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The second Stratovarius album to enter my collection – Visions. I wanted new Strato-material and, after deciding that I wanted to wait until I had enough money for both Elements, I pulled this one from the racks. I’m glad I did too because, while having Intermission was a step up from merely having shite quality mp3’s on my computer, I didn’t have a very good taste of Stratovarius’s early, classic sound. “Celestial Dream” and “Hunting High and Low” about covered it, sadly. But, behold salvation! Here comes Visions. Sit back.
We start with “The Kiss of Judas”, and already I like it. Timo Tolkki and Jens Johansson start off with a nice dual intro, whilst Tolkki chokes his guitar in a fashion that accents the keyboard and drums. Timo #2 – Kotipelto for those keeping score – shows off with his impressive vocals, although they seem somewhat dim in comparison to recent works with Strato, which could be due to the production back in ’97.However, he breaks into the chorus with strength.
After the second chorus, Timo treats us to an interesting guitar bit, followed by a solo on behalf of Johansson that is, unfortunately, weak in comparison to the guitar solo that proceeds it. Nice work Mr. Tolkki. Keeps us on our feet, that guy.
The alternating between single and multi-track vocals is a pleasant touch to this song, something that highlights the chorus passages nicely. I like this track, but the lead out seems a bit abrupt. Oh well. The song’s over. Next!
“Black Diamond” is a longstanding Strato-classic. And who can find a good reason to say otherwise? The intro is chock full of pure, wholesome keyboard-y goodness; the guitar and drums work so well off each other and Kotipelto’s vocals kick ass. Tolkki’s guitar work post-chorus is great too.
Ooh, I like this riff. It's 2:40 into the song, for those wondering just what I'm babbling about. Followed by yet another dry keyboard doodle, which is in turn followed by another orgasm of guitar shrieks. Soloing aside, Jens Johansson’s keyboarding in stunning - it fills in the background bravely, and very well. This is a volatile mix.
Perhaps this was an influential piece to Sonata Arctica. “Forever Free” definitely has Strato-contemporary written on it. I can just hear Tony Kakko taking Kotipelto’s place on this one.
I like this one. A lot. Whether it’s the guitar, keyboard, drumming or vocals, it’s something, or maybe it’s everything. A lot of high notes on Kotipelto’s part, a lot of heavy pummeling on Jörg Michael’s part, and overall good riffing on Tolkki’s part. I almost feel bad for not giving Jari Kainulainen more credit, but bass has never really stood out to me. Oh well, the band as a whole just kicks your ass.
This one is definitely a token power metal tune. If Kotipelto could hit even higher notes, one might confuse parts of this for Gamma Ray. Damn fine song. Let’s continue, shall we?
“Before The Winter” has a nice intro. A very nice one, in fact. Thinking on it, it’s probably one of the best Stratovarius intros. And Kotipelto’s soft crooning, which gradually picks up, is glorious. Oh wow, I like this one. I can’t understand some of his lyrics, but I like it. The music picks up around the chorus, then steps down to the original sound again… reminds me of later works like “Papillion”. Only “Papillion” has a change-of-chord midsection while “Winter” flows through.
A commonly used distorted vocal effect (“in the well” vocals) serves only to continue pushing the emotion into this one. Finally, a slow Strato-tune that doesn’t change chords in the end. This one stays constant, something I like. Not to say that I don’t absolutely love “Papillion”.
Oh, and a wonderful outro – the intro. Oh how I love it. The orchestration is fantastic… the keyboard-performed orchestration, that is.
“Legions”! What Strato-fan hasn’t heard (of) this track? Heavy riffing, soaring vocals and, yes, kick ass keyboarding. The three things that make a Stratovarius classic… classic. Brings “Hunting High And Low” to mind.
What I’ve noticed is that Stratovarius has this sound that absolutely no other band has touched on… well, almost no other band. Several Sonata Arctica songs follow the same guitar and keyboard sound, but Kakko’s vocals are too different from Kotipelto’s to really capture the Strato-sound. “Legions” is a great example of this. Play any moderately heavy song from Silence and then play this. Vocally, they’re quite different, but otherwise, who can tell which band wrote which tune? That’s the Finnish sound for you.
Anyway, the song is fantastic and deserves to be called a highlight, and it really is. How many people are going to press the