I first came to know about Stratovarius with their 1997 record Visions. Right from the start, I was won over by Timo Kotipelto’s icy melodic vocals, Jens Johansson’s lightning fast neoclassical keys and Timo Tolkki’s virtuoso riffs. Fast forward eighteen years and a lot of history that includes a bunch of great albums, a big crisis in the band, Tolkki leaving, a triumphant return, and I find myself listening to the band’s sixteenth studio album, Eternal.
What can I say about it? It sounds unequivocally like Stratovarius. Everything you could expect from them is here, including energetic and catchy melodies with sentiment and great solos. But, for some reason, it’s not as great as Nemesis which is probably the best album from the band in recent years. I must stress that this doesn’t mean that it’s bad — far from it.
There are many great songs here. “My Eternal Dream” with its lovely double-tempo madness courtesy of Rolf Pilve and Laura Porra is classic Stratovarius. The more modern “Shine in the Dark” is characteristic of the band’s contemporary years. “Feeding the Fire” and “In My Line of Work” are both very reminiscent of the entire Finnish power metal movement.
“Man in the Mirror” has a very memorable chorus that would likely make it a great song to experience live with Johansson delivers some of his great guitar wizardry. It’s also notable that the band is trying its hands at a more orchestral and progressive approach to songwriting on “The Last Saga”, a song that succeeds with its ascends and declines, making me wonder if they will venture further into that in the future. Kotipelto is, as usual, extraordinary throughout the album not to mention guitarist Matias Kupiainen who has proven both live and in the studio that he’s more than up to any task.
Kupiainen and Mika Jussila are back on production duties, bringing to Eternal the same heavier and slightly rougher sound that made its predecessor a joy to the ears. Mainly, by making the bass and drums appear more prominent which, from the times I’ve had the pleasure of watching them perform, is something I associate with Stratovarius’ live sound, altogether giving the music a very authentic feel.
Eternal is not an instant killer like Nemesis. It grows on you over multiple listens but fails to reach the level of greatness to which Stratovarius has me used to in the post-Tolkii era. This only happens because the standard has been set so high by its predecessors. But nonetheless, Eternal is a very respectable and entertaining affair from a consistent band who has been playing melodic power metal from the start, and an album that brings the welcome addition of ten more songs to the band’s already impressive cannon.
01. My Eternal Dream
02. Shine In The Dark
03. Rise Above It
04. Lost Without A Trace
05. Feeding The Fire
06. In My Line Of Work
07. Man In The Mirror
08. Few Are Those
09. Fire In Your Eyes
10. The Lost Saga
Timo Kotipelto – vocals
Jens Johansson – keyboards
Lauri Porra – bass
Matias Kupiainen – guitars
Rolf Pilve – drums
Produced and mixed by Matias Kupiainen
Mastered by Mika Jussila
Review by Eduardo for Sleaze Roxx, September 2015