Wow, Stratovarius, huh? They’re still at it. It’s been 26 years since their debut, and they’ve churned out 15 albums. Eternal is their sixteenth album! That’s mad to think about. That’s the same number of albums as Iron Maiden, although obviously Maiden started nine year earlier. It’s right to say that Stratovarius is legendary in the eyes of many metal warriors. However, like many long-lived bands, Stratovarius’ career has been through its fair share of ups and downs. As a fan of Stratovarius and European power metal as a whole, I’ve always tried to give an open ear to their new albums. I will say that the sound they landed on for 2013’s Nemesis was awesome! It was a great album from them, really launching them into the modern era of power metal. On Eternal, they have pretty much continued this sound. However, I find this album to be rather hit and miss, and its inconsistency really detracts quite strongly from the album as a whole.
I don’t need to explain what Stratovarius sounds like. If anyone even partly enjoys power metal, especially European power metal, they will have heard them ages ago. Their more updated sound, to be clear, is full of punchier riffs, less neoclassical-oriented and more straightforward. Strong choruses, as usual, and lots of focus on having strong hooks that drive the song along. A little bit more aggressive, with much fewer power ballads than before. That’s about it. With Nemesis, it really worked. It was a breath of fresh air for the band. On Eternal, it works sometimes. Other times, the songs fall flat. There are many reasons for this; sometimes there just isn’t enough lyrics to carry the song the length that they want to go, and Timo is left repeating himself. For a band so vocally focused, this kind of mistake is hard to imagine. Vocally, I find that Timo wants to really get not only a great chorus in, but a great “pre-chorus”, perhaps to sound a bit more progressive or technical in his singing. This leads to some stilted moments, I feel. Other times, the song just will not have that hook that really catches you. Some songs will have moments of brilliance, but the rest is just alright. Check out that blazing section of Rise Above It right after that unusually heavy riff which comes out of nowhere, grabs you by the throat, and then leaves you holding a bag of basic riffs for the rest of the song.
Now I don’t want to say that this album is bad. There are actually some really awesome songs on here. To name a few, Rise Above It and Feeding the Fire, as well as Few Are Those are all awesome. The opener My Eternal Dream features a great chorus, good lyrics, and even a bridge that has some neoclassical soloing; overall, it is a really strong song. But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? While some songs are awesome, some songs are not awesome. It feels like the album has been padded out with filler. Not to mention the nearly 12-minute-long closer is very boring for much of the song (heh, maybe that Iron Maiden comparison wasn’t so inappropriate). The album is just too stilted for my tastes. Overall, I feel like Stratovarius phone a bit of this album in, which is a shame because many of the songs are pretty great.
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