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The good just can't save the bad here. - 50%

DoctorPsycho, April 28th, 2006

Stratovarius has come to be a bit of a joke. What with all the drama and publicity and sheer ridiculousness, it seemed like they'd never have time to record another album. However, as it tunrs out, they did. Unfortunately, the media reports are more interesting than this album.

Stratovarius' 1989 debut, Fright Night sounded more like a faster Candlemass than the power metal icons they are today. By their third, Dreamspace, they were playing a deliciously riff-laden style of power metal in the style of Gamma Ray or older Blind Guardian. Around Visions or Destiny, the keyboards started to take over, and their past two (Elements I and II) were a horrid mess of epic Rhapsody style keyboarding.

Fortunately, we don't have another one of those. This self-titled album cuts back on the keyboards for the most part, and relies a bit more on Tolkki's great guitar skills. Say what you want about him, but Tolkki can play the guitar. Kotipelto can sing too. Unfortunately, neither seem to know just what their good at, what with Kotipelto trying to hit notes far out of his reach, and Tolkki stuck playing chords through much more than it's worth.

We start this album with Maniac Dance, the single. It's a generic Stratovarius single track. It's fast and keyboard laden with a fun catchy chorus and memorable verses...wait, what?! Unexpectedly, this is a midtempo, almost thrashy song. Much of it isn't half bad either, though the chorus is pretty bland.

After this, we have two rather good songs, Fight! and Just Carry On. Both are uptempo Stratovarius classics in the vein of S.O.S. or Forever Free. Flying choruses, driving beats, this is what the Stratovarius fans want. These two are definitely the best two on the album, along with track 5, Gypsy in Me, a similar song, without being quite as good.

Tracks 4 and 6, cannot be said the same about. These are Back to Madness and Gotterdamnerung. Both are around seven minutes, which is about twice as long as they have any right at being. Back to Madness is a longass plodding ballad with this really stupid part where a MALE opera singer steps in. It's the perfect example of a song that just doesn't work. Gotterdamnerung is a bit better, as there's a faster part that sounds kind of like Fight!. However, the rest is wasted on both an overly long intro, an overly long intro, and that horrible, horrible chorus. ZINEETH OF POOOOOOWEEEEEER...ZINEETH OF POOOOOOWEEEEEER. Trust me, it's bad. If you guys are going to repeat the song title, at least learn how to pronounce it.

The next two songs are The Land of Ice and Snow and Leave The Tribe. Two slow plodding songs that you will immediately forget entirely. The former is somewhat atmospheric, but nothing really saves either. The album ends with yet another plodding epic, United, which isn't all bad, and has some pretty neat parts, and a pretty good chorus (expecially compared to some of the other bastadizations we have here).

Overall, this is no triumphant return. We have three good songs, two passable ones, and four lame, plodding, over-pretentious songs. Hopefully they'll fix these problems for the next one, as it could end up quite good. Sadly, it seems more probable that this band is going to stay just as washed up, if not more so, over the next few albums, untill they finally fall apart for good.