Stratovarius - Infinite


Year of Release: 2000
Label: Nuclear Blast
Catalog Number: 27361 64642
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

Please let me qualify that a year ago I was not, nor never really had been, a fan of metal, and less so of prog metal a la the likes of Magellan, Dream Theatre, etc. The closest to metal I'd listen to on a regular basis was very early Scorpions before Uli Roth left.

Then came Stratovarius. The first CD of theirs I heard was Episode and since then, I've purchased all but the first. And though the first few had some weak moments, everything from 95's Fourth Dimension on was brilliant. Their last, Destiny was crowning peak of Stratovarius's glory. And so I awaited Infinite with great anticipation.

After 5 or 6 listens, my initial observations are confirmed. This is Stratovarius first step back in over 5 years. With each succeeding CD, the boys from Finland were pushing the envelope further and further into the arena of Symphonic and Progressive Metal. With Infinite, they are still melodic, but gone is the glory and wonder of pieces like "Destiny" and "Visions (Southern Cross)" from previous works. A great cover by Derek Riggs initially led me to believe this would be the most symphonic Stratovarius of all.

Led by guitarist, backup vocalist, and chief songwriter Timo Tolkki, Stratovarius carries with it impeccable musicianship even within the savage high standards of good Metal. "Hunting High and Low" and "Millennium," tracks one and two, kick start this CD as vintage Stratovarius. Driving speed metal, great melody and hooky choruses bombard the listener from the first note. Singer Timo Kotiplelto, who has capable pipes, strains himself on some of the higher notes - a sign of things to come.

"Mother Gaia," though over 8 minutes in length, is no more than an extended pop/metal ballad and here is where the strain really begins to show on this CD. It sounds so pretty, yet so insipid. Track 4, "Phoenix," is worse. Though it's fine driving metal, it's just mediocre at best, and that's simply not good enough for Stratovarius.

"Glory Of The World" weaves in and out of excellent keys courtesy of Jens Johansson, who now also plays session for Mastermind. Jens also pens this song, his first for Stratovarius (I believe) since he joined some five CDs back. "Glory" is okay, but not outstanding. Like the previous two tracks, it's all style and virtuosity but no real substance.

"A Million Light Years" away begins the slow climb back for Infinite. A nice driving rhythm keeps this song happening until its mounting climax. The next two songs are the best on the CD. "Freedom" is definitely commercial, bordering on anthem-esque stadium rock, but it's got such a great melody and chorus that it grows with each listen.

"Infinity," at nine and a half minutes is the highlight of the CD. It encompasses everything Stratovarius is capable of and should aspire to. Huge choral swells open the song and pull us through string like synth passages as if we're being transported into another world from days gone by. After the rousing opening, we slip into a pretty acoustic ballad that slowly builds again. With the occasional choral thrown in as a bridge, "Infinity" also explores some mid tempo riff rock moments, each to end with the soaring chorus as a mini climax. It's a great song, perhaps Stratovarius's best to date.

The CD ends with one of their most blatantly commercial ballads ever, the inconsequential "Celestial Dream." For me, this song ruined the power of the song that preceded it.

On The Chosen Ones compilation of last year, Tolkki mentioned that it was the end of the old era for Stratovarius. I was hoping that meant that the boys would explore new territory in an increasingly more progressive manner (like in the case of Therion). However, Infinite is not the first step in a great new adventure. Instead, it is a disappointing throw back to earlier times when Stratovarius were refining their sound. They may have their licks down pat by now, but they really need to find that new direction.

But these Finnish lads are talented and I have no doubt there are still many great albums coming from them.

Also released by Irond in Russia (00-10), by JVC/Victor in Japan (VICP 60963), and by Nuclear Blast USA NB??


Tracklisting:
Hunting High And Low (4:08) / Millennium (4:09) / Mother Gaia (8:18) / Phoenix (6:13) / Glory Of The World (4:53) / A Million Light Years Away (5:19) / Freedom (5:03) / Infinity (9:21) / Celestial Dream (2:29)

Musicians:
Timo Tolkki - guitar
Timo Kotipelto - vocals
Jari Kainulainen - bass
Jens Johansson - keyboards
J?rg Michael - drums

Discography:
Fright Night (1989)
Twilight Time (1992)
Dreamspace (1994)
Fourth Dimension (1995)
Episode (1996)
Visions (1997)
The Past And Now (comp) (1997)
Destiny (1998)
Visions Of Europe (live) (1998)
The Chosen Ones (comp) (1999)
Infinite (2000)
Intermission (2001)
Elements Part I (2003)
Elements Part II (2003)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin FI

Added: May 12th 2000
Reviewer: Richard Zywotkiewicz

Artist website: www.stratovarius.com
Hits: 834
Language: english

  

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