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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.