Stratovarius – Twilight Time
Twilight Time is the second album of the Stratovarius Discography, originally released simply as “Stratovarius II.” The album in some regards could even be counted as a Timo Tolkki solo project, as it features the same lineup as Classical Variations And Themes, with Tolkki singing, and playing guitar and bass. The sound on this record is still, at the core, darker NWOBHM-inspired speed metal, but with more artistic elements and a stronger keyboard presence. Antti Ikonen, evidenced especially in live shows from this era and later, is a very atmospherically focused keyboard player, and while the album credits might suggest that Tolkki wrote all of the music, it seems evident from these early albums that Ikonen left quite a bit of an impace upon the composition, “The Hills Have Eyes” in particular.
What the guitar playing on Fright Night showed signs of, becomes more fully realized on Twilight Time, with Tolkki playing some of his most “metal” oriented songs and shreddiest of solos. Part of the heavy focus however, led to what I believe to be Stratovarius’ most forgettable instrumental ever: “Metal Frenzy” The thing is just built around a simplistic, moderately heavy riff, with scale runs for fills. The song really lacks purpose. A few other moments, like the overlong intro to “Madness Strikes at Midnight” hamper it a bit, but that’s one of my favorite songs when it gets going, so I can’t fault it too much
To point out the real gems of the early career, the opening track, “Break the Ice”, as well as “The Hills Have Eyes” both stand out as some of the more unique compositions I’ve heard from this band. Vocally, Timo is leaning more towards the higher, more soaring approach that will eventually lead him to step down from the microphone, and songs from Twilight Time translate much better live with Kotipelto singing. Very rarely will I comment on album art in a review, but it’s worth noting that the artwork on Twilight Time sets the tone for many others to follow, it’s relatively simple, but one of my favorites nonetheless.
For artistic metal fusion, you can’t go wrong with Twilight Time. While there are still only stylistic fragments of what’s to come, it’s a very enjoyable album, and my only caution to listeners is that it may be somewhat of a grower. Those are hard to really address as a critic, but my first listen or two through the album didn’t really grab me, it wasn’t until about a year later when I revisited it that it really stood out to me.
Dagg’s Rating: 3.75/5
Fright Night (1989)