Stratovarius – Stratovarius
Since first hearing the self titled Stratovarius album back when I got into the band in 2006, I have really come to appreciate it. This journey is probably not worth it to you though. One hallmark of Stratovarius fans I have found is that every album seems to have some oddly devoted following. I’ve heard people say that Fright Night was the best Stratovarius album, I’ve talked to devoted fans of Elements Pt. II, and even this has some fans. On the other hand, it was (rightfully) critically and commercially panned, and I’ll try to put it as fairly as I can.
Everything from Jorg Michael’s double bass armada, to Jens Johansson’s blazing keyboard solos, to any sense of happiness or joy, is gone. Nothing, from a musical standpoint, that defines Stratovarius is present. Even Timo Kotipelto takes a different approach with his vocals (And this might not be the worst thing in the world). Now, I’m an ardent supporter of Dreamspace, upon which not only are most of the musical elements not present, but most of the MUSICIANS that define the golden era of Stratovarius don’t play on it or Twilight Time. Correct. However, Dreamspace is “different”, and while the self titled album seeks to capture that “difference”, the product that ends up on the disk is, generally just “less”.
Jorg’s drumming is fairly interesting, but it pales in comparison to what any progressive rock genre can do. The talents of Johansson are completely wasted, and Tolkki seems almost completely unwilling to shred it up. The secondary talents that the band falls back on aren’t particularly well developed and altogether not really worth listening to.
In the album’s defense, there are some songs I still listen to on a regular basis, and would even recommend to friends. “Fight!!!” is probably the closest thing to a classic Stratovarius song, though it’s still completely different, but it feels the most power metal on the album and I enjoy its energy. “Gotterdammerung (Zenith of Power)” is, I would imagine, the type of song that inspired Tolkki on the creative course for the album, and while that is a particularly worthwhile song, the rest of the album is not so much. “Back to Madness” is effectively haunting, and that’s fairly rare in the genre, and finally “The Land of Ice and Snow” is legitimately the best ballad the band had done since the duo on “Visions”.
This is worthwhile for dedicated fans to explore, sure, but for anyone else I would recommend checking out some of the above mentioned songs first. The album has the potential to be a grower, but even as I appreciate the album, it probably wasn’t worth the time I had to invest in it to “get” it.
Dagg’s Rating: 2.25/5