Finns Stratovarius have been in existence in some form or another – there are no original members surviving in the lineup from their 1989 debut Fright Night – for 27 years, and with plans afoot to release all sixteen of their studio albums again over the next year or so, what better time to release a double-length retrospective of tracks from their illustrious career?
It’s impossible to over emphasis how important and influential Stratovarius have been to the power metal genre; Albums like Episode (1996), Visions (1997) and Destiny from 1998 are cornerstones of the style and all three albums are prominently featured here. However it should be said that this compilation is heavily skewed in favour of the band’s post-Timo Tolkki years, with the last four albums Polaris (2008), Elysium (2011), Nemesis (2013) and 2015’s Eternal weighing in with eleven tracks between them in total.
The band has recorded a new track for the occasion too, the excellent Until the End of Days, and of course the album is littered with classics such as the band’s signature Hunting High and Low and A Million Light Years Away (both from my personal favourite album, 2000’s Infinite), Eagleheart (from Elements Pt 1, released in 2003) and Black Diamond (Visions). And what a treat it is to visit again old favourites long forgotten like Wings of Tomorrow – can it really be twenty two years since Dreamspace was released? – and S.O.S. (Destiny).
The newer material, though eminently worthy (Darkest Hours and Under Flaming Skies from Elysium in particular fit in well amongst the older material on show) tends to the more ‘progressive’ end of the power metal spectrum and so at times sounds like a different band – which I guess it is, with the absence of founding member and musical director Tolkki – but the voice of Timo Kotipelto is the glue which binds everything together and the sum of the 29 parts here is a very enjoyable trip through time with one of power metal’s enduring legends.
Best Of is out now.