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'Polaris' - a classic STRATOVARIUS album!
on 14 May 2009
Welcome to a new era of STRATOVARIUS. For years the band has relied heavily on the craftsmanship of guitarist Timo Tolkki, who wrote 95% of the material on the ten albums to date. Following Tolkki's departure from the band last year, critics would have you believe that the future of the band was in grave danger. However, with Tolkki waiving the rights to the name, the rest of the band have carried on regardless, and 'Polaris' is the first release for the new line-up.
Frontman Timo Kotipelto has released a few respectable solo efforts, and does have a writing credit on some of the very best STRATOVARIUS songs including 'Black Diamond' and 'Hunting High and Low' - so, bearing this in mind, there was always hope that 'Polaris' could re-vitalise the career of the Finish five-piece, now that they have broken away from the mental illness stricken Tolkki.
Musically, the album sounds very much like classic late 90's STRATOVARIUS, with the soaring vocals of Kotipelto and the thundering drums of Jorg Michael, alongside the neo-classical team work of keyboard supremo Jens Johansson and new guitarist Matias Kupiainen. Timo Tolkki was legendary for his neo-classical solos, but on 'Polaris', Kupiainen matches him every step of the way, proving a more than worthy replacement in the musical department.
The only band member not mentioned above is new bass player, Lauri Porra, who is in fact a key part of the 'Polaris' jigsaw puzzle. In the ferocious 'Forever Is Today' and the infectiously catchy 'Falling Star', Porra has single handedly written two absolutely outstanding tracks, as well as three other decent solo penned efforts on the album. Many would argue that STRATOVARIUS are the kings of the fast paced classic power metal, and awesome tracks like 'Blind' and 'Higher We Go' will certainly add to the justification of such an arguement. Lead single 'Deep Unknown' is a slighly more progressive affair, but surprisingly serves well as the album's opening song.
As well as some terrific metal tunes, STRATOVARIUS have always been capable of producing a good slower track, and such a track is delivered on 'Polaris' via the excellent 'Winter Skies'. 'Somehow Precious' also impresses as the albums only variation into ballad territory.
So can STRATOVARIUS go on without Timo Tolkki?...damn right they can! In fact, it seems that the departure of Timo Tolkki has actually given STRATOVARIUS a completely new lease of life. 'Polaris' is arguably the best STRATOVARIUS album of all time, and at the very least is the best album since 1997's classic 'Visions' record. This record is an absolute must for fans of the band - a classic!