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After their 2005 self-titled release, the band really needed a release that would bring them back to life, and the only way to get it was with a big sacrifice- the departure of their former guitar hero, Timo Tolki. After dealing with tons of problems with the record label and their ex-guitarist, the band started recording this masterpiece.
'Polars' is an album with tons of variety in the music, since this time it wasn't composed by just one person, but by the whole band, including their 2 newest members, Matias Kupiainen and Lauri Porra. The reformed Stratovarius brings up loads of more symphonic and progressive material, like the single track 'Deep Unknown', as well as it contains some really heavy stuff, just as 'Higher we Go' or 'King of Nothing'
Johanson's keyboards play a big role in the whole album, be as it may backing up with some strings, making intros with the frecuently used harpsichord, or making one of his glorious appearances with solos, like the one in 'Falling Star'. His composing is important too, it includes some great songs like the lyrically judged 'King of Nothing'.
Their two new members, Kupiainen and Porra are not left behind. Kupiainen was the principal composer of the single track 'Deep Unknown' and colaborator on the heavy and famous 'Higher we Go'. Where his guitar playing is concerned, I have to say I prefer him over Tolki. Glorious sweeps and amazingly fast playing bring up lots of more emotion into the songs. Porra composed almost half album, most of the songs being in the last section that include the 'Emancipation Suites' and the nostalgic 'When Mountains Fall', which somehow remembers me to 'Coming Home'. His bass playing is not the best that I've heard, but he is quite talented. He shows off more life, to be honest.
Timo Kotipelto got his vocals as great as he could for the record, soaring vocals can be heard on the heaviest tracks of the album, and much more emotive on the ballads. He mainly composed the lyrics for the album, just as expected since he is the singer. Lyrical themes get just straight off great, interesting, and really reflexive.
Jorg Michael... I don't think there's much to say about him. Before the album I always thought he was one of the most talented drummers in power metal. But now... I think he is actually the best. With the comeback of the double bass drumming his abilities get just out of his body, putting all efforts into what he played.
After listening to the whole album, I must say this could be one of the best releases of Stratovarius along their history, and maybe the best release last year. I decided to have 89 as rating since I don't really like the 'Emancipation Suites' and 'Somehow Precious' the later because of the diminished chords used by Jens which somehow scare me. The whole album is good, entertaining, and, believe me, you will never become bored by it.