It sounds really awkward but here it is: Stratovarius did a little miracle and returned with a great album which will make a lot of their adversaries admit their success. If we look carefully to what happened inside the band the last ten years, then very few could claim there would be a time that the Finnish power metallers would come back so strong and confident, like they did in their ’90s releases. Who can forget the masterpieces they released from 1992 to 1997? The five albums included in this period (”Twilight Time”, ”Dreamspace”, ”Fourth Dimension”, ”Episode” and ”Visions”) are beyond any comparison even today.

Still the band would offer some more moments of quality until 2003, then it all got black, dark, insecure and kinda uncertain. We reached a point where the oldest of members Timo Tolkki left the band and the band continued with a new guitarist who proved to be a revitalising addition for the band. In my opinion, Matias Kupiainen is the main reason for this metamorphosis which already numbers three very good albums, as ”Polaris” (2009) and ”Elysium” (2011) put Stratovarius back into the game with the cards on their favour this time. When was the last time you remember them releasing three great albums one after the other?

The answer lies somewhere in 1997 with the release of ”Visions”, for many of their fans this is the last great album they did. Though I disagree, I fully understand their point of view, as experimentation and some safe sounding material seemed to let the magic go away. But here we are this time with the band reaching thirty years of existence (formed as Black Water in 1984 by old drummer Tuomo Lassila) and though there are no members since then, the oldest duo of Timo Kotipelto and Jens Johansson managed to carry the load with success, especially after the departure of Jorg Michael on drums last year which seemed to be crucial.

The new drummer Rolf Pilve helps a lot in addition to Lauri Porra‘s great bass playing. The rhythm section was always a big part of the band’s identity and raises the material with high class performances. Kotipelto is also in great shape and together with Kupiainen‘s compositions and Johansson’s great keyboard fillings create some masterful songs which could even fit in the ’90s albums of the band. The opening ”Abandon” is only a small taste, until the first single ”Unbreakable” shows that they never forgot writing great tracks. Surely recognizable, it will become part of the live set of the band for the years to come. More to come? Yes!

The next four tracks (especially ”Halcyon Days”) are so good you won’t believe it, the band sounds so tied and puts aside all the drawbacks that occured before 2009. I think that they are in such a momentum where they can surprise us even more in the future. If the second half of the album was as good as the first, we would be talking about a masterpiece, let us not forget what they have released before, right? So, in all joy but also with strict rules, we officially welcome back the band we all loved in the mid ’90s with an album which is very likely to enter the top-20 list of 2013 in the end of the year. Against the wind they still go…

Track List Line Up
01. Abandon
02. Unbreakable
03. Stand My Ground
04. Halcyon Days
05. Fantasy
06. Out Of The Fog
07. Castles In The Air
08. Dragons
09. One Must Fall
10. If The Story Is Over
11. Nemesis
Timo Kotipelto – Vocals
Jens Johansson – Keyboars
Lauri Porra – Bass
Matias Kupiainen – Guitars
Rolf Pilve – Drums