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Solid Stratovarius emulation. - 80%

hells_unicorn, August 2nd, 2008

Amidst the string of less than stellar Stratovarius releases between 2000 up until today, the least of which being the recent disaster which bore the band’s name, I was in search of something to fill the void. Among the crowd of bands influenced by Stratovarius are a sizable collection of newer Finnish power metal outfits, ranging from the fantasy album quasi-Nightwish influenced Dreamtale, the philosophically introspective and melancholy Sonata Arctica, and some lesser known acts such as Ultimatium who are the closest to the Stratovarius sound.

“New Dawn” is essentially 2nd tier power metal with a fair amount of potential, mostly drawing upon the keyboards as the principle melodic instrument, while the guitar and other instruments tend to fuse together into a solid backdrop, although the guitar does enjoy a fair amount of solo time. What results is something that is quite similar to Stratovarius’ 2nd LP known as “Twilight Time” both in terms of production and songwriting.

JT Partanen, who subsequently left the band to continue his solo project Two-horn Unicorn, sounds a good deal like Timo Kotipelto, although his range is not nearly as large. Likewise the guitar sound Harri Niskanen puts on display here is quite similar to the current guitar tone employed by Timo Tolkki, although his soloing style doesn’t involve as much shredding and thematically reminds a bit of the short melodic ideas Emppu of Nightwish often utilizes.

Among the highlights on this album is the listener friendly mid-tempo rocker “Follow Me”, which sounds a good deal like more recent Stratovarius singles such as “Hunting High and Low” and “Eagleheart”, although with some interesting guitar tracking tricks during the solo. “Dysfunctional” is a brief instrumental where the guitar takes prominence and the overall feel is that of a dance, not all that dissimilar from “Moondance” off Nightwish’s Oceanborn. “Through Winterlands” and the 9 minute plus closing epic “Fly High, Rise to the Sky” both have solid choruses and plenty of memorable keyboard themes.

The principle flaw in this album, besides being a bit derivative, is that some of the songs run together a bit, owing mostly to a lot of similar chord progressions being re-used with slightly different arrangements of differences in tempo to compensate. “Follow Me” is the easiest to identity, with “Dysfunctional” a close second place, but much of the other stuff sees similar ideas not getting fully developed. However, every song is charming and will not necessarily call for regular use of the skip button.

Fans of Stratovarius who are not happy with the current direction of the band, as well as Finnish power metal fans with extra money to burn are advised to check these guys out. I am anxiously looking forward to the next release as it will have the singer who gave us the amazing Dreamtale classic “Ocean’s Heart” Tomi Villtola doing the vocals, which will give principle songwriter and keyboardist Matti Pulkkinen a lot more latitude in writing the vocal melodies to the next opus.

Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 1, 2008.