By Colonel Angus

After seven years, power metal legends STRATOVARIUS have released a new studio record. The big question is “Was it worth the wait”? To accurately answer that question, I went back and listened to some of their earlier albums that I own, although I have to preface that by saying I am not a huge fan of either the band or the power metal genre. I do like to dabble into power metal (HAMMERFALL is one of my faves) and there are some really good records with STRATOVARIUS making the grade in my book. I liked their previous efforts “Nemesis” and “Polaris” but I was not a fan of both parts of “Elements” and their catalogue has been hit or miss for me. Luckily, this latest disk “Survive” falls squarely in the very good category.

The disk starts off with the title track and oddly, for me, this is the worst song on the whole record. Maybe some will enjoy the down-tuned riffing but for me the whole track sounds cluttered and that trademark precision playing is missing. Thankfully “Demand” corrects the previous error (again in my opinion) and “sets the record straight” so to speak. There are many highlights and some of the tracks that slow things down a little are the ones that are the strongest. “We Are Not Alone”, “Frozen in Time” and “World on Fire” all benefit from capturing a great groove and not trying to speed up the tempo to fit the power metal tag.

Timo Kotipelto has a great voice and he has the ability to pull out memorable melodies when needed. Somehow when the drumming slows down, those vocal melodies come to the forefront and really work magic. That’s not to say that the full on power metal tunes are bad because “Demand”, “Glory Days” and the eleven minute epic “Voice of Thunder” all managed to capture me right away. That speaks highly of those tracks as I am not normally into such power metal fare. Even the ballad “Breakaway” (another type of song that I generally don’t like) is quite good and has that epic feel that power metal bands can pull off easily. Quite frankly, aside from the opening miss-step, the record is full of quality tunes albeit not very original. The band have continued to keep true to their “sound” and have not ventured too far off their original concept but that doesn’t mean that it is bad. In this case, STRATOVARIUS took what they do best and crafted some really good songs making “Survive” an enjoyable listen.

Even though the band doesn’t contain any original members, Kotipelto has been fronting the band for well over twenty-five years and Jens Johansson has been a fixture within the band for almost just as long. Even Lauri Porra (bass) and Matias Kupiainen (guitars) have been with STRATOVARIUS for over a decade and a half which lends a lot of consistency to these last few releases. Drummer Rolf Pilve is celebrating his ten year anniversary with the band so while there have been many line-up changes over the years, they have managed to solidify this band for quite a while now. Building on top of “Nemesis” and “Eternal”, “Survive” has STRATOVARIUS continuing down the right path for their sound and keeping the quality high throughout almost the whole disk. I have been listening to this album for a couple of days (it’s still playing while I write this review) and I have to admit, it is growing on me with each passing spin. I’m still not the biggest power metal fan out there but when the music is as good as “Survive”, then I’m more than happy to headbang to these Finnish legends.

earMUSIC Records