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STRATOVARIUS Sanctuary (2005)

Finland certainly has its fair share of big name metal acts at the moment with Nightwish, H.I.M. and of course Stratovarius, who make their debut on Sanctuary after signing a large record deal with the label. Not long after this deal was signed mainman and guitarist Timo Tolkki had some personal problems and dismissed some of the band (one brief replacement was the female vocalist from Aurora K). Luckily he is better now and the band are back to their ‘classic line-up’ that includes ex-Malmsteen keyboards player Jens Johansson and vocalist Timo Kotipelto.

So this album has a lot of expectation behind not least of all from the band’s record label who have been struggling financially of late. The good news is this album ROCKS! Opener ‘Maniac Dance’ is the new single and you can see why as after a ‘Space Invader’ sounding keyboard motif gives way to big guitar riffs. It’s a rousing metal anthem and sure to become a live staple. ‘Fight!!!’ does just that musically and again the guitar riffs come crashing down in waves. For quality melodic metal look no further than ‘Gypsy In Me’ whilst ‘Just Carry On’ will again appeal to a wide audience due to its catchy refrain.

Bar the single the stand out track has to be ‘The Land Of Ice And Snow’ that starts slowly before building into a crescendo of guitar and drums. Reminded me of Dio-era Rainbow and even Uriah Heep in the opening part of this song.

The pressure was definitely on the band to deliver a strong album and with the current rising interest in the more melodic end of metal Stratovarius are poised to rise further in the metal echelon. If you grew up on classic metal/hard rock bands like Rainbow, the Scorpions, Accept then you really should try Stratovarius as they continue these bands’s fine tradition of melodic metal/rock, adding their own modern twist. A ‘must have’ for metal fans this year.


Review by Jason Ritchie

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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