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I don’t claim to be a soothsayer, nor would I even hint at a tendency towards clairvoyance, but I could basically see the writing on the wall for Stratovarius the minute I saw the ridiculous title of this single. This is the sort of title that demands bad lyrics for the sake of consistency of theme, although as an instrumental it would be less offensive in light of Primus’ quirk “Space Farm” and Satriani’s “Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing”, but this isn’t a band that puts out singles featuring genre bending instrumental feats. But the reality of this song is even more obnoxiously awful than it’s name would suggest.
“Maniac Dance”, in any of its 3 forms on here, is an exercise in drudgery that only a mid-90s Machine Head drone could love. Putting aside the goofy video game sounding intro, the popping Soundgarden drum production, and the rather banal and flat vocal display out of Kotipelto; what is heard here is hyper-repetitive, over-simplified fluff that tries to pretend at being heavy. At first listen one might be fooled into thinking that the principle riff tries to mimic “Enter Sandman”, a song that is only mildly annoying in spite of being played to death. But true scrutiny will reveal something more closely resembling the most unmemorable of the filler heard out of Metallica’s late 90s flop “Reload”.
One might be possessed to give this some leniency based on the b-side perks found on here, but barring even the fact that 2 variants on an already terrible song make the majority of them, the results here are insulting even to the most rabid of Tolkki cultists. The Ritso mix is a slight reprieve in that the production is a little less obnoxiously loud and pretentious, and that the repetition has been cut a little bit, but otherwise its just the same smattering of dull grooves and idiotic lyrics. The demo version simply shows Timo playing a long electric guitar, as if he’s writing the song as he’s going. It might seem interesting to hear once if you worship at the Tolkki altar, but after that it is little more than used up shelf space.
Perhaps the sole reason why this didn’t get slapped with a 0 is the inclusion of “United”, albeit in an unnecessarily short version of the most memorable song on the album that this preceded. As with any band drawn from the lineage of old school heavy metal, when all else fails, start channeling “Heaven And Hell”. If it can save Dream Evil from total disaster and lift Hammerfall up into the sky, it can at least do the former for an obviously tired and nearly bankrupt power metal mainstay like this. It’s down tempo, it is heavily repetitive, but damn is it catchy as hell and totally on point in spite of the lackluster production. It can’t save this single, but for those who are hesitant to pick up the 2005 full length it’s found on, this is the song that changes it from an “avoid at all costs” album to something that makes the bargain bin cut.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on December 12, 2010.