Stratovarius – Destiny
After two positively titanic albums, Stratovarius finally arrives at somewhat of a divisive point: their 1998 release, Destiny. I would first like to take the time to point out that this is their 5th album in 5 years, and 3 of the releases in that time stand among the top 4 or 5 albums of the band’s career (Dreamspace, Episode and Visions). The combination of a prolific release schedule and some very high quality releases were essential to establishing Stratovarius as among the best in the business. However, by Destiny, some signs were beginning to show that the band was maybe a few ideas too short.
In truth, Destiny is an attempt to emulate and improve on the efforts of their previous two releases with a more symphonic focus vs. the melodic approach on Episode and the neo-classical angle of Visions. As with how Episode played into Visions, both albums play strongly into Destiny. However, the ballad trend that had, for some time, been somewhat worrisome finally becomes a problem.
I’ve commented on Visions and Episode having surprisingly good ballads. That’s a trend that worked great for two albums, and Destiny decidedly marks the end of it. Not only do the ballads lack creativity here, but instead of the precedent on past (and future) albums of having two ballads, the band decides that Destiny has room for a third: “Years Go By”, “4000 Rainy Nights”, and “Venus In The Morning”. Not to harp too long on these, but “Venus In The Morning” is probably the best of the bunch, though not something to turn many heads, “Years Go By” is just plain boring, and “4000 Rainy Nights” is downright overblown and awful. It’s not my usual fare to speak so harshly of Stratovarius songs, as Timo Tolkki rarely writes something awful (boring is much more frequent), but “4000 Rainy Nights” just sucks. Bad.
On a more positive note, the band also decided to expand on a trend that went very well for them on Visions, and that is the “Epic” song. The album’s bookends, the title track “Destiny” as well as “Anthem of the World”, mark two of the band’s best in this category. Both are, truth be told, more formulaic that the non-standard “Visions”, but the melodies in each are unforgettable. A bit of trivia: the opening melody of “Destiny” is allegedly the first piece of music Timo Tolkki ever wrote, and without being too much of a downer in this review, the story behind its composition is positively heart-wrenching. Details can be found in his freely available book “Loneliness of a Thousand Years”. Another bit of trivia is that the main melodies to both “Destiny” and “Anthem Of The World” have been “sampled” (*Cough*PLAGERIZED*Cough*) by Lil’ Wayne. The more you know, eh?
The third component of Destiny is the more upbeat and faster tracks, and these are also solidly composed and put together. “Rebel”, “S.O.S.”, “No Turning Back”, and “Playing With Fire” all deserve a few good listens, and shouldn’t be any source of disappointment. Unlike its predecessors, the album has clearly defined weaknesses, but continues in developing further strengths. The symphonic strength of this album sets a trend for the next three albums as well, and the inconsistencies start to get in here as well, resulting in both roaring strengths and glaring weaknesses for the rest of the band’s prime run.
Dagg’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5