Stratovarius – Eternal
Release Date: September 18, 2015
The power metal mecca of Finland offers up yet another full-length release from the legendary Stratovarius, with their sixteenth release since forming in 1985. With our lord and savior Timo Kotipelto leading the way, this album is the sophomore release of the band’s relatively new drummer, Rolf Pilve, who debuted on 2013’s album of the year, Nemesis. With a discography full of ups and downs, from larger than life to more laid back releases, 2015’s Eternal is on the coattails of their last masterpiece that set the bar quite high for the band.
My original impression of the record, from the opening track, “My Eternal Dream” was that of reluctant hesitation. The orchestration is phenomenal, but the mixing seems to downplay what is going on, drowned out by loud drums and guitar. Even somewhat on the back burner are Kotipelto’s layered vocals and choral arrangements. This record starts off on a note that reminds me of earlier releases such as 1997’s Visions, which is a slight step back from the perfection of Nemesis in 2013. Following, is the track “Shine in the Dark” which keeps a mid-tempo beat and mellow vocal patterns until the chorus that explodes out of the verses. The melodies are absolutely beautiful and layered to perfection, so the initial impression faded away slightly into more excitement about what was to come.
After some insane keyboard and guitar riffing in “Rise Above It”, the album slows down again with another beautiful tune, “Without a Trace”. With acoustic guitar behind the building vocals, and bass guitar coming in with a solid presence, the song moves along wonderfully, despite the melancholic picture the lyrics are painting. After a few more songs, “Man in the Mirror” comes in with a strong chorus presence and dies down as quickly as it began with a nice synth breakdown. While I loved the way the song began, the track loses most of my interest, due to the repetitive lyrics post-guitar-solo.
“Few Are Those” has a beautiful keyboard intro from Jens Johansson, and great tribal-like drums that pulled me in, with nice touches of the same melody throughout the track. But the real shining gem on the album is the over eleven-minute epic, “The Lost Saga”, that brings Eternal to its close. The choir presence throughout the beginning is something that would make even Powerwolf jealous, as the gritty heavy metal guitar riffs kicks off the song. The vocal layering and orchestrations add great depth to the track, and the way the tune builds really does make this the best work on the album. Of all tracks, this will be the one I will return to frequently.
All in all, this album is good, but somewhat lackluster and just didn’t sell Stratovarius for me as I had hoped. I was very excited with Nemesis, with the huge hooks and perfect production, but this one just doesn’t sink into me as hard. Not that it is a bad release, I will return to it from time to time and encourage fans new and old to check it out. I hope you can find some of that Strato-magic that I can’t seem to find, because to me it’s a good release; not great. If it weren’t for the last track on the album, I would likely add this to the few releases I own but have sat on a shelf for years. “The Lost Saga” is phenomenal and really makes this album so much better than it would have been without it. That masterpiece alone is worth a purchase, so please give this one a shot!