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I first heard of Stratovarius when I was looking for some good power metal to add to my collection, and their name popped up. This is not the album to listen to if you're new to the band, because it doesn't make a very good impression upon you.
"II" or "Twilight Time," if you bought the reissue, is slightly below average release that has a few standout tracks on it. However at this point in the bands career with this being only Stratovarius' second release it's somewhat expected.
The guitarwork and the skill that the instruments are played with is probably the one reason I occasionally keep coming back to listen to this album. It's not very good, but it's still somewhat enjoyable to listen to. Stylistically the music on "II" isn't exactly power metal, or at least what people think of as power metal today. It's slower, darker, and more melodic sounding and is more of an early forerunner to what would become power metal, and there are even traces of what would become symphonic power metal.
For the most part the guitarwork and by extension the entire album sounds, for lack of a better word, boring. Most of the riffs aren't very memorable, and seem to be the same generic recycled riffs appearing multiple times throughout the album. The guitar solos are better than the riffing, and make the songs more enjoyable to listen to. One thing I did enjoy was the keyboards featured on the album, although I found them to be a bit lacking and simplisitic.
The main thing that I dont' like about this album is Timo Tolki's vocals. I dont' consider him a bad singer, just dry, bland, and boring. Yet at the same time, it seems to fit the melancholy, somewhat dark music.
Overall, "II" is enjoyable to listen to, albeit boring. The standout tracks are "The Hands of Time" and "Twilight Time."
The significance of Stratovarius’ formative years in the late 80s and early 90s was one of demonstrable impact, not so much in the eyes of most who now follow European power metal, but more so in the nuances of how the style initially developed. While obviously free of the quirky rock and jazz experiments that plagued Helloween at around this time period, this is a very different version of the band that still had one foot firmly placed at the height of 80s speed/power metal, which was equally as informed by American and British sounds as it was by the neo-classical techniques that was just beginning to cross pollinate via the influence of Malmsteen. Right in the midst of a changing in the guard of mainstream and extreme metal where speed/thrash and archaic heavy metal fell from favor stands “Twilight Time”, an album that is often ignored or passed off as an SRB booster rocket that marked a move towards the current cliché Finnish power metal sound, but doesn’t really embody most of its well known elements.
This is an album that, like its predecessor “Fright Night”, is a bit darker and heavier than the high flying, melodic intrigue that embodies their most renowned album “Visions”. There is a strong helping of Black Sabbath and early 80s Ozzy Osbourne influences that coat the majority of the songs heard on here, particularly in Timo Tolkki’s heavier and slower riff set approach. A slow paced, almost doom metal sounding haunting fest like “The Hills Have Eyes” could be closer likened to a creepy take on early Candlemass, though Tolkki’s vocals are strongly tilted towards a prototypical 80s vocalist in the mold of a Steve Grimmett and John Deverill, though with less banshee screams. Even the occasional acoustic work that chimes in on epic creeper “Madness Strikes At Midnight” and mid-paced rocker “Twilight Time” are more akin to the mania inducing horror fests of early Ozzy and a number of post-NWOBHM American heavy metal bands who were equally as interested in the mystical and the obscure as the more occult oriented thrash metal bands.
While the album is largely a holdover from a time period that most of the artists who influenced it had moved away from, there is a small helping of forward looking speed metal that provides the missing link between the late 90s explosion of bands in the now stereotypical mold, and the late 80s experiments brought forth by Helloween. “Out Of The Shadows” is something of an outlier in that it sounds remarkably upbeat, almost like a less fancy version of “Eagle Fly Free” with a typical Tolkki riff set that would later become standardized on such songs as “Father Time” and “Forever Free”. In similar fashion, “Hands Of Time”, which was the song that introduced me to the band, embodies a number of somewhat darker but still very triumphant sounding anthems, spearheaded by a principle melody that is about as irresistibly catchy as the one regularly heard at sporting events in “The Final Countdown”, but without the incessant level of repetition. This is the song that keeps coming back to mind whenever I hear a number of keyboard happy numbers out of Edguy, Avantasia and Dionysus in the later 90s and 2000s.
How this album should be approached relies very strongly on how attached one is to what is currently understood to be power metal, because it isn’t of that mold. As best as can be ascertained, this is like a sped up, late 80s answer to “Diary Of A Madman” with just a slight glimpse of coming trends in European melodic metal. If sounding comparable to “Visions” is a must for the prospective buyer, this is probably bargain bin fodder, but for someone who has a preference towards USPM and early heavy metal, this is one of a small handful of albums put out by this band that may be worth your time. Those who listen to both, who are probably more prevalent than some would admit, will recognize this as being a solid album that is not quite the best representation of the band’s sound, but is qualitatively better than a number of their later releases with their best known lineup.
This album is one of the most underrated albums in the discography of Stratovarius as it came only out about three years after the debut album, had no significant album title at the time and is until now almost completely ignored during the live shows of the band. But if one takes the time to discover this second album, one will appreciate its darker and heavier tone in comparison to the band's later trademarks.
A lot of the songs have very dark introductions that almost fit to horror movies and their symphonic scores and this develops a quite eerie atmosphere that isn't typical at all for the genre. The catchy "The hands of time" shows us where Edguy took its inspiration for "Vain glory opera" and the original is even more melodic and catchy. "Madness strikes at midnight" is a dark and progressive epic tale that has no single second of boredom and is surely my favourite track of the album. The introduction begins with tribal drums, acoustic guitars and weird keyboard sounds of a misty wind and scratching doors that make you feel as if there was a dark spirit floating through some kind of an ancient castle. This brilliant introduction leads to a faster and very powerful part with an amazing solo before the real song actually kicks of and unites the dark and morbid atmosphere of the introduction with perfect melodic metal standards such as a powerful chorus and many catchy melody lines. "The hills have eyes" also convinces with a very atmospheric introduction including the mysterious sounds of bells as well as a dark toned keyboard bridge that somewhat honour the style of the infamous horror movies of the same name. Timo Tolkki doesn't only do some short but intense guitar solos, he also sings in a very dreamy and melancholic way and gives this album a very eerie mood that a very melodic and happy Timo Kotipelto would not have been able to recreate in such a way.
This album is in fact mostly about horror and fear which is rather unusual for a power metal band. This album works almost like a movie score and tries to reach out for the emotions of those who listen to this mysterious and surprising record. That's maybe why many fans of the band's usual works had some problems to get an approach to this album. But there are still some glimpses of light in all those shades.
The shorter tracks like the surprisingly heavy opener "Break the ice" or the catchy ballad "Out of the shadows" that even literally fits to the album with its title because it is probably the most positive track on the record as well as the simple but still progressive and somewhat unique instrumental break "Metal Frenzy" fit perfectly into this albums and succeed to maintain the eerie atmosphere of the darker vibes of the album by being more commercial and slightly lighter. If those songs would be rerecorded and published as singles, they would surely gain a certain attention and success as they have the typical power metal trademarks without being too polished and cheesy.
That's what I really like about this record because it reunites the typical genre trademarks but still sounds different, atmospheric and original so that it could even please to those who often criticize that the band sounds too mediocre and commercial. This album has its own unique vibe and shows a different side of the band as we know them nowadays. This is an album that should have gained more attention and maybe this review may help you to discover or even re-discover this underrated early gem.
Twilight time is the second LP of this finnish classic heavy/power metal band. In this recording, known originaly as "Stratovarius II", appears a more serious keyboard work (played by Antti Ikonen) and a better effort in vocals (by guitarrist Timo Tolkki) than in the previous album. The drums was played by Tuomo Lassila who made an impressive work at the same time that he was the co-writer of the lyrics in 5 tracks. Of course, the guitar of Tolkki is outstanding, obtaining a heavy but very technical sound. Curiously the bassist who appears in the credits didn`t play (Jari Behm) in this album, and the bass lines was played by Tolkki.
The opening track, "Break the ice" is a slow but powerful song that include a very interesting bass bridge before the guitar solo. Although, "The hands of time" is the showy song of the album, wich have a keyboard intro that make it the most similar track to the later Stratovarius. Song like "Madness strikes at midnight", "Twilight time" and "The hills have ice", are very repetitive and have a very decorative synth, which don`t mean that are boring songs, but weren`t the best. Mr. Tolkki include an instrumental track called "Metal frenzy" with a repetitive initial riff, but a thrilling ending. Possibly the most complete song is "Out of the shadows", with an important keyboard work in complement to the fast and powerfull guitar riffs. Finally "Lead us into the light" is an acoustic balad with a distortioned slow but emotive end riff.
Twilight time in my opinion is the heaviest album of Stratovarius, but shows a little bit of the later Kotipelto`s age. It isn`t a classic recording and is more focused to the fans of the band.
Calihector`s favorites: Break the Ice, Hands of time, Out of the shadows.
I hesitate to blaspheme the name of Stratovarius by putting it in the same sentence as "weak", but the adjective is mildly appropriate for this second album.
There are some good songs in here, for sure. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of filler and subpar playing by the band. Timo's guitar playing is generally good, as always, and there are some good solos in here and some strong riffs. There are also a lot of boring solos that don't seem to go anywhere and recycled riffs that bring good songs to standstills. With the introduction of keyboards to the album, another key part of Stratovarius is added to the group, thus further developing their sound. The vocals are much improved over the first album, with Timo hitting some notes that definitely weren't there in the middle section of Fright Night. I can also hear the bass this time around, which is good. Tuomo's drumming, however, is becoming a bit of a liability for the band, as you never know when it's going to go into a frenzy and overpower all of the other instruments (it happens quite often), and his rhythms are often at odds with the direction of the songs, creating a lot of tension in the playing.
Understand that there aren't many Stratovarius songs that I honestly don't like. That said, I honestly don't like Break the Ice. It sounds way too much like a subpar Metallica song--kind of like an exceptionally boring bonus track to Master of Puppets. It does not work at all with the style of the band, and it gets way too repetitive, which is not a concern I should be having when listening to Stratovarius. Out of the rest of the songs, the only highlights are The Hands of Time, which has a fast headbanging pace, great guitar work and very nice vocals, and Out of the Shadows, which is very anthemic and sounds like a precursor to later Stratovarius works of a similar vein, such as Hunting High & Low and Eagleheart.
Unless you owe your immortal soul to Stratovarius (as I do), then this is a definite try-before-you-buy number. I'm not saying you shouldn't buy it--it's a fundamentally solid album. It's just not up to the same level as most of Stratovarius's stuff.
Stratovarius second album is decent power metal. It starts out pretty fast with Break the Ice, which also has cool symphonic's in the beginning. Then the whole idea of symphonics die. The beginning songs are great, filled with decent power metal vocals and riffs, but at the album title song Twilight Time, it starts getting boring. There aren't enough riffs, everything is slowed down, and the songs are just to damn long. Like I mentioned the first couple songs kick ass. Break the Ice has a nice drum beat with the main riff, and the shattering of the ice at the end of the song - Come on, that is awsome! The solo's are just amazing, Tolki is up there with some of my favorite guitarists. The solo's definetly have some neo classical, progressive style going on! Lyrics are your basic power metal. The vocals are some what different from other future Stratovarius releases. The vocals are kind of scratchy and not as smooth as they turn out to be in the future. Another thing that I noticed with this album is that it has a lot of Gamma Ray influence, especially on the song The Hands of Time!!! When the song Twilight Time comes in then everything goes downhill. Slow songs with fill in riffs. Or fill in songs? They could have cut these last couple songs and the album would be up there with Visions and Episode! The only song towards the end of this album that is worthy is The Hills Have Eyes. It starts off slow and crappy, but then goes into this awsome drum beat and cool Strato style riff! Overall, not the greatest Stratovarius, but a classic nonetheless!