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Timo Tolkki’s breakup with Stratovarius essentially traces its way back to this rather ambitious demo, which essentially encompasses the entire debut of Timo’s solo project Revolution Renaissance. For all intents and purposes, this is an entirely different listening experience, and ultimately a slightly better one than the rather mixed “New Era” release that this turned into. Although essentially a bare template of what would eventually become said album, there is a charm in the absolute consistency from start to finish, as opposed to the split release/super band tendencies that inevitably came out of having three commanding lead singers in Tobias Sammet, Michael Kiske and Pasi Rantanen trading duties.
The first album that this tends to lend itself to in Stratovarius’ lengthy history is that of their highly ambitious late 90s release “Visions”. The lyrics contain the socio-political themes that Tolkki became obsessed with starting on “Infinite”, but musically this is a very consistent mix of vintage power metal with all of the speed tracks, power ballads, and in between rockers that this band standardized during the wastelands of the 1990s. The keyboard presence is cut back fairly significantly, probably due to the songs not being wholly complete, but the rest of the instruments carry their usual emphasis, with the guitars largely making up for the shortfall in the keys.
As with all self-produced efforts by bands who do not normally release finished products without a 3rd party’s input, there are some flaws in the mixing that cause the vocals to sound quiet and distant. But otherwise, the mix is exceptionally clear given the circumstances, and the songs are able to get their point across without much issue. The speed songs “Heroes” and “Glorious And Divine” both profit greatly from Koltipelto’s less raspy falsetto, as Sammet’s versions essentially morphed them into late 90s Edguy songs on “New Era”, and instead two songs that share a fair amount in common with “Forever Free” and “No Turning Back” grace the ears. In fact, just about every song on here sounds better than their later incarnations with the exceptions of “Angel”, “Last Night On Earth” and “Revolution Renaissance”, largely because Kiske breathed a life into those songs that no one else could have and Koltipelto usually tends to come off as a slightly weaker version of Kiske when doing slower, epic songs.
There isn’t an official release of this that anyone can procure by ordinary channels, but it has been floating around the internet for the better part of 2 years and should be relatively easy to find. Anyone who has been any kind of fan of Stratovarius should be on the lookout for it, as it represents a road back to better days that was ultimately not taken. It doesn’t quite measure up to “Episode” and “Visions”, mostly because it is an incomplete work, but it definitely shows that there was a potential for this band to have returned to that caliber of an album had a few things worked out differently. For power metal fans of the Finnish persuasion, this is a good piece of recent history that should definitely be looked into.