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This first and not very well known album by Stratovarius has not yet the diversity, uniqueness and catchiness of the second and third effort and sounds especially quite different from what one might now from the actual works of what has become one of the most important and well known European power metal bands.
Many songs on this first record are quite straight and have not always something to do with power metal. "Black night" for example reminds a lot of Iron Maiden's "Aces high", it has almost the same main riff and only has a less catchy chorus and a more dynamical drumming and a chaotic ending. "Witch hunt" goes in the same direction and reminds rather of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest in their early years than of power metal bands that were popular at the time of the release. This song is not that original, but it sounds different from the usual stuff of the band and is enjoyable.
Most of the songs have this heavier approach but remind a lot of what would come from this band on the next albums because of slightly progressive keyboard passages and high speed guitar solo passages. The well thought and diversified "False messiah" as well as "Night screamer" would have fit on the following record for example and surprise with catchy bass tones, a tight drumming and the typical playful guitar riffs by Timo Tolkki. I must admit that I am missing that kind of straight forward energy in the shorter songs of the band nowadays that is present in the opener "Future shock" for example. This raw energy is underlined by the production that doesn't really deserve its name and let this album sound like a demo recording if you don't get your hands on a re-mastered edition. But this makes somewhat the charm of this later on quite polished band.
It's only in the second half that the band sounds like an actual power metal band. The brilliant epic title track reminds of a mixture of Helloween and Dio with an opening sequence inspired by Alice Cooper. The song is much diversified and the raw and very audible bass gives a unique heaviness to the track that is in contrast with the atmospheric and somewhat smooth chorus. "Darkness" focuses even more on the atmosphere and has a very dreamy and floating approach where Timo Tolkki shows what a great and underrated singer he is.
The band finally shows its big potential on this first strike that is a charming and convincing record because it is heavier, edgier and straighter than what you might expect from the band. The power metal vibes are only present in the two epic and promising longer tracks; the other songs have rather a heavy or speed metal approach and make this record an interesting experience. It's sure that the band hasn't yet found its very own style and the song writing is not yet as brilliant as on the following outputs, but this record is truly energizing and different from the other stuff of the band. Those who find the band too cheesy, commercial or predictable nowadays should check out the first three albums of this group and may be surprised while the usual fans of the band won't be disappointed with that album anyway.
It took me some time before this album eventually grew on me but when it finally grew, it did it hugely and I really like the first steps of the band. It's surely not yet a masterpiece of an album, it is eventually quite short and some songs might not be better than good fillers, but it is a different experience compared to the later works and worth a few tries.
Everyone has to have a beginning-one of the biggest names in power metal made theirs with this humble little debut. Despite the general simplicity of "Fright night," it's a solid album, though it would probably only be enjoyed by Stratovarius fans ad those interested in early power metal.
At this time, Stratovarius only consisted of three and a half members (the half was the sometimes-used keyboardist, Antti Ikoenen). Tuomo Lassila (drums), Jykri Lentonen (bass) and Timo Tolkki (vocals and guitar) made up the rather thing, though still rockin' sound. I have a feeling that the somewhat muted sound was due to production as opposed to the performance, as all the guys definitely weren't without merit. Tolkki's awesome riffs and solos still reigned, while his vocals, for the most part, were surprisingly strong (despite an occasionally strained sound and a couple of cracks here and there). There are a lot of cleverly written drum lines, though percussion wasn't so prominent at that time. Keyboards existed merely in the background, as at this time Stratovarius wasn't so progressive.
Lyrically, "Fright Night" is uncomplicated, in some places not entirely making sense-though thankfully, it's easy to understand what was trying to be communicated. The ideas are good, some of which recur throughout the band's ensuing albums. However, there are references to witches for instance, and other things which do not appear in other work. The dark feeling is not only musically, but lyrically-there are countless references to darkness and night, which is the thing that unites all the songs.
The music is, as I said, darker and more power. There are many time and melody changes, as well as more musical interludes and longer introductions. Anyone who complains about Strato-anthems should pick up this album: there aren't any.
Starting off the album is "Future Shock," a great song discussing the vision of a nuclear holocaust. Stratovarius still plays around themes of this sort, though it's been expanded. Track two, "False Messiah," is one of my favorites. Like the previous song, the topic is still carried through in later works. With a 1:25-long intro, "False Messiah" contains some nice time changes and a unique chorus... there's something oddly delicate about it. "Black Night" is fast and heavy with some notable guitar work from Tolkki, and again, a great chorus. "Night Screamer" and the title track also contribute to making the album worth owning. "Fright Night" contains two totally opposite instrumentals-the heavy "Fire Dance" and "Goodbye." The latter showcases Tolkki's talent, proving he's capable of more than just heavy riffing.
"Fright Night," though a bit understated, is a solid and very diverse album. I don't feel enough attention is paid to Stratovarius' early work, so here I am, spreading the word.
It's too bad that these songs aren't on Stratovarius's setlist anymore, because some of these songs would absolutely SLAY live, especially with Kotipelto's vocals.
By Stratovarius's obscenely high standards, of course, these songs aren't that great. As an actual album, however, this is good stuff. The best part is the guitar work, as even in the early days we still had Mr. Timo Tolkki to be the heart and soul of the band. Tolkki's influences are as easy to read as a picture book in this first album--a Black Sabbath foundation with Megadeth-style riffage and Iron Maiden melodies and soloing (and the occasional Yngwie-trademark fast-as-fuck solos), with a little bit of Judas Priest sprinkled on top. In other words, he has taken the best parts of the best bands in metal and mixed them together into one ass-kicking guitar player. There are a few wrinkles in the overall guitar sound, and it takes another album or two before Timo irons it out and creates a style that is 100% original and completely his own. In the meantime, however, the riffage is strong and furious, with extremely fast solos and opening chord progressions that simply kick the shit out of you before the actual song even begins.
The other instruments are pretty good, too, although they need some work before they become key parts of the band. The bass work is very solid, although it can barely be heard at times and often stays too close to the drum, preventing it from emerging as a seperate instrument. The drum is furious, and Tuomo is obviously very talented; however, you can tell even here that his style conflicts with the guitars and the songs as a whole. Tuomo's drumming is very aggressive and thrash-oriented, with him often mirroring the rhythm patters of the guitars and therefore drowning the other instruments out. Not only that, but he gets a lot of short little solos--a lot more than are neccessary, or even ideal, for the songs. And yes, the vocals are terrible. Timo is not a vocalist by any stretch of the imagination, and Stratovarius's vocal parts are some of the most difficult of any band I have ever heard--definitely something that should be left to someone who knows what they're doing (Kotipelto).
Overall, though, the sound is a rudimentary version of perfection, and that's not bad at all for a debut album. If you bought some of the later Stratovarius material made during the era of the Fab Five, then don't expect the same thing in their first three albums. It's still worth a purchase, though, if only for Timo's excellent guitar work.