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For anyone wishing that power metal albums would just get to the point, popping Infinite into your CD player is the way to go, seeing as it starts off with two of the most energetic and immediately satisfying songs from Stratovarius's discography. Purely for the singles 'Hunting High and Low' and 'A Million Light Years Away', as well as the buoyant and powerful 'Millenium', I would say Infinite is a necessary purchase for all fans of power metal, unless your idea of the genre extends to Sabaton and no further.
Coming hot on the heels of the excellent Destiny, Stratovarius took their brand of exciting, optimistic power metal into the realms of big production and bigger budgets, as the shining quality of the recording is quick to attest. By this point in their career, usually more classically power metal and less speed metal than their German peers like Helloween and Gamma Ray, the Finns were pushing the orchestral side of things and loading up their songs with bombast in a manner that would be familiar to Rhapsody of Fire if only there were more flutes and lyrics about dragons. The keyboards of Jens Johansson play a large but not overwhelming role in the shaping of some of the songs, diddling along like a second guitar on the more energetic likes of 'Phoenix', while adding "epic" (remember those scare quotes, I'm coming back to them in a minute) atmospheres, choirs, and strings to some of the slower songs and instrumental sections. I'm not sure if this period of Stratovarius has a direct comparison in the rest of the European power metal scene, since their fast songs tend to sound quite distinctive, while the more progressive pieces are often fairly soft, such as 'Mother Gaia', which sounds like a really long ballad.
Happily for everyone, Timo Tolkki was still doing well in both mind and left hand, which always gave Stratovarius a huge advantage. He actually has more opportunity to play fast and aggressively here than he did on Destiny, which tended towards the epic and mid-paced for at least half its length, plus the fact that there were really quite a lot of ballads on that album. Here, we actually have five fast-paced songs, which is really quite a big deal, and he produces decent riffs on all of them, even if a few blur together because of Jörg Michael's furious blastbeats. Then there are the melodies and solos that Tolkki really lets rip in a song like 'Glory of the World': the beginning of his main solo just sounds out of this world and when the rest of the band come back in behind him, Stratovarius really become a force of nature. The power of the production does a big favour to everybody else too, with the drums punching strongly though not overwhelming everything, the bass warm and audible, keyboards grand but not overstated, and the other Timo (Kotipelto) in excellent voice, maybe as good as he's ever been.
As for songs, I've mentioned that preponderence towards speed that marks all of the shorter numbers, while the longer songs tend to include more varied material. I guess 'A Million Light Years Away' is the catchiest song here, since it features a memorable keyboard hook and one of the most powerful choruses, using its mid-pace to stick in the mind, but it's the likes of 'Millenium', 'Freedom', and 'Glory of the World' that leave the general impression of the album's character. All use that typical fast power metal beat and hold back little in the way of subtlety, roaring out group vocals, orchestral tags, and blazing leads at will. With so many of this kind of song, it sometimes feels slightly predictable, though most of them are exciting enough that it doesn't matter, and rarely too cheesy to be palatable. 'Glory of the World' certainly takes the prize for lead shenanigans and 'Millenium' does the job for sheer exuberance and heaviness, while 'Freedom' and 'Phoenix' feel slightly underwhelming by comparison, perhaps because of some surplus length. The two long epics are rather different, since 'Mother Gaia' is soft and gentle and 'Infinity' simply throws everything at one song (especially hugely overblown choirs and keys), though most of it sticks, even if the song structure is quite a mess. The strangest thing to relate is that the only thing resembling a ballad is 'Mother Gaia', since the acoustic 'Celestial Dream' feels more like an outro to 'Infinity' than a fully fleshed-out song.
I'm not sure what problem some have found with Infinite, because I really enjoy the more direct approach and even the paint-splattered experiment of 'Infinity'. Perhaps a little generic at this point in their career, Stratovarius were still making exciting music that could endear them to several different sectors of the metal audience and proving that power metal at its best still means being powerful.
First off let me just say that this is my second favorite Stratovarius album and I really think that it deserves that placing in what I consider to be a very well ordered list.
The first thing I noticed about this album is that it immediately dispensed with the previous 80s/90s metal sound and catapulted Stratovarius into the 21st century. This was a rather drastic change in their sound that a lot of people didn't like.Personally I think that this was a really good move for the band, Stratovarius has had their ups and downs; some really good albums and some really really bad ones. But this one I am happy to say that it definitely earns a place as a "good album".
The star pieces in this album are Hunting High and Low (of course), Mother Gaia, Phoenix, Freedom and Infinity. But to be honest, every song on this album deserves a mention just as much as the next one. The only weak link I can find is Glory of the World which isn't really bad as much as it is generic. Hunting High and Low is a really catchy tune that immediately became a Stratovarius hit and one of their most recognized pieces. The other hit in this album is Phoenix which is one of the heaviest Stratovarius songs ever produced. Many refer to this song as "kick ass" which I agree with wholeheartedly, It has everything that makes Stratovarius a great band and none of what makes them bad. Mother Gaia is an interesting song, this is the kind of song that really defines Stratovarius as a SYMPHONIC Power metal band. It has copious amounts of piano and slow guitar work that really make this a masterpiece of a song. My favorite from this album is Freedom which shows off the skills of keyboardist Jens Johansson with some blaring synthesizer parts and a really phenomenal guitar solo.
Infinity is another Stratovarius epic reaching over 9 minutes. I love Strat's approach to epics, every band does them differently and Strat has somewhat of a unique style; they start off somewhat slow, but very bombastic and epic, this style can often be found in Rhapsody of Fire's epic's as well. I enjoy this a little more than the standard starting off slow and soft (ballad like) and developing into something bigger and more epic. It's a good, if overused style and it just starts to feel a little bit stale formula wise. This song has one of my favorite openings from any song ever, the sheer epicness of the first few seconds of the song are incredible. The rest of the song is just a 9 minute roller coaster of changing tempos, dynamics and a few meter changes here and there.
Unfortunately this album is very similar to Destiny (though I would say this is better). This fact leads to a lot of people bashing this album for being too similar. I urge you to give this album a chance and really pay attention throughout the whole thing, I guarantee you'll find something to love in every song.
Without going into too much detail about every song the sound in general on this album is really different and really improves on their sound and modernizes it. This is definitely one of Stratovarius's best albums and if you want some good power metal or if you like Stratovarius definitely get this
This album is probably one of the most popular European power metal albums of the last decade and offers a wide range from commercial hit singles to epic symphonic structures that show the diversity and talent of the group and are highly entertaining.
The very positive and liberating up-tempo hit single "Hunting high and low" with its catchy chorus or the somewhat melancholic and catchy single "A million light years away" can't be erased from your mind once you have listened to them. On the other hand, there is a more complex and quite heavily smashing track like the diversified "Phoenix" that is somewhat the hidden gem of the record and surprises with many breaks and hard riff attacks before leading back to a quite powerful and melodic chorus. This kind of melodic and catchy chorus is somewhat the trademark of this record.
But all these songs don't reach the symphonic majesty of the epic but still rather heavy "Infinity" and especially the almost classical and very smooth and progressive "Mother Gaia". That's where the band shows its true song writing and also musical talent and can be distinguished from the average power metal bands that have emerged like plagues throughout the past years. I seriously ask myself why they didn't do more tracks of that kind as they may please to any fan of classic music, progressive rock or open minded symphonic metal. A song like "Mother Gaia" with ts piano interludes, acoustic guitars and orchestral passages over more than eight minutes take some time to grow and become better and better with the time, just like a good old wine and the smooth tone of this gem offers also a lot of space to the voice of Timo Kotipelto that shows his complete vocal range and amazing talent on this track even if he has a horrible accent. This is pure majesty and could also have been a song by Dream Theater from their early years to give you an idea.
The sad thing is that the band put some rather faceless happy high-speed metal songs on this output that simply look silly next to the epic masterpieces like the annoying Helloween worship "Glory of the world" or the average track "Freedom" with average music, title and performance by well known patterns that look like fillers and sound quite boring a part of Timo Kotipeltos good vocal performances. But he isn't a Michael Kiske and that's why the band should have tried to create something more unique and they have already shown many times that they are able to do so but they somehow put average traditional power metal tracks over and over on each one of their records. Maybe this is to satisfy the rather conservative fans of the genre or the band's way to create some kind of an homage to their heroes instead of doing cover versions.
That's why this album has many different faces, many styles and some very positive but also rather negative sides. It is not the masterpiece that some people might tell you about because of two or three superficial fillers but it isn't the boring commercial power pop failure the haters write about either. The genius of the epic tracks has nothing of a commercial approach and almost sounds like classical music. The answer lies somewhere in the middle and even though this album is not perfect, it is at least very diversified and entertaining and should offer something to anyone that likes the European power metal genre and that's maybe finally the reason why this album was the band's definitive breakthrough and I think that the merit is surely there.
Here we go again. You're probably wondering why I should even bother with this one, as most seem to know how misguided it is (unlike Destiny and Visions, which everyone seems delusion about).
Yep, this is "good" old European power metal right here, taken to a whole new ridiculous level of cheese. In other words, it's a normal 90's Stratovarius album. To answer your question, I choose to bother with this one because I'm both a completist and one who wants justice to be done. Justice, in this case, is ensuring that no one else gets victimized by this worthless crap. At least their previous albums had highlights and good monents in there; this is basically awful from beginning to end, or at least so boring that it's pointless to listen to.
Opener Hunting High and Low just personifies everything that's wrong with Infinite. This song is the template for every one of the others, so you'd hope that it could be somewhat decent. Guess what? It's bad. Really bad. Besides being identical to practically every other song Stratovarius has ever done, it also manages to be even worse than those with its horrible lyrics and groan-inducing chorus. Anything this melodic and desperately sing-along bores me to no end. Maybe this would have been a good song if it, I don't know, had a good vocal performance to back it up, but Kotipelto just makes it worse. Apparently he's given up on even acting like he gives a shit about this band, as he doesn't seem to be slightly trying here. No emotion at all.
And just think, that's only one song. For all the others I could pretty much put 'insert Hunting High and Low review here' and be done with it, but unfortunately, I'm forced to suffer through finding the exact words to tell you why every song on this album sucks. Oh, I almost forgot, you know those epicly long Stratovarius "songs" that I love so much? Well, just like on Destiny, we get two more! Lucky us! Mother Gaia comes early on to steal away our hopes of there being a decent song on the album. It's basically an eight minute ballad with no repeating parts that goes absolutely nowhere. The mid-section piano part with Kotipelto's lounge singing is completely and utterly putrid. Then the title track closes out this cadaver of an album, and keeping with the tradition of Stratovarius title tracks on the last three albums, it drags on endlessly and lifelessly.
There are more straightforward power tracks in the bunch besides the opener, providing little jolts of the scant quality to be found here. Most of them aren't really good, just settling for being extremely average, if that's even possible. Once again, they're exactly as you would expect: you know, pretty much the same. Same structures, same choruses, just with different lyrics of equally pitiful quality and enough subtle differences in songwriting for them to register as separate tracks. The guilty party includes many, Phoenix being the frontrunner and Freedom being the runt of an already small litter with it's pathetic, nauseating anthemic chorus. You really can't go wrong here; there's plenty of equally mediocre songs to chose from
for those who will accept low grade, zero effort crap. For those who like good music with purpose and quality, walk the other way now; you won't find either of those here.
Stratovarius used to be one of the best Power Metal bands around, but after the sublime Destiny, they sank rapidly in quality, and although they would have worse moments on future albums, it is Infinite in particular that is the only one that seems to be consistently mediocre and useless, having no special reason to exist and being a generally uninspired, lifeless chunk of fluffy crap that I don't see why anyone is buying into at all.
There is one very good song here, titled "Hunting High and Low," which is a brainless, fast and catchy Power Metal number that pretty much anyone can enjoy, and it is damn good at being a brainless, fast and catchy Power Metal song. Sure, it isn't timeless or anything, but it does have a great hook and one of the best choruses the band ever wrote. The melodies are fun and will never leave your head, the vocals are peppy and powerful and the guitars and keys duel like Tazmanian devils on crack, and this song just rocks without pretension. "A Million Light Years Away" is not a bad song, with a cool little main melody, but it is pretty substandard, too.
The rest, though? Total dung, all of it. "Mother Gaia," Tolkki? Are you serious? This is some of the most contrived, half-assed garbage I have ever heard, and from Timo Tolkki? That's saying a lot. Just listen to the ridiculous part where the song drops out for this polka-like melody and Timo Koltipelto singing like a lounge singer. Interesting in theory, yes, but very, very poorly written, and it never gets any better, either. This is probably the worst song Stratovarius ever wrote until their self titled album, completely irredeemable. The title track doesn't sound so bad at first, and it has a few good parts, but a few minutes in and I already don't ever want to hear it again. Totally insufferable; if this band wants to make the world a better place (as the lyrics say), they should just eradicate all copies of this album instead. "Freedom" is as boring as a Stratovarius song gets without being on the self titled album, "Phoenix" is perhaps the most derivative and cliche song they have ever recorded and "Millennium" is just bland, bland, bland. And how about "Glory of the World," which manages to both rip off "Will the Sun Rise?" and be as stupidly catchy and shallow as metal can be? Annoying!
Aside from all of that, I just don't like the general mood this album seems to have been based on, this condescending assumption that listeners are morons that need everything spelled out for them. The hooks here are very blatant, as I mentioned above, with no subtlety or staying power at all (well, alright, "Hunting High and Low" is good enough in my books, you've got me there). They're all cleanly defined as if to say HEY! LOOK AT ME! I'M A CATCHY HOOK! ENJOY ME!, as if we wouldn't be able to enjoy the songs otherwise. As if this band wasn't making thoughtful AND catchy metal music just years before this. Look at the aforementioned "Glory of the World" - it's really ridiculous how far this band went to create "catchy" songs; there is really nothing here aside from a flashy hook. And "Millennium," too; just listen to that shallow "heavy" riffage. About as subtle as a bowling ball thrown at full force to the face.
The melodies are the same; very elementary and basic with little innovation or even subtlety and thought put into them at all. I think Stratovarius's problems can be summed up in two ways, with the first one being the longer of the two: the band was just half-assing this one and dumbing down their songwriting for an audience that didn't need it. The second is a bit more simple, and I can tell you what it is in two words: Timo. Tolkki. I've ranted about him before, but basically he just kept getting more and more strange, bland and nonsensical with his songwriting over the years as his mind decayed, and I think this was the exact point where you can see his drop off of the sane realm of metal songwriters. "Mother Gaia" would be the specific point where his brains began to slowly leak out of his ears. I just don't understand why this album even exists. It's a complete non-sequitur to the universe why anyone would ever want to listen to this album over anything else that is better and more relevant, including this band's previous four releases. Stratovarius were already pretty poppy and accessible, even in their more erudite moments, so...why?
This kind of blunt, unambitious slush is just inexcusable. All of these songs are just silly and boring, sounding stilted and incomplete, as if the band wasn't really finished writing them. There is no urgency, no energy, no passion to anything on this album at all. You ask, aren't you being a bit harsh on this? Yes, maybe, but then again, why shouldn't I be harsher on this? This is pretty, flashy and listenable, but really, it's about as deep as a fucking kiddy pool, and you should stay away from it if you don't like getting your intelligence insulted.
Opinions are wide divided when it comes to this band. I know a fuckload of people who hate this band, labelling it as gay, wankery and cliché. I do also know the other people who like the standard power metal sound that these guys seem to perfect many times. I find myself a little in between of these two camps. There were times when Stratovarius was extremely good, but especially the later works seem to be caught in a trap of trying to break out of the standards.
This album says nothing but power metal. It's designed by power metal persons for power metal persons. If you've got nothing in common with the genre, the change is nihil you'll like it. Sad but True. The album is laden with the catchy choruses, quick solo's, repetiviness and all the likes of standard power metal. Still, it's very good.
The first song proves it already. Hunting High and Low is the highlight of the album. It's exactly how one would imagine a standard power track, except of the very high quality. After hearing the chorus once, I already knew the text and melody of it. Cliché, yes, but it doesn't matter in here, because it's still good.
It's probably for the better though that most of the songs are as non-progressive as a Limp Bizcunt album. Mother Gaia is the only song that steps out of the circle, and it sucks. It's meant to be a ballad, only it's over 8 fucking minutes long, the second longest song of the album. Most of the time it feels like a second-rate Queen B-side, which is 3 x suck. The piano work sounds too gay for words, even by power metal standards. There is this one part that is good though, at 2:40, which is probably meant to be a chorus, which is probably isn't as it only comes once in the song.
With the exception of Mother Gaia there isn't a bad song on Infinity. Sure there are some average tracks to fill up the space. Phoenix and Why Are we Here are the prime examples of it. Freedom is more complicated as it features both the best and worst riffs of the album. The intro riff is ace, the verse riff is decent but the chorus riff sucks.
It's the neo-classical bullshit that takes away around 15 points of the final rating. Mother Gaia's overblown interpretation of classic music kills the song for 50%, while the chorus of Freedom is so bad that is makes it an average song. On Why Are we Here and Infinity, the neo-classical influence is also present, though less prevalent (making the songs much better). If Stratovarius would dismiss of this stupid way to include classic riffs (stolen from Bach or the like), those songs would probably be much better.
If Stratovarius would take away the neo-classical moments, there is nothing left but the pure essence of power metal. Easy, but good. With great musicianship and a decent vocalist, it can't go wrong. Luckily it didn't. This album has the power ballad (A Million Light Years Away), the epic song (Infinity) and the dozens of catchy choruses. The only thing Stratovarius had to have was the ability to write some melodies, which they can.
Recommended tracks: Hunting High and Low, A Million Light Years Away, Glory of the World.
Stratovarius' "Infinite" is, in musical terms, a Stratovarius album. That's largely all that a huge amount of those who'll ever read this review will ever need to know. If you're a Stratovarius fan like I am, you'll lap this up and have favourite tracks and so on. If you're not, keep on walking. Yes, I'm talking about power metal in all its high-pitched keyboarded catchy-melody glory.
The album kicks off with "Hunting Hig and Low". This is one of those rare tracks which is pretty much designed to open an album and hit the listener squarely between the eyes. The entire effect is so addictive that it should be classified as a drug, since the chorus resolutely refuses to leave my head. The vast majority of the 70% I've given this album stems from this 4-minute gem, I'll be perfectly honest.
Following that, things continue in one of three paths. You have more fast-paced songs with choruses involving shouting ("Millennium"), you have ballads which don't go anywhere particularly interesting but are sung in an oh-so-earnest manner ("Celestial Dreams", which is the last track on the album so it doesn't matter too much if you stop listening by then) and you have long songs with interesting tempo changes ("Mother Gaia", "Infinity").
A lot is made of the fascination that some power metal bands have with Queen, and there's something of a link on this album as well. About four minutes into "Mother Gaia", there's a keyboard section which sounds like a carbon copy of that famous part of "Bohemian Rhapsody" - to the extent that I was almost waiting for Timo to start singing "I see a little silhouette-o of a man". He doesn't, of course, but something tells me he wouldn't be too far out of place if he did.
As you might have guessed a few paragraphs ago, the tracks after the opener do tend to blur into each other a bit. Maybe I just haven't yet learned how to listen to Stratovarius over the course of an album, but the quality of the riffs and solos just seems a little bit same-y. Not that they're anything short of top quality riffs and solos, mind, and Timo's voice complements the bombast behind him very well, but there's a slight lack of differentiation which irks me a little bit.
In conclusion, as I said at the outset, if you like power metal in general and Stratovarius in particular, this is an album to enjoy. If it's not a style that you'd cross the street to hear (yet, I'm tempted to say), this isn't quite the album to convert you. The opening track may just do that, but the entirety of the album probably won't.
Following their landmark album “Destiny” that highlighted the more progressive elements of “Visions” and also offered some more simple songs than before, Stratovarius decided to make some changes. The problem is that most of the things that were changed were the strongest points of their sound. Despite not being the most inventive riff composer out there, Timo Tolkki’s guitar work is what makes this a metal band, and here we see a strong de-emphasis on the guitar in favor of more orchestral textures, and sadly these have not augmented the sound very well.
This album also coincides with Jorg Michael quitting ARP to focus on this band more, which in retrospect probably made sense as they played a less progressive style of metal, thus allowing for less emphasis on drumming. However, as it seems that this band took a hit in the compositional department, it probably was not good decision. He makes a hell of a nice racket on some of the faster tracks such as “Glory of the World” (which sounds very similar to a Rage track), as well as on the title track. But unfortunately drums alone do not carry a band, as even Neil Peart was dependent on some rather stellar guitar riffs put forth by Alex Lifeson in order to make the song work.
Overall the production on this album is hit or miss. While the drums are bombastic and the overall atmosphere during the louder songs is solid, the ballads sound extremely hollow and thin, particularly the acoustic guitar tracks. The bass is often barely audible, which is quite bad considering that Jari is quite an accomplished bassist and many bands in the Power Metal genre tend to neglect this instrument.
As for the songs themselves, the obvious winner for best track is the opener “Hunting High and Low”. If you had never heard this song before and you happened to turn on a station playing it, you could sing along with the chorus the second time it’s played. It’s catchy as hell, the intro riff has been borrowed both by Masterplan and Freedom Call, and Kotipelto’s vocals are at their best. “Glory to the World” and “Freedom” both are decent up tempo rockers, though they definitely take the backseat to such classics as “Legions” and “Father Time”. The title track is mostly solid, particularly shinning during the heavily orchestrated section with the keyboard solo, but the acoustic sections are poorly produced and it drags the song down a bit.
“A million light years away” has some neat synth work at the beginning, reminiscent of older classics like “Galaxies”, in addition to another catchy chorus; definitely a keeper. But the rest of the album is substandard. “Mother Gaia” is overlong by about 4 minutes, has way too much orchestra and very little guitar, and has about as flat of a structure as I’ve heard. This is no “Years go by”, “Coming Home”, or “4000 Rainy Nights”, not by a long shot. “Phoenix” is structurally incoherent, the sudden stops and starts in the middle throw off the structure, and the keyboard mix almost sound like a rip-off of Malmsteen’s “Soldier without faith”. “Millenium” is generic sounding as hell; it has one primary riff that is repeated way too often, almost like a faster version of a black album track.
But the true musical abortion on this album is the closing ballad “Celestial Dream”. Not only has Timo Tolkki taken a sort of English as a second language approach to trying to relive John Lennon’s political (and often utterly boring) music, but he has also closed off the album by highlighting the two weakest points of the album. The acoustic guitar tracks are thin as hell, almost sounding like a used Taylor model bought for $30 at a swap meet, and Kotipelto’s voice is way too exposed on here. The final impression completely falls apart and costs this album substantially.
In conclusion, this album is a worthwhile buy, but not for more than $8. 4 of the songs on here are good, and one is superb, which is less than what this band has proven to be capable of. Musically the decline on here is significant, although the lyrical decline is even more damaging in a few spots. There are some versions of this album out there with two bonus tracks on a separate CD, titled “It’s a Mystery” and “Why are we here?” These songs make up for the shortcomings a bit and would make this release more worth getting, but if you’ve already bought “Intermission” this makes little difference. Core fans who are in love with Koltipelto’s voice and don’t mind over-emphasized orchestra parts may like this, but to a more traditional metal fan I would recommend either “Destiny” or “Episode” as much better purchases.
This is the first of many disappointing efforts from Stratovarius. Their declining creativity and recycling of older material that the previous album hinted at has now grown itself to the point where it no longer can be considered fully tolerable. Their songwriting formula, including song structures and general melody, has become so predictable that it takes away almost all enjoyability. Timo Tolkii has now officially joined the ranks of Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth) and Jeff Waters (Annihilator); songwriters who constantly rehash their old stuff and don't do a terribly impressive job of covering up getting and away with it (like Rolf Kasparek does, which is why his name was not just mentioned).
Let's be right up front here and give a few examples. "Hunting High and Low" has striking verse similarity to "S.O.S.", with its way of building from light, moody and semi-acoustic guitars, to the heavier, more intense and crunching. "Millenium" directly borrows the pre-chorus of "Will the Sun Rise?" and has that by now very typical heavy Strato riff also heard in "Legions" and "No Turning Back". "Mother Gaia" is not only your typical formulaic slow Stratovarius ballad that is completely interchangeable with songs such as "Years Go By" and "Coming Home" (if it wasn't for the fact that it's about a billion times worse and by far the worst Stratovarius song ever), but it has the same ending section as that of "Twilight Symphony".
"Phoenix" is probably the most overt example, following virtually every Stratovarius cliché imaginable. First playing the typical fast opening riff (in this case ripping off the one in "Speed of Light") and then having the drums enter in that typical way that we've already heard a billion times before. Then the verse, which has that typical first half to second half progression also heard oh-so-many times before, and that's not even mentioning this one is actually a straight rip-off the verse in "Black Diamond" (they try to cover that up by playing the first half with a slower beat...lame!). Then we get to the second "Will the Sun Rise?" rip-off in "Glory of the World", featuring almost the exact same opening riff (just add some keyboard wankery over it and no one will notice, right?) as that song (or in reality a Rage song, as UltraBoris claims?). "A Million Light Years Away" - lots of ideas taken from "Nightfall", like the verse and the keyboard riff resembling an acoustic riff in this song. "Freedom" - listen to those "As long as I liii-iii-iiiive" vocal lines (different lyrics for each time), that melody keeps re-appearing in many, many of their songs ("Phoenix" for one, if you want an example from the same goddamn album: "After the rain, I feel the suuu-uuu-uuun").
As previously indicated, I wouldn't bitch so much if they could be a little less overt about it. But while I must say that I'm a huge fan of the Stratovarius sound and playing, they have this nasty habit of making everything they play, including their more original ideas, have the VERY exact same sound to it. Meaning that as soon as they decide to borrow a section from an older song, it all usually appears pretty damn obvious to even the most casual of Stratovarius fans.
Worse yet, however, this is not the only beef to be had with this album - the song material on here actually seem to have taken a step back towards the more simplistic, less progressive and less intricate. I hesitate to call this a sellout, but with the presence of their two most commercial singles to date ("Hunting High and Low" and "A Million Light Years Away", ironically the two greatest tracks on the album), the rest being in a slightly more basic vein than earlier and having just moved up to a larger record company (Nuclear Blast), there is actually a certain telling of that. However, a number of songs aren't just less challenging to the ear and mind - a lot of them are just flat-out weak. "Millennium" is pretty damn mediocre and very grating at its onset with those redundant harpsichord keyboards sounding nowhere nearly as good as on "Black Diamond". Then, "Mother Gaia", described above, is just plain abysmal and is by far the worst Stratovarius song ever, even today. "Freedom" - "wow look a power metal song titled "Freedom", this must be pretty bad!!!" you must be thinking and indeed, yes this song is everything it's made out to be from its title. Dumb horn keyboard main melody and cliché; unimaginative songwriting. Then, the epic "Infinity" has the occasional interesting section, but is only decent at best and has the usual epic syndrome of lacking a good sense continuity and coherence.
So why not a lower rating then? There are exactly six reasons for that, and I'll just list them here below:
5. YOU FUCKERS
6. "A Million Light Years Away" is pretty damn good too.
Simply put, the opening cut and lead single off this album rules so much it single-handedly earns the album a good ten additional points. Recognize the opening riff. Obey the opening riff. The keyboard is actually playing the main part of it, but the crunchy guitar gives it that extra solid backbone needed to truly launch it right into the sky and onward to neighbor galaxies. This is just about the catchiest music ever put down on tape right here and the rest of the song is instantly classic Stratovarius material too (though it DOES have that for Stratovarius overly typical semi-acoustic verse, like I mentioned above, but I'll let that pass for now). Fucking hell, speaking of classic, this is stuff that can be considered classic for heavy metal as whole and that's coming from someone who thinks that the 80's was the greatest thing that ever was and that very little new stuff can compare to what was released back then. I said in my review of 'Visions' that "The Kiss of Judas" was their finest moment ever, but the more I've listened to this song since then...you know...well let's just say that the two songs are fighting it out as we speak.
The second best song on here is "A Million Light Years Away", featuring the album's seemingly obligatory Queensrÿche-esque moment in the verse, because they usually have at least one of these per album (more on the early Kotipelto stuff). Great melody here; catchy, moody and - as always with Stratovarius - extremely well-done. This is the second single off the album and is much like "Hunting" in being very much on the commercial and "poppy" side, but that just adds to the enjoyability if you like that 80's sort of stuff like Pet Shop Boys etc. Then "Phoenix" ain't really bad at all despite being formulaic beyond belief and is really damn well done for what it is - though it is made kind of overlong through that overly boring middle chug section...damn you Machine Head & co. for inventing these kind of "riffs" that bands like Everghey use to get away with being called "metal"! "Glory of the World" is pretty much the same thing; absolutely speaking not bad, but since I already have the *original* and far superior "Will the Sun Rise?" right here, what use do I have for it exactly? Well finally, the brief and to-the-point ballad "Celestial Dream" closes out the album on a positive note. Kind of a sign of things to come in its use of movie soundtrack-like orchestral arrangements, which are in all honesty a bit silly, but in this context they work surprisingly well and at a mere 2.29 the song is at a perfect length - had it been longer it would've quickly become awkward and tiresome as hell.
Anyways, what we have here is about one third of a great album and the rest either uninspired filler or just sheer awfulness. It's still Stratovarius, meaning that right off the bat you're guaranteed great production, perfect mix and absolutely dead-on musicianship and sense of melody, but the songwriting here is clearly lacking in places. To sum up, this is where Stratovarius ran out of ideas, and to this day they have yet to truly recover.
It is albums like Infinite that remind us that not all Power Metal has to sound the same. Just becuase this album doesn't have a bunch of super-fast Speed Metal-esque songs doesn't mean that it's not worth the time to listen to it. Stratovarius has taken their sound in a different direction in this album, favoring the more epic-style sound of Destiny and Anthem of the World over the faster sounds of No Turning Back or Against the Wind. The first song, Hunting High & Low, has become a Stratovarius classic, with a speed comparable to Black Diamond or Cold Winter Nights. The rest of the album is a combination of slower, powerful Epic Metal combined with some very memorable ballads, with one exception. Track 4, Phoenix, has entered into the realm of legeng as being one of the most ass-kicking songs ever produced by a Stratovarius band. It has the speed and power that most of the fans (and critics) have come to expect from Stratovarius. Most of the rest of the album is slower and more epic, including the powerful title track with a quasi-operatic chorus line.
Keeping with the pattern of these reviews, I am proud to induct three new songs into the Stratovarius Hall of Classics: Hunting High & Low, the ridiculously catchy song even inanimate objects will start singing along to; Millenium, a highly underrated Speed Metal masterpiece with a very catchy riffset and an awe-inspiring chorus; and Phoenix, which has the obligatory can't-fuck-it-up opening riff and just kicks ass and takes names from beginning to end.
There is no reason to dismiss this album just because it has a different sound from what people have come to expect. I strongly recommend listening to this album yourself before passing judgement on it, since you might just appreciate the fact that this album emphasizes the steady, slower tempos of epic masterpieces over the one-dimensional, monotonous sound of your standard thrash album.
It's most certainly worth your money. Get it and keep going.