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Who's The Maniac? - 77%

Erin_Fox, October 28th, 2006

They say that everything that is old always becomes new again. Cyclical in nature, the style of modern metal is beginning to take on more than just the glammed-out visuals of the eighties (albeit it in a much darker form), but now we see Stratovarius, a band more often associated with progressive metal doing an awful imitation of the Sunset Strip sound in “Maniac Dance.” Frontman Timo Kotipelto vocalizes over a completely sleaze metal riff as he were hanging out at the Cathouse with Riki and Taime for one drink too many. It escapes the imagination as to why the band would choose this decidedly retro-sounding cut to be the album’s lead-off track. More likely than not, the group are looking for commercial acceptance in the waiting arms of American audiences, but this track would be best considered to be a good example of a Dr. Feelgood-era Crue b-side at best. Really, gentlemen. Who do you think that you’re fooling with this one?

“Stratovarius” is without a doubt a move to commercialize the band. On certain occasions it works in the band’s favor. “Fight”, being equal parts Scorpions and Europe, comes off as a solid track. Nothing extraordinary, mind you. Older metal fans have heard this type of metal done before, but that’s just fine and overall, Strato do a fair job with their bubblegum Euro shtick. It is when the more progressive nature of the ensemble comes across in songs such as the anthemic “Carry On” that followers of the band will begin to get really excited.

Echoes of Queensryche are touched upon in the music on sporadic occasions. “Back To Madness” carries a similar prog rock bent as Q experimented with during the “Mindcrime/Empire” era. It’s an influence that lies beneath the surface for the most part, as the band infuse an operatic break in the middle part of the track that serves to maximize the dramatic effect imparted during the song’s coda.

As the album progresses, it actually improves. When Stratovarius stick with what they do best, they enjoy an impressive amount of success. “Gypsy In Me” is a strong, middle-of-the-road metal cut, while things really get interesting with Gotterdammerung (Zenith Of Power), a song that finds Strato doing what they do best – balancing power and melody with precision and style and in doing so, they come off as being tough yet tuneful.

At the end of the day, this record will please many long time followers of the band, and although the first track is decidedly out of place on the record, it will likely garner the band a few new listeners as well. Stratovarius may be moving toward more of a rock sound on the whole, but the end result is commendable, proving why the band is one of the most respected groups to hail from Europe amongst metal circles today.