Stratovarius - Fright Night (Columbia/Sony-Finland) 1989
1. "Future Shock"
Excellent classically influenced, yet razor sharp metal. Loads of speedy riffs and smoking Yngwie-esque guitar solos. I was actually surprised at how much I liked this album since I had heard some of their awesome later day stuff first. What is cool about this early stuff is that the music is heavier as the band focuses less on technical prowess and sophisticated writing and just lets it rip. The only slight (and I mean slight) downfall is that Timo Kotipelto wasn't on board yet, so Timo Tolkki was handling the vocals. He does a capable job, but I'll bet with Kotipelto behind the mic, this album would have been just that much better. Still, an excellent CD that graces my CD player often.
Stratovarius - Twilight Time (T&T) 1992
1. "Break the Ice"
More straight forward heavy metal, not unlike the debut but with a touch more finesse. Loads of speed, killer guitar solos, and enough double bass to show up any death metal band. It was this disc that started to gain the band a huge following in Japan. I can't understand why it didn't do the same in the States.
Stratovarius - Dreamscape (T&T) 1994
1. "Chasing Shadows"
Another fine speedy metal extravaganza from Timo Tolkki and Co. Vocalist Timo Kotipelto is still not on board for this one, but Tolkki pulls off every note just as well. The symphonic elements begin to creep in a bit on this one, although no where near as much as in albums from "Fourth Dimensions" onward.
Stratovarius - Fourth Dimensions (T&T/Noise) 1995
1. "Against the Wind"
Fourth Dimension is a fabulous neoclassical metal disc. The guitar work is stellar and the vocals are clean, high, and operatic. For some reason, this album brings back memories of Warning-era Queensryche, especially on songs like "030366" and the hooky "Nightfall."
Stratovarius - Episode (T&T) 1996
1. "Father Time"
Released on June 30, 1996, "Episode" is absolutely stunning. Somehow Stratovarius managed to take the speed and aggression of German bands like Blind Guardian and mix it with the neoclassical sounds of Yngwie Malmsteen, yet they still sound amazingly original. If I am not mistaken, this is the album that ex-Yngwie Malmsteen keyboardist Jens Johanssen was added to the lineup. Japanese copies have a bonus track - "When the Night Meets the Day."
Stratovarius - Visions (T&T/Noise) 1997
1. "Kiss of Judas"
Visions is a concept album based on the prophecies of Nostradamus. The music is neoclassical metal at it's finest. I actually found this disc, along with "Fourth Dimension," in the used bins for $5.93 each in perfect condition. Imagine my surprise when I got home and discovered that this had two bonus tracks not listed on the back. According to Stratovarius web site, only the Japanese version has these two tracks, but my copy is from T&T/Noise USA.
Stratovarius - Live Visions of Europe (Noise/T&T) 1998
A tight and well recorded live album that brings together some of the band's best back catalogue. I am not sure how much overdubbing was done for this disc, but the musicianship is incredible! The guitar solos alone are worth the price of the disc. However, I much prefer Stratovarius' studio discs. The songs here are sometimes so tight, they don't sound that different from the discs. Personally I prefer when bands do things slightly different in a live setting.
Stratovarius - Destiny (T&T/Noise) 1998
Stratovarius are nothing if not consistent. Their progressive, neoclassical metal sound has progressed over the years with each album, but not into new musical territories and certainly has followed no trends. This, to me, is admirable in and of itself in a time when most bands are trying to follow the trends rather than striving to be innovators. Stratovarius certainly are leaders in the neoclassical metal movement with many bands attempting to sound like them. "Destiny" is album number seven for the band and is filled with stunning musicianship and outstanding, technical songwriting. My bet is that these guys are doing well in Japan and Europe where good musicianship is as important as hype, if not more so. Should also mention that drummer Jörg Michael has performed with Rage, Running Wild, and Unleashed Power, among others. My copy is the European release, the American release apparently has a cover of the Scorpions "Blackout" in place of "Cold Winter Nights."
Stratovarius - The Chosen Ones (Noise) 1999
1. "Black Diamond"
The appropriately titled "The Chosen Ones" track listing was determined by fan balloting, although I am not sure anyone would call this a hits package as Stratovarius is one of the most unfairly overlooked metal bands of the '90s. They are a band whose phenomenal neoclassical metal has stormed the charts of their homeland and has taken Japan by storm yet up until recently they haven't even had an American label to put out their music in the States. This is a great overview of a band that I wish I had more music from.
Stratovarius - Infinite (Nuclear Blast) 2000
1. Hunting High and Low
This album has one of the coolest covers I have seen in a while. The music contained is also great. "Infinite" is one of the first Stratovarius discs to be readily available in the States, so I was able to pick it up for a decent price new. It's a good metal disc with an array of fast and slow material, perhaps the finest I have heard from the band yet.
Stratovarius - Intermission (Nuclear Blast) 2001
1. "Will My Soul Ever
Rest in Peace?" (4:56)
An odds and sods album that is only partially new. Some of the material on this disc are various bonus tracks that were only available on the Japanese versions of their albums. The two cover songs, Rainbow's "Kill the King" and Judas Priest's "Bloodstone" were recorded for tribute CDs. Despite this being recorded at various times throughout the last 5-6 years, the disc flows together quite well. Much of the new material is mellower than I expected, but still excellent. Another excellent CD from Stratovarius.
After an extended break, Stratovarius return with yet another platter of their own brand of progressive metal. This one honestly took a few listens to get into, unlike some of the band's past releases. "Elements Part 1" starts off with a strong single called "Eagleheart." This mid-tempo song has a sing along chorus and reminds me slightly of Helloween. "Soul of a Vagabond" follows and is perhaps the heaviest song on the album and also the most unique song on the CD as well. "Find Your Voice" is a bit more typical of Stratovarius; speedy guitar licks, excellent solos, fast keyboards and Timo's voice reaches higher than ever before. One of the best songs on this disc for sure. "Fantasia" is a bit happier sounding than the rest of the album. This song is based on the movie "Never-Ending Story" and sports a very cool intro. "Learning to Fly" is another fast and furious Strato number. "Pappilon" is a ballad with and introduction by a Finnish boy. "Stratofortress" is a smokin' instrumental. The intro reminds me of "Speed of Light". Great solos by both Tomo and Jens. "Elements" is a twelve minute epic track with orchestration. Honestly a good song, but it gets a bit boring at times. The album finishes off on a weak note with "A Drop in the Ocean". This song features acoustic guitars and the sound of waves. Not a bad song but I thought the album would have sounded better finishing off with a heavy, speedy number. My particular copy is the limited edition box version that contains a bonus disc, as well as some extra goodies like a sticker, an extra booklet and a 3-D cover.