Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

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''.