-ballad, highlighting the various ways that both Johannsen and Tolkki can manipulate the sound of their instruments. It literally sounds like the song is being played on the planet Venus. Another highly dramatic performance by Kotipelto, who dazzles yet again with his high range in the hard section of this song.
9. Anthem of the World - Another long one to rival the title track, although this one doesn't have quite as many changes in it. The lyrics here are a bit less powerful, although the instrumental performance more than makes up for it. The female back up singers are back for the rather long ending, and Kotipelto leads them on with his wide range. Good performance on the keys here, and an amazing solo by Tolkki.
10. Cold Winter Nights - One would expect the album to end with an epic, but Stratovarius has been known to change their ending style from album to album, and here we close with a mid-tempo rocker. Good all around performance here, and an excellent closer for an amazing album.
In conclusion, this album is in dire need of being bought by fans of all genres connected with the power metal scene of the late 90s. Stratovarius has been with us for a long time, long before power metal was fashionalbe, and hopefully they will be around long after it falls back underground.
Really not that much in the way progression made from the previous album this time...what we have here is best described as "another solid Stratovarius entry". Thrown our way is more of the same melodic power metal of the highest caliber that 'Visions' mastered the year before, somewhat reminiscent of a less proggy Dream Theater around 'Images and Words' - think that album's most straightforward moments (i.e. "Pull Me Under"), with speed metal riffs thrown in. But that's just ONE of the influences - other ones I've mentioned in earlier reviews include Yngwie Malmsteen (in Tolkii's lead work, and in some of the themes), Queensrÿche (in Kotipelto's vocals, and quite often in general melody, atmosphere and mood) and Helloween (again; in Kotipelto's vocals and also in the band's riffage, instrumentation and production, and as you know, early Helloween along with Iron Maiden is essentially where the modern power metal sound originates), though it's important to point out that the style displayed on this disc is really only one group's - Stratovarius's. Each album up to this point has served to progressively forge an identity of Stratovarius's own, and in light of the contemporary explosion of power metal started in '97/'98, Stratovarius have now reached the point where other bands will start copying THEM.
Now, one COULD argue that Strato's formula is starting to wear a little thin by now, because this album is where the general "recycling factor" or I've-heard-this-before feel is starting to feel more than a little overt, but I think I'll let that pass this time. After all, having developed such an incredibly original and recognizable sound over the years, only to push it to even greater heights with the previous album, falling in the slightest of creative ruts (or simply not doing anything in the way of progressing) shouldn't be so hard to forgive. That said, I would be lying if I said that their fast numbers do not sound similar to each other in the least, or that a number of riffs and melodies on here are not directly borrowed from earlier works, but hey, if it's only for one album...perhaps the next album will redeem? (*SPOILERS* Unfortunately, this problem would only get even worse there and subsequent outputs too would all continue this downward spiral of fading creativity and/or quality, with an unhappy Bloodstone as a result. Rats. *END SPOILERS*)
As I said, there isn't much new for Stratovarius done on this album, but if someone pointed a gun to my head and, you know, I had to say SOMETHING, I suppose I could pick out a couple of things, then... First of all, I remember Timo Tolkii saying in an interview that this was his most "personal" album to date, and this is somewhat evident both in a certain shift of the lyrical content (more down to earth, less fantasy stuff) and, more importantly, in the music being a tad more melo-dramatic and "deep" in its way of conveying emotion. Which leads me to the fact that the mix here is a little more "deep" and "echoic", in lack of more professional sounding technical terms - also worthy of noting is the vocal mix here, occasionally bringing that of Queensrÿche to mind. For example, the single coolest moment on the entire album, namely the second half of the verse in "S.O.S.": "I've been thinking, I've been trying, but I've always been denying" - a totally cool vocal line to begin with, and with this vocal effect it turns into something otherworldly and just grabs you by the genitals and does not let go until the awesome chorus (wow that didn't make much sense now did it).
The other thing is that there's a greater element of "pop" here than before; not by much, but it's there. Not a bad thing at all in my book, as I would personally rank "Playing With Fire" as the top track on here, much due to having another inexplicably amazing and *well-constructed* vocal moment that is the entire pre-chorus: "I see the look, the shine in her eyes/Can't let her go, she's so divine/There's no one who can stop me now/She'll be mine". Simplistic for Stratovarius, but as the same time equally inventive and unique for them and stands as a precursor to a few later "pop" songs released as singles (starting with "Hunting High & Low"). Continuing the matter of 80's pop, a few tracks have this certain "bass-synth" effect to them, never seen before or after on a Stratovarius album: it's most notable in the verse of the aforementioned "S.O.S.". The fluffy yet surprisingly tolerable and appealing ballad "4000 Rainy Nights" I should also mention here as the other major pop/commercial type of song. Definitely some sort of nod to Qr's "Another Rainy Night (Without You)" going on here (in a combination of having a similar title, lyrical theme, structure and one particular vocal line - you'll know it when you hear it), and overall this is hands down the second greatest ballad they ever did, sap level accounted for.
The other ballads on here are certainly NOT among their finest moments however, which brings me to the one major beef there is to be had here. You see, on paper there are three ballads on here, of which one is good ("4000 Rainy Nights"), one halfway decent ("Venus in the Morning") and one utter crocodile feces ("Years Go By"). Doesn't look too good to begin with, and gets even worse when you take those completely unnecessary and lengthy outro sections of the title track and "Anthem of the World" into account, adding up to some extra five or six minutes of weak, stale, emotionless and COMPLETELY by-the-numbers balladry. Otherwise these two songs are actually not bad at all - especially the title track which is actually one of their staples - it's just that neither of them benefits from being over eight minutes in length, as they are essentially five/six minute songs of regular speedy Stratovarius fare, but with added slow outro sections for some god unknown reason. Trim the fat, I say!
Every remaining track I have not mentioned up to this point is either a highlight or just solid. Typical quality Stratovarius, not much else to say. Well, of further special interest would be "Cold Winter Nights", which is probably the perfect bonus track imaginable; not quite in line with the rest of the tracks in general feel and also a little overtypical and underdeveloped for a Stratovarius song, but still containing well enough catchy riffs and overall enjoyable songwriting to make it worth the effort of recording/mixing. See the two bonus tracks on Running Wild's 'Black Hand Inn' for a similar example of how it should be done. Oh and special mention goes out to excellent booklet/jewel case art and design too - for nailing the dark, spacey and mysterious concept they were going for here, for everything looking perfectly coherent and well-placed and, most of all, for having that special really thick *smell* I love so much - see (sniff?) the booklet of Judas Priest's 'Turbo' (the remastered version anyway) for more of the same. Probably the frequent use of that special fuzzy red nuance causing it...
And so ends Stratovarius's "glorious" era...the next album is where the inconsistency and lacking inspiration addressed already to a certain extent on this album will REALLY become a problem. Until next time, fellow readers...
Yes, yes...I know that Stratovarius is power metal and shouldn't be spoken in the same breath as Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, etc., but I can't help but notice the definite 80s flavor oozing out of many pores of this epic masterpiece. Yes, I consider this a masterpiece.(Something that no mere 80s metal band could create I don't think) Kotipelto has such a high, soaring voice which sounds very akin to many 80s metal vocalists, but the musical quality of this disc overshadows that comparison by a long shot. IMO, this is better than anything I've heard from Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, and Symphony X. Don't hold me to that, because I may change my mind. However, that's what I'm feeling right now. I find the vocals to be much more emotional and pleasing to my ears, despite being harder to sing. (I can imitate Russell Allen and Matt Barlow much better than I can Timo Kotipelto), and the overall music itself is more emotional and not as cheesy. Certain keyboard, guitar, and vocal parts from Iced Earth, Symphony X, and Blind Guardian(especially Blind Guardian) just make me want to laugh. Even though I don't think all metal should be taken seriously and I don't mind silly bands like Cradle of Filth from time to time, I like the fact that I CAN take Stratovarius more seriously. It's a combination of the band's more realistic lyrical content, the frequent shades of mainstream guitar sounds, and the heartfelt vocals that enable me to appreciate the band more than that of the aforementioned bands. They seem to have the ability to take a virtually defunct genre of metal and spruce it up to meet today's standards and it's just incredible.
The album opens with the title track, which is nothing short of godly. Opening with melancholy female choral vocals, the song speeds along for a little over eleven minutes, incorporating a very emotional musical breakdown near the end of the track. I'm thinking that this song should have been put nearer the end of the album, but maybe it WAS a good move on their part. I don't know.
S.O.S. is a straightforward heavy rocker that has the conviction of a song from Queensryche's album Operation:Mindcrime. I can somewhat agree with one reviewer who thinks of Strato as being more of a rock band than a metal band. Much of the guitars have a 'lighter' sound that could be construed as just rock; however, I believe they deserve to be called a metal band because of their musical virtuosity and the heaviness that IS apparent.
No Turning Back is just another song in the vein of S.O.S, perhaps being a tad more balladic.
4000 Rainy Nights is a decent ballad, although a little cheesy.
Rebel is a kick-ass aggressive number.
Years Go By is another heartfelt ballad, Playing With Fire is a forgettable rocker, Venus in the Morning is an AMAZING ballad, Anthem of the World is another uplifting epic, and the bonus track Cold Winter Nights is a damn awesome, technical bonus track that well closes this fantastic album. Buy now.
This album, including the bonus track, Cold Winter Nights, gets my vote for the Best Album Ever. It kicks ass from beginning to end and, contrary to the opinions of some of those who have reviewed this album *cough cough* who shy away from words like "variety" and "emotional," the ballads on this album only serve to strengthen the album as a whole and give the album enough diversity in its songs to please (almost) everybody. The title track, Destiny, is a fantastic epic that makes excellent use of an operatic backup chorus combined with an super-strong guitar style to create the feeling of listening to a major symphony while still retaining the intensely metal feel of Stratovarius. The more high-speed power tracks on here, like S.O.S. and No Turning Back, are excellent benchmarks of the power and speed that Stratovarius can produce. The ballads, like 4000 Rainy Nights, are slow and melodic that, while being a turnoff to some, really make the album the three-dimensional piece that it is. The best song on here by far is the obscenely catchy Playing with Fire which, in addition to being the definitive headbanger's classic, uses powerful riffs to prove that Power Metal doesn't have to be fast to be great. The other more epic power song, Anthem of the World, has an orchestral opening followed by a fantastic first power chord by the guitar that will knock you flat on your ass. Finally, the bonus track, Cold Winter Nights, combines catchy riff work with powerful vocals for a fitting conclusion to this absolute masterpiece.
There are no less than six classic songs on here: Destiny, the super-epic masterpiece; No Turning Back, featuring that elusive impossible-to-fuck-up opening riff; 4000 Rainy Nights, the ballad that highlights just how fucking amazing Timo Kotipelto really is; Playing with Fire, a super-catchy rifforama and my *favorite* Startovarius song; Anthem of the World, which contains what is perhaps the coolest opening 1:30 I have ever heard in an epic; and Cold Winter Nights, which has another do-no-evil opening riffset combined with a really cool solo section.
To put it bluntly, this album eternally justifies any crap the metal world can crank out, simply because it serves as a reminder that the metal world can also put out music that kick ass like nothing else. The metal world calls for a paragon of musical talent to lead the wave of tomorrow, and Stratovarius has answered the call with Destiny.
You should be ashamed of yourself if you don't already own this incredible example of metal perfection. Get it RIGHT NOW, and keep going.