Stratovarius – Fourth Dimension
For those who would have been working through the Stratovarius discography chronologically, Fourth Dimension represents a whole different world from Dreamspace. For someone working front to back, Fourth Dimension represents a whole different world from Episode. In reality, the best way to describe this is a fusion between the two styles.
The albums starts with “Against the Wind”, a legitimate power metal anthem that resonates to this day. The addition of Timo Kotipelto enables Tolkki to start emulating his idols of Ritchie Blackmore and Yngwie Malmsteem more closely. It continues through a variety of melodic and technical displays, of various elements of Stratovarius past and future, including even a stronger presence of the NWOBHM elements from Fourth Dimension. The band has entered new territory hiring a full time singer, and so there is a different sense of professionalism present, with the band more focusing on being memorable, than the personal and dark emphasis of Dreamspace.
Thus, traditionally, fusion/transitional albums can go two ways, depending on if they embody the best or worst of both worlds. First then, we must look at what retains itself from Fourth Dimension and Dreamspace. I have always considered keyboardist Antti Ikonen somewhat of an unsung hero of the first four Stratovarius albums, and he leaves a definite stamp on the music. As far as the longer songs go (“We Hold The Key”, “Lord Of The Wasteland”, “Twilight Symphony”), they are certainly moving more power metal, but they would still I think fit better on Twilight Time than Visions or Destiny.
Neo-classical elements that would really begin to flourish by the Visions album show themselves to root in Fourth Dimension, however, on Fourth Dimension, it is much more so a melodic classical approach, than the later shred focused neo-classical attack. Within the power metal genre, Timo Kotipelto is very much a divisive force, while his later works are very much on a love-hate album, I find this to be his most accessible album for detractors. Since Stratovarius has not entered the “flower metal” style yet, his performances are more reminiscent of the better ends of 80s metal or even the better days of Michael Kiske. Part of this is also because these are the very early days, and so Kotipelto’s voice is in absolutely top form.
Thus, Tolkki’s more neo-classical guitar style, as well as Kotipelto’s higher, soaring vocals are the heralds of what is to come. All in all, the album doesn’t come into much musical conflict with these two styles, and there are a couple great tracks (“Against The Wind”, “Twilight Symphony”, “We Hold The Key”), however not having its feet firmly in either world, fourth dimension fails to deliver the extraordinary quality of Dreamspace before it or Episode after it.
Dagg’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5