Ryan Murray | Co-Owner | Chief Editor | Contributor
After a seven year gap, Finnish power metal icons, Stratovarius, have released their long-awaited new studio release “Survive” on September 23rd. This album sees a really solid return for one of power metal’s longest lasting bands. Originally founded in Helsinki, what was first known as Black Water in 1984, quickly became Stratovarius in 1985 and began some internal line up changes, finally releasing their first album “Fright Night” as Stratovarius in 1989. While none of the original members are still in the band now, the two longest standing members are Timo Koltipelto and Jens Johansson, having joined in ‘94 and ‘95 respectively.
Stratovarius has shown that they truly can withstand the test of time, and “Survive” is an aptly named album as any. Not only has the band survived since inception despite a lot of lineup changes, but they have continued to show the world that they are worthy of being one in the best in the business. You wouldn’t guess it’s been seven years since their last studio album. The band’s performance is strong and clean, so you can forget about trying to clean out the cobwebs, because they aren’t there!
With strong, punchy riffing, and heart pounding drums, the album starts off strong with the title track “Survive”; a track deserving of its title, as it’s clear that the band is not only still here, but are stronger than ever before. This track is true to who Stratovarius is known to be, but with a modern punch to it! Kotipelto’s vocals are as strong as ever on this entire album, with the incredible power and range that he’s known for. Kotipelto is absolutely one of the most underrated vocalists within the industry.
Tracks like “Demand” and “Broken” are really catchy, with massive melodic hooks all throughout. These tracks really have Kotipelto’s vocals on display, showcasing his versatility and range. Matias Kupiainen and Lauri Porra really shine on “Broken” with beefy riffing, deep swells on bass and insanely well-executed leads.
“Firefly” feels very radio-friendly with a great up-beat feel and great instrumentation with a chorus that gets stuck in your head that replays over and over again. Some great guitar solos that aren’t crazy fast, but are tasteful and fit perfectly with the feel of the song.
“We Are Not Alone” and “Frozen in Time” are definitely two of my favorite tracks from the album. With massive and epic soundscapes created by the orchestration, great riffing and bass and absolutely killer double bass on the drums, it would be impossible to hear these bombastic tracks without getting amped up. Porra truly shines on “We Are Not Alone” with an absolutely killer bass line and “Frozen in Time” reminds me of a heavier and more epic sounding “Rest Calm” from Nightwish’s Imaginaerum during the vocal melodies.
In an epic, anthemic, stance-taking call-to-arms, singing about the self destruction that is happening faster and faster with everyday that passes, blindly charging ahead, “World on Fire” loudly shouts out about the human destruction of our planet and that now is the moment to stand and use our voices for what is right if we’re going to save our future.
In pure power metal fashion, skank beats in tow, “Glory Days” almost has a feeling of Nightwish’s “Crownless” off of their album “Wishmaster”. This upbeat track seems to be in juxtaposition to “World on Fire”, where as it seems to call on those who stand strong together in unity, rather than the falling apart on the despair of our self destruction. “We fought to see these glory days. Shed our blood and wept our tears to see victory. We fought to see these glory days. Burning brighter than the sun, one for all and all for one….”
A slower, almost but still just as strong “Breakaway” sees a slower but epic sounding guitar riffing with great orchestration. The verses have acoustic strumming with more of a power ballad feel, but the choruses kick in with some more power chords and more heart-pounding drums. The orchestration and choir background adds some absolutely great layering to this track.
The last two tracks on this album, building with more and more intensity as the album marches on sees a perfect close to this absolutely triumphant return of one of power metal’s most iconic groups of all time. “Before the Fall” is just about as stadium-ready as amusing could be, with a perfect spot for the crowd to join in right for the get go with the “oh-oh-oh” section right in the beginning. The verses kicking in with strong stank beats and great melodic riffing. The chorus has a pretty epic feel to it, with definitely a very singable hook. A song seemingly about toxic personalities of the self absorbed and the liars that we all deal with, and the eventual and inevitable fall that these people succumb to.
I’m always a sucker for songs over seven minutes long, but it also needs to have substance. Album closer “Voice of Thunder” absolutely NAILS it! Starting with just an acoustic soundscape with just guitar and Koltipelto’s somewhat subdued power-ballad vocals, leads into an all-out sonic asault at 1:25 with some great riffing and drums blowing it up. Koltipelto picks it up a bit to match the intensity of the beefy power riffing, and everything sits perfectly together. This track sees different levels throughout its 11:10 run time. With a very epic close to the album, this track has walls of sound, absolutely impeccable orchestration and choir backing, all layering this album-closer with near perfection.