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Finnish melodic metal masters Stratovarius make a full-fledged return after an absence marred by drama with a nine-track eponymous offering. While the steadfast power metal crew has abandoned speed for heaviness a la Metallica on THE BLACK ALBUM, there are still many moments like the Queensryche-esque soaring vocal performance meets dark melodics of “Back to Madness” and the balls to the wall rocker “Fight!!!” that should keep loyal fans at bay. Stripping down its symphonic side, slowing down the pace, and toying with new ideas may not be the ideal sound ardent fans will embrace, but Stratovarius seem content with the changes for now, as they’ve helped to put this landmark power metal troupe back on the map. Whether or not these devices remain in the band’s arsenal to be seen, but for now, at least the group has returned from the wreckage it once was, albeit not in the same form its fans are accustomed to.
- Mike SOS