It’s been seven long years since Finnish power metal act Stratovarius released their previous studio album, Eternal. With so much happening in the world since then, it really does feel like an eternity. Although far from the Utopian dream, 2015 was just a much more pleasant place to live. Two hugely polarising world leaders/scandal enthusiasts were yet to come to power, pandemics only affected other people, and we still had David Bowie, Prince, and (for most of it anyway) Lemmy.
An entirely different band to what began as Black Water in 1984, only vocalist Timo Kotipelto and keyboard player Jens Johansson remain from Stratovarius of the nineties, the rest of the band having joined since the departure of founder member Timo Tolkki in 2008. So, considering everything that’s happened in the world and to the band themselves over the years, Survive (earMUSIC) does seem a rather appropriate choice of album title.
Opening with the anthemic title track and the uplifting ‘Demand’, it’s clear the band are playing to their strengths on their sixteenth studio full-length and this continues with the pneumatic drumming and classic Strato-Chorus of ‘Broken’. ‘Firefly’ simply soars and ‘We Are Not Alone’ is driven by Europop keyboards, chunky riffs and possesses another skilful solo from guitarist Matias Kupiainen.
Things slow down for the dramatic ‘Frozen in Time’, a powerful cut that brings out the very best in Kotipelto, the fifty-three year old singer still clearly at the top of his game. ‘World on Fire’ continues in that vein while the rousing ‘Glory Days’ could have been written during the band’s pomp in the mid-nineties, a song with a welcome familiarity likely to bring a smile to many time-hardened faces.
Every good power metal album needs a quality power ballad and with its lilting orchestrations, ‘Breakaway’ fulfils that requirement perfectly while ‘Before the Fall’ employs choral vocals to make its point. Another long standing power metal tradition is the epic final track, and at over eleven minutes in length, ‘Voice of Thunder’ is just that. Ranging from delicate notes to more strident and aggressive tones, Kotipelto, Kupiainen and Johansson are on point yet again, the heavier and proggier sections allowing bassist Lauri Porra and drummer Rolf Pilve time to shine as the song builds towards a suitably grand finale.
As much as things might have changed since their last studio outing, Survive feels like Stratovarius has never been away. The energy and enthusiasm are still there and the songs have hooks to match. A triumphant comeback for one of the true leaders of the genre.
Buy the album here: https://stratovarius.lnk.to/SurviveAlbumID
8 / 10