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Written by a lunatic - 15%

Bahamut7, May 7th, 2010

Stratovarius were having a rough time in 2003 and 2004 after having dramatic issues with each other which was followed by several events. The main one was Timo Tolkki becoming mentally unstable and was sent to a mental hospital as a result. After he recovered from his issues as well as getting back together with the other band members, they recorded another album but turned out to be a complete failure. Not even Tolkki likes this album as stated in an interview two years later.

Sadly, not a single song on this album can be considered good and the only one that comes close to decent is The Land of Ice and Snow, which is actually a ballad! It may sound crazy but it's the closest to being listenable on this catastrophic album. The rest of the songs are either an earsore or plain boring.

Contrary to what some might say, Timo Koltipelto is a great vocalist and shows this in most of the albums he's been in. Although he does a decent job at singing most of the time, he does have a few moments where there's minor pauses in between words. The only real lowlight is in Maniac Dance where the sound production of the vocals is a complete mess. His singing in the rest of the sings is tolerable but nothing special.

The fast rocking tunes Stratovarius made such as Speed of Light and Legions are non-existent here. It's all slow to mid-tempo songs and although versatility is a good thing, we all know Stratovarius really shine with their fast songs. Even if you ignore the fact that none of the songs are as fast as one would desire, there are still a lot of flaws with the riffs and solos. Tolkki clearly threw his writing skills out of the window. The majority of the riffs are very basic and unimaginative and may be heard on previous albums. The worst riffs are Maniac Dance and Fight for the painfully bad writing.

The solos are nowhere near as good as in Stratovarius' classics. The solos are either really messy like in Maniac Dance and Back to Madness or bland as hell such as the ones in Just Carry On and United. The worst is Maniac Dance's incredibly dumb solo where it can't seem to make up its mind on the pitching and on top of that, it makes a stupid "WAAAAAH, waaaaaah, WAAAAAH, waaaaaah" at the end of it which hardly makes any sense.

The bass performance is another weak factor. For someone who's done a fine job as a bassist in the band since Dreamspace (but left after this travesty), this is appalling and a major step back from the previous works. The worst of the bass is in Maniac Dance where Jari seems to have completely messed up the tuning after the guitar solo ends. The rest of the bass performance is utterly forgetful.

The drumming has some terrible moments. Most of the time Jorg Michael sounds like he's bashing the drums and makes the listener wonder why he didn't think carefully about the snare drum settings. Good examples of bad snare drum hitting can be found in Back to Madness, Götterdämmerung (Zenith of Power) and United. While it's not as painful as St. Anger's trash cans, it's still inadequate.

Jens Johansson isn't a bad keyboardist but he used a wretched model to play for the recording sessions. There are terrible and unnecessary sound effects played such as Fight's space noises and Maniac Dance's Atari-like intro. When not creating stupid noises, Jens still does a poor job for the album by playing badly-pitched pieces as you can hear in the solo for United and the intro for Gypsy in Me. Gypsy in Me also contains a terrible keyboard solo that's completely out of the place in the whole song.

A fair amount of tracks suffer from random pieces of music thrown in together. Some of the intros are so bad that shortening them would have improved the songs they are introducing. Maniac Dance could have easily dropped the idiotic Atari sound effects while Back to Madness' violin and keyboard part is just filler and doesn't create any tension. None of the intros are well structured and don't show any strong characteristics.

Looking outside the intros, several songs suffer from randomness and pointless sections such as Götterdämmerung (Zenith of Power), United and most of all, Back to Madness. Back to Madness has the biggest issues with randomness and pointless sections with a male opera singer interrupting the song half-way and the ending throwing out nonsense with random shouting, a silly narration and a young girl talking gibberish to the microphone to conclude the song.

Leaving the Tribe and The Land of Ice and Snow aren't as bad as the other songs but the main issue for the former song is how dull and generic it is. There's hardly any energy to it and offers nothing new to the Stratovarius catalogue. As for The Land of Ice and Snow, this is the album's ballad and surprisingly the most listenable one out of the lot but it's pulled down by a different accent coming out from nowhere when Koltipelto reads the line "Where Koskenkorva flows" as well as the whole band needlessly playing for a few lines all of sudden.

The lyrics in general are very poor. Several songs are based on Tolkki's recent troubles with his life prior to the recording sessions. Some of these lyrics are laughably bad such as the choruses for Maniac Dance and Fight. The former makes no sense whatsoever and makes you wonder what Tolkki was thinking when he wrote the lines. As for Fight, the lyrics are horribly cliché and while power metal lyrics are ridiculous and cheesy most of the time, the majority of songs have no originality whatsoever.

In conclusion, Stratovarius' self-titled album is an atrocity. While some songs are barely listenable, it doesn't compensate the fact that the whole band hardly played their own part right. There are unnecessary and out of place segments thrown in, some songs are longer than necessary and the lyrics are pathetic. This was Stratovarius' low point of their career. Fortunately, they got better from this after Timo Tolkki left to focus on his then-new band Revolution Renaissance. Despite being the leader of the band for over 20 years, it was for the better.