Title - 'Polaris' (Eagle Records)
Artist - Stratovarius
Like many people/followers of Stratovarius, I/we had no idea what to expect after the departure of Timo Tolkki. But, the first thing that I noticed upon listening to this new release - one recorded after the bnd supposedly found time to hibernate for almost a month by the sea in a Finnish forest! - is that Timo Kotipelto seems to have a massive hand now n the song writing.
Sure we're used to him pitching the occasional lyric or two to Tolkki down the years, but outside Kotipelto's first solo album - and a few tracks on the follow-ups - his song writing ability and lyrical prowess is next to nil. Sorry, but come on now, we all know this to be true. 'Polaris' semi-suffers from some stale, wretchedly lyrics if you listen closely enough.
Anyway, some of the better tracks are Johansson stepping up to the plate on "King of Nothing," the faster track "Blind" (despite its obvious lack of any real hook), and "Emancipation Site Part 1: Dusk." 'Polaris' may well be a new step in an old direction, full of powerful melodies and sophisticated arrangements, but at times it harkens back too strongly to their 1996 period of excellence.