Stratovarius – Eternal (earMusic)Tuesday, 1st September 2015
Keeping up in the seven letter title themes for the post-Tolkki era (Polaris, Elysium, Nemesis), Stratovarius certainly has handled the trials and tribulations of a long career rather well considering many of the circumstances. No original members left as vocalist Timo Kotipelto remains the longest standing since 1994. Losing main songwriter/guitarist Timo Tolkki in 2008 – and surviving the crazy internet hoaxes between a female singer replacing Kotipelto and Tolkki being stabbed at a concert during the mid-2000’s. A long ways away from their Visions studio pinnacle in 1997, the quintet has fought tooth and nail to prove their power metal still has plenty of creative fuel to burn – as well as an audience ready to lay all the turbulence to rest.
Eternal contains many of the uplifting melodic trademarks as far as Timo’s higher falsetto oriented melodic range, upbeat double bass oriented tempos and the symphonic/neo-classical flourishes that keep keyboardist Jens Johansson at the top of his game- “Rise Above It” and opener “My Eternal Dream” offering tried and true Strato-appeal. Taking a few cues from a lot of the modern newcomers who willingly add a little bit of cyber/electro groove to the proceedings, there are aspects to “Shine in the Dark” keyboard-wise and rhythmically for “Man in the Mirror” where the band seem ready to advance to the modern age, familiar strains to those who love all things Amaranthe.
Mathias Kupiainen no longer feels like the new man on the block (that would be drummer Rolf Pilve since the Nemesis record), surging with axe confidence for the catchy “Few Are Those” while showcasing his multi-layered clean to distortion skill set on another highlight “Lost Without a Trace” – the latter mighty tasteful in the Michael Schenker mold for the lead break. Ending the album by throwing all the bells, whistles, choirs, and instrumental guitar/keyboard tussles through the 11:39 “The Lost Saga”, Stratovarius possibly issue their best epic in at least 15 years.
Approaching the record with multiple songwriters in the fold, Eternal does not make one yearn for a carbon copy of early Stratovarius – instead allowing the band to rightfully assert itself as keeping one foot in familiarity while extending an ear for the future. Scandinavian power metal for the win.