• 8/10
    STRATOVARIUS - Polaris - 8/10


Armoury Records
Release date: May 26, 2009

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Stratovarius is a band that needs little introduction. In light of recent history with the group, how can you not know about them? They’ve been around for a good twenty years now, and despite a lot of lineup changes, have been pretty prolific. The most significant personnel switch to take place involves the departure of Timo Tolkki. He was the creative force behind Stratovarius, and it’s a bit awkward for some to think he’s gone.

That said, it seems an infusion of new blood has done this group a hell of a lot of good, as Polaris succeeds in being a surprisingly good release. The band doesn’t seem reborn so much as it does refined. It’s like they took their sound, recognized it was a little rusty, and decided to polish it up some. The same old Stratovarius fans have come to know over the years is still there; it’s just got a brighter shine to it.

“Blind” makes it clear that the Neoclassical style that Stratovarius helped pioneer isn’t gone. It’s also a chance for Jorg Michael to show that age hasn’t slowed his ability to pound skins. Timo Kotipelto’s soaring vocals are still around too and he hasn’t missed a beat either. This is evidenced by “Winter Skies”, where he hits all the customary high notes. Jens Johansson is the real star of the track though, as his keyboards make it very touching. Matias Kupiainen is more than successful at helping to generate a catchy feel on this album. “Falling Star” is a nice example of this.

One of the great things about this album is the pacing. There are a couple songs, like the aforementioned “Winter Skies”, “Somehow Precious” and “When Mountains Fall” that are definitely softer. But they don’t bog things down so much as they stir them up. There’s plenty of flavor on this one and the sound is such that it conveys any number of different emotions. The range of subject matter is wider than most albums allow for, even though the cheese is laid on a little thick with “When Mountains Fall”.

It’s hard not to like an album like Polaris. It’s a testament to the strengths of the band members. That they choose to go on after Tolkki’s departure may have surprised some, but that they’ve put out something this strong is even more shocking. This release signals a reinvigoration for Stratovarius. It’s a welcome return for a band that you may have thought was gone, but never really went anywhere.

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