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Humble beginnings - 85%

OSheaman, August 8th, 2003

It's too bad that these songs aren't on Stratovarius's setlist anymore, because some of these songs would absolutely SLAY live, especially with Kotipelto's vocals.

By Stratovarius's obscenely high standards, of course, these songs aren't that great. As an actual album, however, this is good stuff. The best part is the guitar work, as even in the early days we still had Mr. Timo Tolkki to be the heart and soul of the band. Tolkki's influences are as easy to read as a picture book in this first album--a Black Sabbath foundation with Megadeth-style riffage and Iron Maiden melodies and soloing (and the occasional Yngwie-trademark fast-as-fuck solos), with a little bit of Judas Priest sprinkled on top. In other words, he has taken the best parts of the best bands in metal and mixed them together into one ass-kicking guitar player. There are a few wrinkles in the overall guitar sound, and it takes another album or two before Timo irons it out and creates a style that is 100% original and completely his own. In the meantime, however, the riffage is strong and furious, with extremely fast solos and opening chord progressions that simply kick the shit out of you before the actual song even begins.

The other instruments are pretty good, too, although they need some work before they become key parts of the band. The bass work is very solid, although it can barely be heard at times and often stays too close to the drum, preventing it from emerging as a seperate instrument. The drum is furious, and Tuomo is obviously very talented; however, you can tell even here that his style conflicts with the guitars and the songs as a whole. Tuomo's drumming is very aggressive and thrash-oriented, with him often mirroring the rhythm patters of the guitars and therefore drowning the other instruments out. Not only that, but he gets a lot of short little solos--a lot more than are neccessary, or even ideal, for the songs. And yes, the vocals are terrible. Timo is not a vocalist by any stretch of the imagination, and Stratovarius's vocal parts are some of the most difficult of any band I have ever heard--definitely something that should be left to someone who knows what they're doing (Kotipelto).

Overall, though, the sound is a rudimentary version of perfection, and that's not bad at all for a debut album. If you bought some of the later Stratovarius material made during the era of the Fab Five, then don't expect the same thing in their first three albums. It's still worth a purchase, though, if only for Timo's excellent guitar work.