Stratovarius - Polaris
Armoury Records
Progressive Power Metal
11 songs (54'56)
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Marty
Major event
In one of the more bizarre events surrounding the whole drama of the Stratovarius situation over recent years, the surrendering of the name and all rights and royalties by Timo Tolkki to the remaining members Timo Kotipelto, Jorg Michael, Jens Johannsen and Lori Porra was an unexpected gesture of good faith. After recruiting young Finnish guitar prodigy Matias Kupiainen, the remaining Stratovarius members got together very informally and with no pressure whatsoever to see if they could come up with a new album in true Stratovarius tradition. Not only have they, but Polaris takes the listener back to the Episode / 4th Dimension / Visions era of the band with an album that is arguably their best since either Infinite or Destiny. Ironic now that Tollki has since turned around and slammed his former band mates for continuing on and I quote "pissing on the legacy that he created". Not only that, he has now gone even further; recruiting past Stratovarius members including Jari Kainulainen, Tuomo Lassial and Atti Ikonenen to form a new project entitled Project Strato: Return To Dreamspace that he claims is the only real project that will carry on the true Stratovarius legacy. I guess this really has a lot to do with all of Timo Tolkki's recent projects tanking including his dreadful Saana - Warrior Of Light Part 1 and the lukewarm (at best) reaction to his new Revolution Renaissance project, especially the latest Age Of Aquarius album. In fact, there has been absolutely no interest whatsoever from promoters anywhere about taking his band out on tour and in fact, this current Stratovarius album Polaris is outselling anything he has put out in recent years. Jealously rearing its ugly head on Tolkki's part?....I think so.

The thundering guitar/keyboard driven sounds of the album opener Deep Unknown heralds a triumphant return to the classic progressive power metal sound of the Stratovarius of the 90's; something the fans have waited a long time for. More prominent guitar riffing as well as sprinklings of a more neo-classical touch by new guitarist Matias Kupiainen really energizes this band. Keyboardist Jens Johannsen also has a stronger presence with his keyboard lead fills and riffs. Polaris is chocked full of speedy progressive power metal tracks like Blind and the soaring Forever Is Today as well as mid-tempo and pounding heavy tracks like Falling Star, Higher We Go, King Of Nothing and the Elements-like two-parter Emancipation Suite (Parts 1 and 2). With a couple of power ballads thrown in for good measure, Polaris is actually a surprisingly excellent collection of great Stratovarius songs. Timo Kotipelto's voice doesn't sound nearly as strained as on previous albums and all the energetic progressive power metal elements that once made them such a great band are all here. Excellent choruses, solid instrumental breaks and a big thick guitar sound all contribute to the quality of this new album.

With a much more "muscular" and less polished sound than the way over-produced Timo Tolkki style of previous albums, Polaris has so much more energy and complexity than their last several albums - more of a true progressive metal sound. With Timi Kotipelto, Jens Johannsen and Lauri Porra actually given the freedom to write songs outside the tryannical grip of Tolkki, their songwriting prowess is now fully realized. Writing credits for these three on recent Stratovarius albums were with lyrics only. Guitarist Matias Kupiainen even contributes and it's clear that he too, has a vision for what Stratovarius is all about. The biggest surprise comes with the Lauri Porra penned Falling Star and the Visions-flavored Forever Is Today, two of the better songs on the album. Polaris is all about Stratovarius re-inventing themselves and getting back to what they do best. If this had been a new band...Surprise Of The Month for sure.

Killing Songs :
Deep Unknown, Falling Star, Forever Is Today and Higher We Go
Marty quoted 85 / 100
Kyle quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Stratovarius that we have reviewed:
Stratovarius - Dreamspace reviewed by Ben and quoted 80 / 100
Stratovarius - Nemesis reviewed by Chris and quoted 97 / 100
Stratovarius - Elysium reviewed by Kyle and quoted 86 / 100
Stratovarius - Stratovarius reviewed by Jeff and quoted 75 / 100
Stratovarius - Fright Night reviewed by Brent and quoted 80 / 100
To see all 14 reviews click here
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