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Fear not, Strato-fans!! - 92%

OSheaman, May 29th, 2005

Stratovarius are back, and they're loud, heavy, and ready to kick some ass. The new s/t is undoubtedly their heaviest work yet, and the band is in top form after all the drama of 2004. I'm not going to go into all the drama of the band's recent turmoil. Requiem touches on that and it's all been discussed to death. Instead I'm going to focus on this excellent quasi-reunion album that easily qualifies as classic Stratovarius.

I said this album is the heaviest Stratovarius album, and I'm not kidding. We're talking Kiss of Judas-level intensity here. Except for the little keyboard ditties introducing some of the songs, just about everything on here is chock full of power chords and riffage. Of particular note is the drumming, which really stands out on this album. Michael is given gigantic leadins and great counter-rhythms to the guitar line and it really gives a professional feel to the album. Everyone else is in top form, especially Tolkki who has an increased presence on the album and uses it to load up with powerful riffage and awesome solos. The keyboards are quite minimal in the album; I think Jens gets a couple of melody lines under the guitar and a few intros but other than that he is a relatively minor presence in the album. As for Kotipelto, one gets the feeling that he is really trying to expand his abilities as a vocalist on the album. He plays with his inflection and tonal quality a lot to create different styles on different songs, which really helps add to the variety of the music on the album.

I have always maintained, and I will until my dying day, that the best part of Stratovarius is the amazing variety of songs they can pull off on any given album, and the s/t is no exception. From the hard rockish Maniac Dance to the full out assault of Fight!!! to the soothing ballad of Land of Ice and Snow to the powerful epic sounds of Götterdämmerung, Stratovarius has something for just about every major style of Power Metal. While you probably won't like every song on the album (unless you're a fanatic like me), you'll almost certainly like a few on here, and there are very few weaknesses to detract from the overall strength of the album.

There are a couple of "what the fuck" moments on here, most notably Back to Madness, which is easily the worst song on here and features, in what I hope is some sick practical joke by Tolkki, an unbelievably retarded pseudo-operatic part around the three minute mark that defies the traditional boundaries of the word "gay." Overall, however, this album is a triumphant success for Stratovarius and is definite proof that, even after all the shit that has torn them apart, they're still the kings.