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The heavy metal record - 77%

kluseba, February 22nd, 2011

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.