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Eternal Storm(Crow) - 86%

Cawvidae, April 4th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, earMUSIC

Would it be too much of a stretch to say that Stormcrow and Eternal come together to form a double album? Despite being written and recorded by two different bands, the overlap between the two albums is immense. Stormcrow prominently featured the two longest serving members of Stratovarius, while Eternal had about 30% of its material written by Jani Liimatainen, the driving force behind Cain's Offering's Stormcrow. There was even a period of about four months between these albums releases, about half of the gap between Elements Part 1 and 2, so if these aren't considered a double album, I don't know what is.

Eternal mainly separates itself from Stormcrow through the more virtuoso-ish guitar work of main axe-man, Mattias Kupiainen. His ability to follow or counterpoint Jen's harpsichord trickery is second to none, and that's just his rhythm work. While the rhythm section does tend to rely on the basic power metal power chord formula, Mattias is at least able to switch it up sometimes, transitioning into a small triplet section, or having that sort of triplet rhythm be the main driving force of the song, seen on both Feeding the Fire and The Lost Saga simultaneously.

The other members of the band also put in valiant performances, although I will say that I preferred Kotipelto's performance on Stormcrow to Eternal, as I feel like the mix might be a tad low, and he sometimes finds himself drowned out by the massive layers of backing vocals. Bassist Lauri Porra has always been a standout on the post-Tolkki Stratovarius albums, but I find that his performance on Eternal is also somewhat lost. There seems to be fewer moments that showcase him really driving the songs with his thunderous low notes, but that's not to say he has no presence at all, as he cuts through quite a bit on some of the more sombre numbers, like Lost Without a Trace, which has his name on the writing credits. Jens also needs no introduction or explanation, as his keyboard work hasn't diminished at all in the years he's been in the band. It's also fantastic to see that alongside Mattias, his keyboard work is allowed to stand at the forefront, but never overpower and sometimes completely negate the guitar, which was a huge problem that Stratovarius had around the turn of the millennium.

Small production problems aside, the only main flaws that this album has come from the track listing itself. There's a period around the middle of the album where they throw a number of similarly structured, similarly tempo'd songs at the listener. Feeding the Fire, In My Line of Work, Man in the Mirror and Few Are Those can seem particularly interchangeable on the first couple of listens, but they have enough to separate them that, if you give them a bit of time individually, they'll stop clumping together. The other main problem that I have with the album comes from the closing epic, The Lost Saga. This is a purely personal criticism, as I have never, and likely will never, be a fan of the 'sea shanty' style of power metal that every band seems to delve into at some point. Huge choirs that drown out the main vocalist, melodies that sound like they came straight from a cartoon portrayal of a pirate... it's just not for me.

Eternal definitely isn't a perfect album. It's not quite as well produced, or as catchy as its main competitor, Stormcrow, which can sort of work against it. If you treat them both as a double album, however, I'd be hard pressed to find a more consistent double album than this. It's an album that works on its own, without blending in and becoming stagnant alongside its 'counterpoint' release, and for that, it deserves a lot of credit.

Stratovarius goes Freedom Call - 91%

EMPwarrior, September 30th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, earMUSIC

I started to get more deeply acquainted with this band when Nemesis was released. In general I have been a fan of heavy metal music only from the early 2010's onwards, so for me a lot of the classics and magnum opuses of the genre have already been out there for me to simply go and get without just having to impatiently wait for new releases to come out from my favorite bands. Stratovarius alone had already released 14 full-length studio albums by the time I bought my first Stratovarius record and I have so far managed to get less than half of their back catalogue into my possession. Nonetheless, as Stratovarius is one of my biggest favorites, Eternal was one of the first albums that I actually did await with great excitement. In the end the wait definitely proved to be worth it and I got to hear Stratovarius release what may very likely have been the greatest album released in 2015.

Already hearing the album's first single, "Shine in the Dark", on the radio for the first time filled me with great excitement. To be honest, when the intro of the song started playing, I thought I was listening to Amaranthe, but when Timo Kotipelto's vocals kicked in, I was convinced that it was Stratovarius. The reason why I first thought "Shine in the Dark" was an Amaranthe song was because of the types of rhythms and keyboard sounds used in the intro, which were a bit more complex and modern sounding than what I had used to hearing from Stratovarius before. As I kept on listening through the song I heard even more modern elements to the song, such as the also-Amaranthe-styled upbeat, epic chorus. The song filled me with hope that such a great and refreshing-sounding release from such a high-profile band could help rejuvenate the entire power metal scene. Even if the album didn't trigger any form of a giant ripple effect, it is at least a very enjoyable piece of music for fans of power metal.

This album greatly reminds me of the classic power metal album "Eternity" by Freedom Call, all the way from the sounds to the cover art and, as may be pretty obvious, even the album title. Throughout the album there is a large presence of energy, which in power metal is a sign of excellence. This energy manifests in a large variety of forms from the intense upbeat power of "My Eternal Dream" to the darker groove of "Lost Without a Trace". The lyrics deal with subjects like self-empowerment and personal or social issues, which are pretty usual subject matters for Stratovarius and when combined with the already emotional sounds of the instrumentation they provide a very thought-provoking experience.

Although the bulk of the album is pure gold, there are a couple of weaker songs present on the album, namely the two final tracks. "Fire in Your Eyes" is the only ballad on the album, which does develop a pretty powerful sound towards the end, yet falls short of the previous tracks because it cannot gather up its energy as quick. This fact may be forgiven, though, since we ARE talking about a ballad, although it then raises the question about the point in putting a ballad like this on the album. The closing epic "The Lost Saga" is an attempt by Stratovarius to write a Manowar-styled battle hymn for vikings. The song has a lot of good build-ups, yet the chorus doesn't reach the same level of power as the choruses of the eight first songs on the album do and the song succumbs to the same fault that many Manowar songs succumb to, which is trying to sound incredibly epic purely on its lyrical content while lacking actual musical substance, and "The Lost Saga" doesn't even have the humorous tongue-in-cheek attitude of many Manowar songs. Like with "Fire in Your Eyes", the chorus actually does grow very powerful and epic sounding towards the end. However, the joy is cut short by the song ending soon afterwards.

Overall, during these days, this album is like an energizing injection for epic melodic metal. Hopefully it will inspire other bands to keep their music epic, melodic and enjoyable.

The best power metal album in many years - 95%

BloodIronBeer, January 26th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, earMUSIC

I don't think Stratovarius needs any introduction. So, I'll jump right in to what matters in this phase of the band's life. After losing their founding member, and chief song writer, Timo Tolkki, the band has be lauded for having recovered so well with the last three albums they've produced. Some would even argue that among those three, namely Nemesis, is their best work so far. And there is no denying the quality of those albums, especially in light of Tolkki's departure, but I would disagree, only because this album is the best contender for that honor. Yes, I would argue that 30 years after forming, and having no founding members, this band has strangely, against all odds, produced their best work.

The key words to defining this album, are the words you would use to describe a great deal of the body of work throughout those 30 years: uplifting and energetic. Stratovarius' sound and theme have touched on the melancholy, but have always in true power metal fashion, sought to see the positive in things. To keep it on the better side of the corny spectrum they've always tempered their upbeat spirit with heart-felt melancholy and darker reflections. To hone this balance further, they've always added high tempo and quick licks to the equation. Both of these things, however, I feel they've done better than ever on this album.

The base of their sound is of course, the synth-heavy, double-bass-tastic speedy European power metal. But balancing their older sound which was maybe a bit more on the emotional side, with the last three albums, which have a bit more of a new school, riff-oriented and downtuned guitar sound, they've produced in this album their most well balanced and refined music. Both elements are here. The dream-like quality of the keyboards mesh with some legit headbanging guitar riffs.

The drums are thunderous, bassy with pop. Very tasteful playing here, not going crazy with the double bass, like they might have done in the past. The more modern leanings on the guitar show up at just the right moments, like in a sort of slow down in Rise Above It with some nice epic choir keyboards and guitar screams, giving a nice little punch to the song before it moves on to the next part.

Kotipelto's vocals are as powerful, full ranged and expressive as ever. This might be his best vocal performance. A true legend. The opening track is one of the most "Stratovarius" sounding songs ever. It's the band in a single song. Powerful, uplifting, catchy as all Hell. Speedy drum fills, grandiose keyboards and quick guitar licks abound. Classic stuff.

But what really pushes this album from really good, to something truly special is the epic final track, The Lost Saga. This track is essentially perfect from a song writing standpoint. It opens with the epic choir vocals, slowly building the theme, then breaking into a sweet chugging, headbanging riff that is uncharacteristic for this band but so, so spot on, going back to the epic theme in the melody. Later there is use of polyrhythms and nice metric variations, getting a little proggy, done so tastefully. The song unfolds so nicely, seeing flashes of many genres, and many moods throughout the course of the narrative. Impeccably written, and so fucking potent. This is quite possibly the best song in this band's long history. I have no qualms in calling it a masterpiece.

Even the bonus track of Giants is a fantastic track. Reminiscent of Fourth Dimension era stuff, it's catchy, and cheesy and awesome. I can't quite remember the last time I heard a power metal album of this magnitude. Don't sleep on this album. Absolutely top notch!

The parts may change, but the whole remains. - 98%

hells_unicorn, October 26th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, earMUSIC

In the past several years Stratovarius, arguably the greatest power metal mainstay of Europe after Helloween, has come to embody a rather striking contradiction. It is generally stipulated that there is one driving force behind a band's brilliance, the de facto root from which the great tree springs, without whom the tree ceases to be what it was. Granted, the original incarnation of this band in the mid-80s would completely dissolve well before they became known for what they are now, an incarnation of which the recognized dominant presence of now departed guitarist and composer Timo Tolkki under admittedly embarrassing circumstances. Nevertheless, the version of this band that took shape in the mid 1990s is the one that most recognize as the real deal, and that version has managed to not only endure, but flourish in Tolkki's absence following a stream of sub-par studio albums. Nipping on the heels of his departure was the most brilliant album the band had put together in over a decade in Polaris, followed by two respectable yet somewhat stylistically mixed follow ups in Elysium and Nemesis, leaving some degree of question as to where the band would go next, particularly following the departure of longtime drummer Jorg Michael just before the creation of Nemesis.

The level of uncertainty that comes about due to the constant reshuffling of this band's lineup has, surprisingly enough, had zero impact on this band's viability as a power metal colossus, as can be instantly gleaned from the glorious triumph that is Eternal, this band's 15th studio LP. In a sheer twist of fate, somehow these guys managed to not only recreate the same magic that they first accomplished in the late 90s as had been done on Polaris, but have managed to focus their chops in a matter that actually ratchets up the glory literally to the point of revisiting the days of Visions and Episode full out, while still retaining the symphonic inclinations that first came in with Destiny while avoiding the overblown fixation with it at the expense of the metallic elements the way Infinite did. The technical wizardry going on between Johansson's lead keyboard gymnastics and that of guitarist Matias Kupiainen bears a greater virtuosity than the old days with Tolkki at the 6-string, and almost hits Symphony X territory at times, a fitting outcome given that Matias' chunkier guitar tone does give it a slight Michael Romeo edge to it.

If there is a single solitary complaint that can be laid at this album's doorstep, it's that it doesn't bother with any buildup and simply goes right for the jugular from the start. The opening song "My Eternal Dream" is arguably the best song on the entire album and opts for nailing things down with an unforgettable keyboard hook that just refuses to get old even after being repeated multiple times and doubled by the vocals during the chorus, to speak nothing for the busy riffing and speed that could be likened to a shorter version of "Anthem Of The World" with a touch of the chaotic character of "Find Your Own Voice". Much of what follows this song is definitely stellar, but the temptation to just repeatedly listen to the opening song until it's worn thin is all but irresistible. Nevertheless, similarly glorious and almost as speedy cruisers like "Rise Above It" and "In My Line Of Work" also shine quite brilliantly and further bolster this album's premise that metal can be both catchy and adventurous at the same time. On the whole, these songs tend to reflect a desire to retread the waters of Episode and are of more of a straightforward demeanor, at least compared to much of the remaining songs on here.

It is interesting to point out that this album does share some qualities similar to the recent sophomore effort of Cain's Offering, a band that happens to include the two most prominent and longest serving members of Stratovarius at this juncture. It's important to note that these similarities are a bit overblown at times depending on who is talking, and is largely confined to the production style and some of the more quirky keyboard sounds that occasionally pop in and out of the mix. The intro keyboard theme of the otherwise typical mid-tempo Stratovarius album single fair "Shine In The Dark", along with much of the keyboard detailing in the heavier and slightly more progressively tinged "Man In The Mirror" are the more obvious examples of this subtle tendency. It should also be pointed out that this techno-tinge has precedent that goes back a bit further in the case of Stratovarius, as can be heard in the upper mid-tempo and deep of texture rocker "Feeding The Fire", which at times sounds like a sequel to the Destiny single S.O.S.. Likewise, the guitar riff work is a bit busier and less bound by traditional Helloween influences as what Jani Liimatainen took to both Sonata Arctica and Cain's Offering respectively.

In essence, Eternal could rightly be likened to the massively ambitious orchestra and symphonic choir steeped closing epic that adorns it in "The Lost Saga", because this literally stops just shy of sounding like the album that should have followed Destiny at the turn of the millennium. It's proof against the notion that power metal either has to eschew progression or progress so much that it ceases to be power metal, as the happy middle ground of controlled evolution of style is what marks the greatness of this compared to the triumphs of times now long past. And while Timo Tolkki's efforts outside of his former band have had a respectable degree of success vs. failure, it's pretty clear that Stratovarius was being held back by him about as much as he was being held back by it. Whether this album proves a promise for greater days ahead of if it serves to be this band's last go at glory, it's a musical victory and arguably the best thing to come out of the power metal world this year.

Still At The Top of Their Game! - 92%

Spiner202, October 14th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, earMUSIC

Stratovarius is by far the most reliable power metal band in recent years. Almost like clockwork, every 2 years since 2009, the band has released a new record, which manages to make subtle changes to the band’s overall sound, while still sounding definitively like Stratovarius. “Eternal” marks the fourth such effort. Interestingly, this album’s unique identifier is that is almost shows the band going back to the sound they became famous for. Many songs on this record are reminiscent of albums like “Fourth Dimension” and “Episode”; in other words, there is plenty of high-speed, blazing power metal driven by eccentric keyboards and large amounts of double bass. This is no more evident than on the opening song, “My Eternal Dream”, which kicks things off with triumphant fanfare from keyboardist Jens Johansson. This song also shows that lead vocalist Timo Kotipelto has not lost a step. His voice soars with ease, and while he may not go after some of the high notes he did earlier in his career, he knows how to work within his range (which is still of impressive width).

Though quite a few songs also display this tendency towards old-school European power metal, the band does manage to mix things up a little bit. “Shine In The Dark” is the prototypical Stratovarius single, not dissimilar from “Unbreakable” and “Darkest Hours” before it. As always, this means a song with a chorus that transcends catchy, an almost bouncy beat throughout, and a very upbeat feeling. Another highlight is the sole composition from bass player Lauri Porra: “Lost Without A Trace”. This song is a little bit darker, alternating between cleaner sections in the verses, and heavier sections in the rest of the song. Once again though, it is Kotipelto’s voice that steals the spotlight.

Aside from these songs, another track of note is the nearly-12 minute closer “The Lost Saga”. The band’s previous epic, “Elysium”, is without a doubt one of the best songs they’ve ever written. While “The Lost Saga” doesn’t quite stack up, it is quite worthy of being called epic. The song starts off slow, but once the band comes in, guitarist Matias Kupiainen hits you with one of the all-time great Stratovarius riffs. It almost reminds me of the riffs from the early Metallica records, simply because of how classic it is. As the track progresses, the band continues to deliver largely the same things they have been providing earlier in the album, culminating in an epic slow section not unlike the grand finale to “Elysium”. As great as “The Lost Saga” is, the band easily could have cut off the first or so minute as well as the last one, neither of which feature substantial musical contributions relative to the rest of the track. Nevertheless, these are small complaints on an otherwise stellar song.

In terms of disappointments, “Eternal” has few. The only slight letdown is that the Jens Johansson-penned tracks are not quite up to par this time. On the previous two albums, songs like “The Game Never Ends” and “Dragons” were easily among the highlights. This time around, “Man In The Mirror” is a very serviceable song that fits in with the rest of the record, while “Fire In Your Eyes” is a bit of a weaker ballad-esque song. But this is part of what makes Stratovarius great; on “Elysium”, Lauri Porra’s song was easily my least favourite, while on “Nemesis” and “Eternal”, his contribution to each record were amongst the best. The variability in writing shows that everyone in the band is a good songwriter. Likewise, Kupiainen and Kotipelto/Liimatainen have their share of hits and more standard songs (but these two songwriting groups tend to write more of the material, so there’s usually a good share of winners and more predictable songs on each album). Ultimately, however, all of these guys have a perfect understanding of Stratovarius’ sound and what makes it so great. Sometimes they write a better song than others, but they never miss the mark completely, and even an average Stratovarius song exceeds what many other bands are doing. “Eternal” may be the weakest of the latest 3 records (though I like it more than “Polaris”), but it once again shows a fresh take on a familiar sound, and that’s more than enough to keep it in regular rotation!

Originally written for Skull Fracturing Metal
http://skullfracturingmetal.blogspot.ca/

Eternally entertaining. Sorry for the pun. - 87%

Empyreal, October 4th, 2015

The last couple of Stratovarius albums have been, bar none, the best in the band's long catalog, which I say even as a fan of some of their earlier 1990s output as well. It's especially impressive because I can't think of another band that was able to jettison basically a founding member and then reform their whole identity, putting out such quality albums as Polaris and Nemesis. Guitarist Matias Kupiainen is an obvious factor in that success, as his extremely solid, polished style and obvious songwriting chops have gone a long way toward keeping Stratovarius one of the best in their genre. For a young dude in his 20s when he was first hired, this kind of work is stunning. I can't wait to see what else this dude does in the future.

So now we have Eternal, their newest album, and it's more of the same rock solid quality. I admit I was unsure of how this would turn out – the album title was generic, the song titles were rather bland, and I wasn't huge on that new Cain's Offering album which also came out this year. But inside I knew Stratovarius would do fine, and they have. This is basically what you expect – pristine production, crystalline synths, pounding, rhythmic guitar riffs and soaring, AOR-inspired chorus melodies delivered in a Finnish accent. There are few surprises here, but then, the quality is so good that it doesn't matter. The sound is, as always, so polished and clean that it's actually a bit of an acquired taste due to how forceful and energized the music is – it's the other side of the coin from a super brutal, murky death metal band. They may be polar opposites, but both of them are a niche, specific sound representing an acquired taste.

The songs on this are more palatable and accessible than those on Nemesis, without quite so many experimental, electronic and progressive flavors. But they're also easier to listen to, and the album goes down like an ice-cold glass of milk after you just worked all day outside in the summer. Everything just kind of gels on here – the melodies are extremely pleasant and catchy, and the songs are bursting with an electric energy. Timo Koltipelto's vocals sound great – along with guys like Tobias Sammet and urban breed, he's really finding a new groove and sounds better than ever. The riffs here are a bit less in the forefront than on Nemesis, but everything flows very well anyway.

“My Eternal Dream” is a blazing opener with fluttering melodies, searing guitar leads and Koltipelto dipping into a forceful, immediately hooky vocal line that comes off like a late 90s Stratovarius track in high definition. Lead single “Shine in the Dark” has some poetic, lovelorn lyrics and an infectious hook, and further tracks like “Rise Above It,” misty, atmospheric half-ballad “Lost Without a Trace” and the urgent, melodious ear-worm “Feeding the Fire,” which is my pick for best on the album, are basically a play-by-play of everything the band has ever been about. They are extremely catchy songs, and the fact that you've heard this type of material before from them does nothing to dilute the entertainment value. Actually, I'd say they have really honed their sound here into a summation of everything they've ever been about. “Man in the Mirror” is one of the only spots on here that hearkens back to the progressivism of Nemesis, with a slightly darker, electronic-influenced sound that grows on you like fungus. Ballad “Fire in Your Eyes” is actually a standout, a really good, affecting song.

If I had to pick a weak point, the epic “Lost Saga” might have to be it. It starts off good, and the band certainly sounds on point – but it loses its way in the second half and the lyrics are a bit silly. But overall even that's still worth hearing. This is a very solid, well played and professional album of power metal. Maybe not as good as Nemesis, but not being as good as one of their best albums isn't a crime. Eternal is legit; power metal fans will love it. Go get it now. That's all I gotta say about it.

At times overloaded with epic keyboard layers - 77%

kluseba, September 21st, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD + DVD, Victor (Japan, Limited edition, SHM-CD)

After the incredibly diversified and powerful ''Nemesis'', the darker and progressive ''Elysium'' and the dreamy and fluffy ''Polaris'', Stratovarius already releases its fourth studio record in six years since the band rose from its ashes after Timo Tolkki's departure and a longer period on hiatus. ''Eternal'' focuses on the band's more epic side and makes the keyboard the dominating instrument on this output. Nearly every song is fast, furious and somewhat overloaded since most of them come around with majestic choirs and massive keyboard layers. Some tracks end up repeating themselves after a while. It must also be added that the guitar work on this album is rather shallow if compared to the inventive keyboard sounds and the positively surprisingly strong rhythm section. The vocals are still strong but one can clearly hear that Timo Kotipelto isn't the youngest performer anymore as he struggles with some higher notes, most notably in the chorus of the catchy single ''Shine in the Dark''.

A track that represents this album very well is the opener ''My Eternal Dream''. It starts with epic keyboard sounds recalling commercial hard rock tracks from the seventies, eighties and nineties before fast guitar riffs, pumping bass guitars and some up-tempo drumming kick in. The furious start is hold together by the majestic keyboard sounds and Timo Kotipelto's passionate vocals that sound slightly lower than usual. Those who despise the band will call this opener an exaggerated overkill consisting of commercially flavoured catchy melodies, an overdose of slushy keyboard layers and exchangeable vocal lines. Fans of the band will appreciate the track's power and speed, the glorious chorus that won't let the audience go and the overall epic atmosphere. Honestly said, I can understand both points of view and while I happen to like the opener, there might be a few too many tracks of that kind on the record.

It's no surprise that the most outstanding tracks on the album are those that break with the usual high-speed European power metal formula. The dark half-ballad ''Lost Without a Trace'' convinces with grounded and powerful vocals performing emotional lyrics, a distinctive and dominant bass guitar tone and mysterious acoustic guitar sounds that add a rather thoughtful atmosphere. This song is probably the highlight of this record. The mid-tempo stomper ''Few Are Those'' also has a versatile rhythm section and a few addicting guitar solos while the kitschy chorus is of a quite debatable quality. The elegant piano ballad ''Fire in Your Eyes'' leaves an overall better impression and is another welcome break from the faster tunes where each melody line is carefully chosen and each vocal effort perfectly employed.

Among the faster tracks, the Japanese bonus song ''Giants'' is one of my favourite tunes. Imagine a more atmospheric and epic version of ''Dragons'' from the band's predecessor and you might get an idea what to expect from this track. The instrumental Japanese bonus track ''Endless Forest'' is the record's most curious case. It's a very calm keyboard track with both dark and enchanting tones at the same time that could come from a horror movie soundtrack of the seventies. In the beginning, I thought the track was boring and didn't fit on the album at all but as time passed by, I started to appreciate the track's almost folk-influenced video game sound that offers a simplistic yet efficient break from the rest of the album. The highly recommendable Japanese edition even features an additional DVD featuring the band's complete performance from the 2013 edition of the Japanese Loud Park Festival.

While several tracks are simply too exchangeable, fast and joyous in my opinion, the biggest deception probably remains the album closer ''The Lost Saga'' that clocks in at almost twelve minutes. The track has a few good ideas and interesting melodies but it offers nothing new like the previous epic progressive metal pearl ''Elysium''. The song is at least four minutes too long and feels stretched to unnatural lengths just for the sake of having a longer tune on the album. The overlong instrumental part mostly sounds hectic and rarely unfolds any real magic in my opinion. In addition to this, the drumming feels out of rhythm in the faster parts which is still irritating after ten spins or so. This song is by no means comparable to other extra-long tunes like ''Mother Gaia'', ''Anthem of the World'' and ''Visions (Southern Cross)''.

In the end, Stratovarius' new output ''Eternal'' has a more epic tone than the three previous releases. On the positive side, it convinces with a creative keyboard work and a powerful bass guitar tone and includes very solid tunes like ''Lost Without a Trace'' and ''Fire in Your Eyes''. On the negative side, several tunes sound exchangeable and feel slightly overloaded or stretched like ''My Eternal Dream'' and ''The Lost Saga' for example. My final verdict is that this album is not as convincing as ''Nemesis'' and ''Elysium'' but still clearly better than ''Polaris''. To conclude, this album deserves as spot in the middle section of Stratovarius' discography in terms of quality. Faithful fans of the band and European Power Metal in general should clearly purchase this record while everyone else might just ignore this release and rather try out the incredibly strong ''Nemesis''.

The Fire In Their Eyes - 96%

Larry6990, September 13th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, earMUSIC

Much like Cattle Decapitation proved with their recent albums: some bands age like a fine wine - maturing and refining their sound with every subsequent release. Finland's finest power metal export, Stratovarius, have exemplified this refinement over the past half-decade with a flurry of solid, consistent outputs. Since ditching Timo Tolkki (who, let's face it, should probably retire), the band has gone from strength to strength with such masterpieces as "Elysium" and the flawless "Nemesis". It all appears to have culminated with the launch of "Eternal" - yet another faultless segment of the ever-blossoming Stratovarius fruit.

Firstly, the album presents itself in stylish fashion with possibly the greatest album art in the band's catalogue. The detailed references to previous albums has not gone unnoticed, and the colour scheme is well reflected in the overall mood of the music. Considering most power metal is stereotyped as being joyful and jubilant, "Eternal" is refreshingly dark. Not just through the lyrics (which are undoubtedly more forlorn than in previous Strato albums), but each melody line brings with it a sorrow which, when combined with the power of the accompaniment, results in some truly dramatic moments.

Kicking off this modern power metal monument is one of the greatest tracks the band has written, period. "My Eternal Dream" absolutely rockets out of the starting gates with an up-tempo gallop and huge blaring synths from Jens Johansson's keyboards. The production quality is instantly noted as being perfect. There is a considerable crunch in the guitars and bass, showing that this time round, the boys mean business! Jens has also expanded his variety of sounds in the keyboard arsenal - now there are enormous orchestral overtones and huge mass choirs adding tons of interesting layers to this album.

After "My Eternal Dream" knocks you on your ass - all you have to look forward to is more of the same! That is the one fault I can find with this record: there may be a little too much of the same pace. Only 3 tracks vary from the mid-tempo, power metal stomp. Thankfully, the songwriting, production quality and execution is damn near perfect - so to hell with my bitesized complaints!

Let's move on to a topic that's sure to be at the top of the cynics' criticism list: Kotipelto's voice. Let's face it, the man's not young - so it's incredibly unfair to expect him to be hitting notes like those on "Learning to Fly". However, just as with "Nemesis" and "Elysium" before it, the band simply wrote songs to accommodate his range - which is still impressive. As a result, his voice simply soars! He sounds utterly magical, even now! His lack of upper range is completely eclipsed by the emotional punch he packs behind the lyrics, and his admirable lower range. Just listen to him lamenting after the chorus of "Shine in the Dark" - "I fear no more, though you're gone. I know we'll meet again." Beautiful.

The whole album never once dips in quality - but there are a few stand-out moments which create enough of an impact to make any listener, no matter how casual, to turn their head and perk their eyebrows. The previously-mentioned "Shine in the Dark" changes key before the last chorus, but unexpectedly lowers rather than ascends. "Man in the Mirror" begins with lots of exciting false-starts that keep the listener on-edge. "Fire in your Eyes" is the obligatory ballad, containing plenty of great piano work from Johansson and a captivating performance from Kotipelto. However, the jewel in "Eternal"'s crown lies at its finale...

"Polaris" had the Emancipation suite and "Elysium" had its immense title-track. Unfortunately, "Nemesis" was missing what made so many past Stratovarius albums great: that lengthy 10-minute-plus epic. Well, Timo and co. have nailed it with the 12-minute "The Lost Saga". It's one monster of a composition; a complex structure, a colossal chorus, a blazing solo section, and a truly heavy riff that the band couldn't hope to write when Tolkki was still dragging them down. This track is worth the price of the album alone.

Who'd have thought, 30 years into their career, that a Finnish melodic power metal band would be creating their definitive masterpieces? I've seen word around the dank bile-pits of the Youtube comments section that this should be Stratovarius' final album. With all the force I can muster, I say NAY! When a band sounds as energetic as this, as vibrant as this, as hungry as this - let it loose to feed! The rejuvenated Finns have created something truly special with "Eternal". Powerful, dramatic, theatrical and epic - yet ANOTHER contender for 'album of the year!'

"I am what you made of me,
Your blood is my blood and your heart is my heart.
We are what we leave behind,
An eternal stream.
You flow through me."