Release Date: September 23rd, 2022
Genre: Power Metal
Timo Kotipelto – Vocals
Matias Kupiainen – Guitars
Lauri Porra – Bass
Jens Johansson – Keyboards
Rolf Pilve – Drums
5. We Are Not Alone
6. Frozen in Time
7. World on Fire
8. Glory Days
10. Before the Fall
11. Voice of Thunder
The last couple of years has been very busy as a power metal fan, with a big chunk of my favorite bands in the genre releasing new albums. This trend continues, with Finnish power metal pioneers Stratovarius set to release their highly anticipated 16th full-length release, Survive, next week. As big a power metal fan as I am, Stratovarius was the band that got me into the genre back in the mid/late 2000s, so I’m always very excited to hear new music from them. Survive is their first album since Eternal, back in 2015, though they did release a compilation with a few new tracks in between albums. Coming off Nemesis, which was one of my personal favorites from the band, I found Eternal to be fairly ordinary by Stratovarius standards: Which is to say, it was still a great album, but it didn’t blow me away. After several listens, I can say that while Survive doesn’t quite crack my top three favorite albums by the band, it’s very close, and is top-tier stuff!
Despite the long gap in between albums, very little has changed here, with the lineup remaining the same, and the overall sound is very much in line with what fans have come to expect from the band. Like Eternal, there’s plenty of high-energy, fast-paced power metal to be found here, with perhaps a slightly bigger emphasis on chunky guitar work from Matias Kupiainen, who does a fantastic job as always. Like with any Stratovarius album, though, Timo Kotipelto’s emotional, ever-smooth vocals and Jens Johansson’s flashy keyboards are just as important as the guitar work, if not more so, and both men’s talents are on full display once again. Production is top-notch, as always, with everything sounding perfect, and obviously, performances are flawless across the board.
One area where I found Eternal to not quite be top-notch was the songwriting. There weren’t any massive duds or anything, but I found that overall there weren’t any real surprises, and the majority of the tracks were very good, but not quite as memorable or impressive as the band can be at their best. While I wouldn’t necessarily say Survive does anything overly shocking or innovative compared to its predecessor, I do think the songwriting is a bit stronger overall, with all of the songs being excellent, and while I found the slower tracks, in particular, to be a bit lackluster on Eternal, that certainly isn’t the case here, with the likes of “Broken” and “Breakaway” being among my favorites on the album. For the most part, Survive is a bit heavier than a lot of the band’s other recent albums, with a few of the speedier tracks such as the title track, “Demand” and “Before the Fall” in particular being quite heavy, but there’s still plenty of more melodic, keyboard-driven tracks to be found here as well, and they’re all excellent, as well as an excellent ballad (the previously mentioned “Breakaway”), and of course a slow-building, epic-length closer. Overall, there’s quite a bit of variety to the songs, as usual, so fans of the many different aspects of the band’s sound are all sure to find something to be excited about.
Starting off the album is the title track (which was also the lead single), and it’s an absolute banger! Opening up with heavy, modern melo-death sounding riffs, it moves along at a quick pace, with a nice mix between heavy guitars and light keys, and of course, Kotipelto does a great job as always, especially shining on a very strong chorus. It’s the kind of straightforward, super catchy opening track the band excels at, while also having a bit of extra punch to the guitar work, to help take it to a whole new level. Next is “Demand”, another high octane track, which keeps the momentum going. This track alternates between more modern-sounding heavy guitar parts, as well as some very classic Stratovarius-sounding parts, where the keyboards especially have a nostalgic feel to them. It’s another fast-paced track throughout, with an excellent chorus and a fantastic keyboard solo in the second half.
The pace drops off slightly with “Broken”, a more mid-paced, keyboard-driven track, with more chunky guitar riffs, to go along with some pretty bouncy keys. It’s a slightly more relaxed track compared to the first two, but it also has a pretty epic feel to it, with the elements all coming together nicely, mixed with some slight symphonic elements. The chorus is especially fantastic, being a bit more laid-back, but with all the different instruments coming together perfectly for a very epic feel, while the vocals and lyrics are especially fantastic. Next is the third single “Firefly”, another more melodic track, with slightly more restrained guitar work. It moves along at a relaxed pace throughout the verses, not overly fast but quite upbeat, and it has some wonderful melodies throughout, with the chorus especially being instantly infectious and super catchy. The instrumental section towards the end is the best part, with the pace picking up in a big way, but it’s an excellent track overall, and one of my favorites on the album.
Next is “We Are Not Alone”, another fast-paced track, with a strong emphasis on some very catchy, futuristic-sounding keys. The guitar work is very melodic on the track, and the chorus is once again very fun and catchy, with Kotipelto doing a fantastic job as always. The first slightly longer track on the album is “Frozen in Time”, a very epic, more mid-paced track with some very strong symphonic elements, to go along with a heavy emphasis on keyboards. The guitar work is heavy in bursts, especially during the verses, but the symphonic elements, vocals, and keyboards are the main highlights here, to help give the track a very epic feel, along with an excellent chorus, and a very epic, extended instrumental section which closes out the track. I wasn’t overly fond of the track at first, but over time it has grown on me a lot, and I now think it’s an excellent track overall. The second pre-release single is “World on Fire”, another more upbeat track, with a modern sound to it, nicely mixing heavy guitar work and bouncy keys. I find it not as impressive as the other two singles, but it’s still a great song, with a very fun chorus, and some excellent vocal melodies.
Perhaps the most classic sounding song on the album is “Glory Days”, which very much lives up to its name, with excellent riffs and melodic lead guitar work, combined with some excellent keys, furious drums, and fantastic vocal work to help recreate the glory days of 90’s Stratovarius, as well as classic Euro power metal in general. Fans of the band’s earlier albums in particular are sure to love this track, and it’s one of my personal favorites. The lone ballad of the album is “Breakaway”, which starts with some very light guitar work and vocals throughout the opening verse before the epic symphonic arrangements start to kick in. It’s a very beautiful track overall, with a fantastic chorus, a very strong performance from Kotipelto, and some excellent lyrics. The band has always excelled at ballads, so it’s no surprise to say this is one of the better tracks on the album.
One final speedy track is “Before the Fall”, which throws in some epic choral chanting vocals, along with an increase in symphonic elements, to go along with the usual heavy guitars and flavorful keyboards. It’s a very fast, fun track, with an epic, very catchy chorus. Closing out the album is “Voice of Thunder”, a slow-building, 11-minute epic, which stays at a fairly relaxed pace throughout, but unlike the closing track from Eternal, which I found to be a bit meandering and unsatisfying overall, this track hooks the listener in early on and never let’s go, with plenty of excellent moments throughout. I wouldn’t quite put it up there with the band’s best epic length tracks, such as “Anthem of the World”, “Destiny” or “Elysium”, but it’s an excellent track, with plenty of impressive instrumental sections, as well as a strong chorus, and it closes out the album quite nicely.
It’s been a long wait for Stratovarius fans, but in the end, “Survive” is well worth it, continuing to build on the band’s legacy as both one of the longest-running and best-power metal band’s in the world. Longtime fans should find plenty to enjoy here, as it has everything they should expect from the band and more, while newcomers to the band looking for some top-tier power metal would be well advised to start with this album, to get a good idea of what the band sounds like in top form.
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.
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