STRATOVARIUS - "INFINITE" (NUCLEAR BLAST)
When Nuclear Blast gives a band high priority, they do mean high priority. After last month's exquisitely packaged "Deggial", now comes Stratovarius' "Infinite" with lavish double-CD digipak design and extra booklet of photographs.
Stratovarius have got everything they need to make it big: A good singer (never mind the occasional hint at a Finnish accent), a very capable guitar player, an amazing keyboard guru (none other than Jens Johansson) and the ability to write cool, semi-prog, quite accessible songs. They're already pretty big, and they'll get much bigger if they continue like this.
"Infinite" features 9 excellent tracks much in the vein of their earlier albums. Most of the songs are up-tempo, though there are two obligatory ballads, too. "Mother Gaia" offers incredible singing and sensitive guitar work, but I just don't like ballads much. The album closer, "Celestial Dream", is a pretty superfluous acoustic ballad-type thing, too. However, all the rest is good, very good even. "Phoenix" features fierce guitar/keyboard duets reminiscent of the times when Jens was still in Malmsteen's band, whereas "Glory of the World" also contain some of Jens' tradmark keyboard wizardry. "Freedom" is probably the most catchy song, well-written and memorable, though the single release and album opener, "Hunting High and Low", comes a close second. Most interesting - climactic even - track is "Infinity", a 9+ minute song that is both heavy and sensitive, just plain sounds good, with tastefully applied classical arrangements. Ace material.
The bonus CD contains 8+ minutes of music, two tracks in the shape of "Why Are We Here" (I heard a few Journey influences here, but it's heavier than that) and "It's a Mystery" (OK track). It also contains several QuickTime movies (mediocre quality) of an interview with Stratovarius mastermind Timo Tolkki.
Quite an impressive album, this one, though the two bonus tracks and interview multimedia could easily have fit on a single CD. Clever marketing on behalf of Nuclear Blast, methinks. Don't let that withhold you from checking this one out if you like melodic, semi-prog rock.
Click here to check out or buy this CD
Written March 2000
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