Stratovarius release new track “Halcyon Days”

by Brett Stevens
March 8, 2013 –

stratovarius-nemesisLong ago, back when people mailed out physical promos of albums, I got an album in the mail from Stratovarius. I could tell from looking at it that it was power metal. I put it on the shelf behind the grindcore.

Power metal is interesting. Musically, it’s essentially speed metal (just like most “thrash metal”). The difference is that there’s some death metal technique, borrowed from Judas Priest’s Painkiller, that gives it some heft. However, there’s something else about it.

The music uses vocals designed to inspire and take people through a range of emotions rather quickly. It’s more like traditional heavy metal, but much more emotional, like Queensryche turned up to 11. There’s also something else, and it took me many years to recognize it.

In the American south, we have many gospel music traditions. Gospel music is what happens when you take hymns and treat them like 1920s jazz. They lose the classical music feel, and get more emotional and have a bit more of that “inspirational” feeling.

I’m not saying this is an influence on power metal, only that it sounds that way. This is not new for metal. Early gospel music influences include “War Pigs” from Black Sabbath, which fits the song format nearly perfectly. It’s worship music.

As a result of this realization, I had never really been a power metal person. I liked Helstar, sure, because Nosferatu is just a killer album no matter how you slice it. The Maiden/Slayer mix on that makes for almost an ideal form of metal. But when you add operatic vocals…

Stratovarius changed some things for me. For starters, I thought that musically it was quite adept and spirited. I also liked the way its focus on epic topics was in a metal tradition that stretches from Voivod through Atheist. Interesting stuff.

In any case, Stratovarius has released a new single in video form. Generally, their stuff is better than the average for power metal, or for metal at this point, and it’s epic enough to fit with the death metal vibe. So check this out, and see what you think.

7 comments

  • Tralf

    Aesthetics are generally more important in power metal than any other variety of metal, and it is in this area that Stratovarius fails to pull me in. The melodies and riffs in and of themselves are quality, but the techno noises and synth guitar are off-putting and the vocalist’s accent sounds silly. I’ll be checking out this album nonetheless.

  • metrosexual

    It’s the fucking chorus, man. I can’t get over how it reminds me of “epic” and “inspiring” Japanimation themes. This turns me off the most to power metal. The keyboard techno is diahhrea-inducing corn dogs. Power metal had many chances to develop metal into something progressive, the likes of King Crimson and Yes’ best output, while maintaining its spirit, but it always subsides in wankery, hard rock or even adult contemporary. That kills me, because I see its potential.

  • Scaramanga

    Best Power Metal;

    *Cirith Ungol
    *Lost Horizon
    *Iced Earth
    *Fates Warning
    *Pagan’s Mind
    *Savatage
    *Manowar
    *Blind Guardian
    *Angra
    *Sanctuary
    *Manilla Road
    *Hammers of Misfortune
    *Helloween
    *Running Wild
    *Omen
    *Crimson Glory
    *Gamma Ray
    *Fireaxe

  • Dominating Fucker

    Stratovarius’s best albums are the first called Fright Night from 1989, Dreamspace 1994 and Episode 1995 and Visions 1996.

    The first two are darker heavy metal based music played with Speed Metal technique. While the latter two albums follow the Helloween archetype fused with neo-classical themes and Classical decorations similar to early Symphony X.

    What I like about these albums is that in the context of Power Metal (which usually leaves a mainstream after-taste), it’s not entirely sappy happy rock like the immediate aesthetics would suggest. If you take the time to dig deeper into Stratovarius’s music, you’ll realize there’s a refreshing sense of loss, melancholy and dispair underneath the apparant flowery intention. All pre-1998 of course.

    Overall, it’s like eating a tasty fast food snack that is made of natural organic ingredients and it’s not too poisonous on the body, like a chewy granola bar!

  • Tralf

    Nice comment, Dominating Fucker. However, I’ll say that even early Stratovarius was heavily influenced by Helloween. And the later albums took more of an arena rock direction, a la Scorpions.

    Also, if a Maiden/Slayer mash up intrigues you, look into Children of Bodom’s second album. Creatively referred to as “power metal with harsh vocals”, the mini-genre was a bit of a fad back in the early 2000s, but CoB was always the best at it. Think the classical ornamentation of Helstar but simpler, combined with black/death metal techniques and a power metal ear for melody, delivered with a “dark-but-fun” vibe. Plus keyboard solos. Their debut is pretty complex and ambitious but suffers from carnival music syndrome; whereas their 3rd marks their decline into groove/bounce/pop metal fuckery. Hatebreeder, on the other hand, is quality power metal.