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There seems to be a trend of rerecording material to introduce a new vocalist or other band member in power metal circles, at least insofar as a number of prominent bands who are following the lead of Iced Earth who have done this several times since the mid 1990s. Stratovarius marks their induction into this mode of ice breaking by revisiting some recent territory that is, admittedly of a fairly wide mix of stylistic directions within latter day Timo Tolkki works and present practices. Young drumming talent Rolf Pilve already has a large number of projects under his belt, and his past work with Dreamtale definitely makes him an appropriate choice given the commonality of style, but his approach is definitely distinct from that of Jorg's, and tends to come off as even more strictly structured and not quite as arena-oriented in it's production quality.
Naturally there is a lot more different going on here than just a brand new drummer after 16 years of the same talent behind the kit, and it culminates in yet another stylistic shift in songwriting on this single's new song "Unbreakable". The elaborate progressive grooves and impressive technical lead fits have been scaled back in favor of a straight rocker that is somewhat similar to older numbers like "Eagleheart" and "Hunting High And Low" in its simplicity, but also slower at first (it picks up later) and denser in atmosphere, seeming to take a few symphonic and epic cues from Nightwish. The feel is definitely much heavier than even the chunkier riffs heard on "Elysium", and the keyboards take on a bit more prominence in melodic contour as the guitars and bass unite with the drums to provide a massive crushing groove to carry the softer timbres at the top of the arrangement, which is super catchy and largely free of the wild upper ranged vocal gymnastics that Kotipelto tends to indulge in frequently.
The rerecording of past material tends mostly to be an affair in rehashing the same territory with maybe a slight play on atmospherics by playing up a more modern guitar and drum sound. The highlights are actually the material of the early 2000s, as the heavier and clearer interpretation of the "Infinite" cruiser "Freedom" profits much from the upgrade. This song was always catchy enough to rival older speeders like "Legions" and "Black Diamond", but the super-posh production of the album it was on and the over-representation of dry balladry surrounding it always detracted some of the enjoyment factor. "Why Are We Here" actually comes off more like the vintage 80s Malmsteen homage that it was trying to be more than 10 years ago given the stronger keyboard presence and lighter bass sound, not to mention that Kotipelto's voice has far greater clarity due to a much better mixing and production job.
This is fodder for hardcore fans of Stratovarius alone, it has little appeal to anyone who has their past 5 albums and is planning on picking up a copy of "Nemesis". Everything is adequate and the new material sound very promising, but unlike other albums where rerecording older songs usually comes with a completely different interpretation, these remakes come off more like remasters. But for anyone doubting whether anyone could fill Jorg Michael's shoes, the answer found on here is a resounding yes.