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I don't think I have to go into the history of this band. We all knew what happened and I think we all know that the last few outputs of the band were rather disappointing compared to the classics of the past. After all the turmoil surrounding their former guitarist and mastermind Timo Tolkki Stratovartis are back with a new guitar player, the young talent Matias Kupianen" and with Polaris the first album of this line-up was released earlier this year. So is this the return to their roots everyone was hoping for? Can there be Stratovarius without Tolkki? Is this album any good? Is this the band's epic return? Yes, yes, yes and no.
The Album is a return to the roots of the band and you don't need to expect another S/T (although I really liked that album). It is classic Stratovarius with a progressive twist to it. Every Stratovarius fan will immediately recognize their idols, but they're not just worshiping and rehashing the classics, but keep the band fresh. The album shows that they're willing to ad new elements to the old winning formula. I think any Stratovarius fan will be happy with the album, well, apart from me. The production and the mix is awesome as is the musicianship although. I know that those guys have probably put their heart blood into this album and that it was a tough challenge to rebuild everything that Timo Tolkki left in ruins but this is not the epic return I was looking for.
The album has it's moments with songs like the fast, progressive "Deep Unknown", the slow, epic an dramatic "King of Nothing", the "Speed of Light/Father Time" like "Forever is Today" or the typical Stratovarius up-tempo, good-mood song "Higher We Go" but the album also has problems. One big problem is Timo Kotipelto. I don't know what was going on during recording this album, but throughout the whole album his vocals seem rather forced and strained and don't have the nice flow to them that we are used to hear from Kotipelto. Then there are the 4 balladic, slow songs. Do we really need four of them? They're "Winter Skies", which is by far the most tedious song on the album, "When Mountains Fall", which desperately tries to be "Forever" but fails horribly, the standard power ballad "Somehow Precious" and "Emancipation Suite Part II" which is completely unnecessary and ads nothing to the good "Emancipation Suite Part I". But I guess this is just my problem. Apart from "Forever", "The Land of Ice and Snow" and "Will My Soul Ever Rest In Peace" I never liked any Stratovarius ballad.
But my biggest problem, although this completely contradicts what I said earlier, is that the whole problem while sounding fresh also sounds really uninspired. I'm missing those songs that get stuck in my brain for months. Those songs which make me go "Wow, this is awesome!" Even the good songs I mentioned above are easy forgettable. There is nothing that gets stuck in my head after listening to this album. Also there is WAY to much keyboard and too little guitar on this album.
Overall this isn't by any means a bad album. As I said the musicianship, the production, the mix and most of the songs are okay. I think every fan will like the album but as stated above, it is not the epic return I was looking for.