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3.9 out of 5 stars8
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 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!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I suppose we ought to be grateful that there is such a thing as a new Stratovarius album to review. After all, with all the legal shenanigans and the departure of their de facto leader Timo Tolkki, after over twenty years in charge, the chances of this appearing seemed slim.

But the remaining members regrouped, brought in a new guitarist, and with their main songwriter gone, keyboardist Jens Johansson and vocalist Timo Kotipelto stood up to be counted as writers. And it's good stuff. It's certainly a lot better than their last self-titled album, from back in 2005. And it's a lot better than many of the naysayers thought it would be.

But the power metal world is awash with quality bands, and with Stratovarius being one of the greats, is good enough. Well not to start with. The first couple of tracks are disappointing, and it isn't until 'King Of Nothing' arrives, that I start to nod in approval. Approval that becomes wholesale once 'Winter Skies' arrives. The first great song from the new band, the ballad is an absolute peach. Best of all is the 'Emancipation Suite', a segment that is truly wonderful.

So it's a very solid start to their new career, one that seemed unlikely for a long time. Don't come here expecting the breathtaking sounds of the late nineties when the band was at its peak. It's no "Visions". However, let's not forget that musically they'd been going downhill for a while. This stops that trend, and starts pushing things back up the hill.

So. overall, it's a big welcome back, and here's hoping the new band can muster up some excitement for their return to the worlds stages.

It's really a 3.5 but Amazon don't do halves
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2009
Stratovarius are definitely back on form with Polaris, after their slightly disappointing last album. This should appeal to all rock fans as well as "metal-heads", very melodic throughout. There's a few tracks with the old trademark speed drumming and pace but plenty which take things down a bit and provide some more ambient moments.

The softer proggy tracks made me think this is what Genesis could have sounded like if they had stayed together and continued making music into the new millenium. In fact, the new guitarist sounded eerily like Steve Hackett on some tracks, with dreamy chords and strumming. It's also reminiscent of Yes in some places.

No hesitation in giving this one Five Stars!
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on 22 May 2009
Well,it's a welcome return for these boys.

I initially had my reservations about this cd,as the loss of Timo Tolkki is going to affect the sound of the band,with their old bassist they were the only 2 original members of the band and Tolkki wrote well over 90% of the material which defined their sound as 'Stratovarius'.
I had cheked out the guitarist on you tube and he can certainly play the guitar to an incredibly high standard,i pre-ordered this but unfortunatley didn't get it till 3 days after it was released so saw them live before i had a chance to listen to it...

Firstly you can't fault the production,it has a really good sound which is good these days. The album itself i give 4,it's not as intense as 'Infinity' or 'Episode' and the songs aren't as powerfull as 'Black Diamond' or 'Kiss Of Judas',but it's still a pretty good album.

The opening track 'Deep Unknown' sounds like Symphony X,and is a great opener and i think will become a classic Stratovarius song. The rest of the album has songs written by various individuals within the band and maybe not enough colabiration between members,Johanssonns song are really good as he is a quality musician and really excells on these tracks,and when new guitarist Kuplainen and vocalist Kotipelto get together they do some really good stuff.

I think the songs the new bassist brings are a bit more traditional and generic of the genre,but it doesn't drag the cd down too much.

Overall the band have used sounds that Tolkki would of put in places so there is a familiarity in places giving it a touch of "yeah that's Stratovarious" when you hear it in places,tho for a Stratovarious album the lack of guitar solo's is quite shocking.

I personally think it's the best album since 'Infinity',it has a nice fresh sound to it and i think old Stratovarious fans will like this album. It does lack in guitar solo's and really powerfull songs that they have done in the past but on the whole it's pretty good. The new songs fit well into their live set,and they are incredibly good live still as a band. Hopefully this new begining will bring an even better next album. It's up there as one of their better albums and definately worth checking out.

The digi-pack does have a bonus remix of the first track...which is pretty pointless as it isn't much different at all,but you do get that little extra photo sheet with it,not as good as the booklet you got with the 'Stratovarius' album but a nice little colletors thing.
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on 4 July 2009
This album reintroduces the stratos onto the melodic metal scene, with some really great songs, like "Deep Unknown", "Winter Skies", "When the Mountains Fall" and the amazing "Forever is Today", which is a classic track reminiscent of pieces like "Forever Free" and "Freedom" (and many others).
Even without the genius of mr. Tolkki they have composed a really good album, and this is why I give it 5 stars as opposed to only 4.
I really really recommend this album to all fans of metal and melodic/speed metal in particular. Fans of Helloween, Iron Maiden, Gamma Ray, Kamelot and Edguy are likely to take this album into their hearts, just to name a few.
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on 14 July 2009
This is not a bad album!
the last 2 were nothing special and i think this is their best effort since 'Infinite'
Kotipelto sings better (the only minus is the irritating accent, especially in the last ballad) and the new guitarist meets the standards that a Strato album should have. The keyboards have been given 'more room' and that's not a bad thing. Very good effort from them but we expect even better songs on the next album....
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on 7 September 2014
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2009
First of all I am a long standing fan of Stratovarius but for me they lost the plot badly from Elements Part 1 onwards. Seemingly Timo Tolkki was responsible for the unpopular change of direction so I had been looking forward to 'Polaris'.
I was fortunate to see a great live display from the new line up in London recently.
However the new cd is overall pretty awful. There are a few decent high tempo trademark songs but it has far too many fillers / ballads.

Stratovarius are supposed to be a high energy rock band (melodic power metal if you prefer) so why does 50% of "Polaris" contain exceedingly boring ballads. The last 4 or 5 tracks must be the worst they have ever recorded.

I buy a lot of cds in this genre and can't think of any other band that would even dare to put out a cd with so many ballads.

Clearly the new line up are not capable of writing the type of songs that Stratovarius wrote when at their best.

I strongly suggest you avoid this cd and buy the 1st Revolution Renaissance cd instead (Sammet and Kiske on voclas) which is Timo Tolkki's new band. Given my reservations about Timo Tolkki I had zero expectations for Revolution Renaissance but it came highly recommended so I took a chance and it's exactly what Stratovarius fans have been waiting about 9 years for - it's great.

But the recently released follow up with a different line up is awful. Like going from 'Visions' to 'Elements' if you get my drift.
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