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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.