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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Stratovarius

Under Flaming Winter Skies - Live In Tampere

Review by Gary Hill

This live album from Stratovarius is quite good, but not without its issues. The main problem is that the vocals seem pretty lost in the mix. It’s worst on the first couple songs, but really only improves to a certain degree throughout. That said, though, this album is quite enjoyable. Like with any Stratovarius disc, Helloween is the most obvious reference throughout. There are other sounds to be found, though, and I really enjoy the covers they throw in on this live set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Under Flaming Skies

This live recording features some smoking hot technical metal. The only real problem here is that the vocals seem too far down in the mix. I’m sure it was probably a problem with the live sound as it gets better as the show progresses. This thing is hard-edged and frantic and really has some awesome playing built into it.

I Walk To My Own Song
The vocal mix issue seems to be a little better here. The cut seems to me like a more technical take on something Iron Maiden might do. There is a mellower section mid-track.
Speed Of Light
The speed and intensity seems to be driven through the roof here. This is another smoking hot cut that’s clearly technical power metal. This one seems to have even more energy than the previous cuts did. That says a lot.
Kiss Of Judas
In some ways this is more mainstream metal. That said, though, there’s a section later that takes it into more of the technical metal style. There is some awesome guitar soloing on this and yet it also drops to a mellower segment that has quite a focus on keyboards.
Deep Unknown
Here’s another that makes me think of Iron Maiden at times. Still, this also leans towards a bit more extreme sound at points. The technical aspects separate this from that band, too.
Guitar Solo
A classic example of truth in advertising, this is, in fact a guitar solo.
Eagleheart
While technical aspects are still part of this mix, the cut is more fully melodic. It has a real soaring feeling to it and a nice balance between harder rocking and mellower sounds. The chorus is more anthemic and this is another piece that calls to mind Iron Maiden quite a bit.
Paradise
The Iron Maiden reference works again here, but with a proggier, more technical aspect at times.
Visions
Pounding in slow, heavy and dramatic, this has a real epic feeling to it. It gets a faster pace as it continues and works out into a more traditional Stravarius sound. I love some of the killer changes on this and this piece contains some of the tastiest riffs of he whole set. It really is one of the most dynamic and powerful tunes and it drops way down to mellow sounds later. The cut is one of the longest of the set, too.
Bass Solo
Here we get more truth in advertising with a bass solo. There’s not much more to say about that, except that the guy can really play – and that’s coming from another bass player.
Coming Home
This is a mellower and slower moving cut that’s pretty tasty. There is a lot of melody in this thing and yet it also addresses the technical metal side of things. It’s dramatic and powerful. While not the most obvious choice for standout, the fact that it’s different, along with the quality of the piece, makes it one of my favorites here.
Disc 2
Legions of the Twilight
Fast and furious metal opens this and it’s got some symphonic elements at times as it continues. It’s pretty trademark Stratovarius and works well in this live telling.
Darkest Hours
The section that opens this is like a thrashy progressive rock, perhaps similar to something like Dream Theater, but it evolves to more pure metal, albeit power metal, from there.
Burn
“Burn” has always been one of my favorite Deep Purple songs, so hearing these guys do a screaming metallic version of it is great. I love how they capture the spirit and melody of the original cut while still making it their own. This one has me reaching for the “repeat” button. The spinning, screaming yet melodic symphonic metal guitar solo sections are a nice touch, as is the keyboard solo.
Behind Blue Eyes
This is, perhaps, more of a surprise as they cover The Who. While they power it in with a metal rendition, the song has more of a progressive rock vibe as they continue. The audience sings much of it with the group. They take it back out into metal for the harder rocking section later.
Winter Skies
Somehow, on the mellower sections of this one, I’m really reminded of Queensryche. The cut powers out in ways that aren’t that far removed from the sounds of that band, too. The vocals are the key difference here. This is a good tune and presents a nice change from some of the other music here. They drop it back mid-track for a keyboard driven section that’s quite cool.
Keyboard Solo
While one might not expect a keyboard solo on a heavy metal album, that’s just what we get here. It’s classically oriented and powerful. It’s quite cool. In fact, of the three solos presented on this live set, it’s my favorite.
Black Diamond
I was half expecting a cover of the Kiss song. Instead we get a symphonic metal number with a lot of energy. It drops down for a real classically inspired section later, too. Then soaring metal guitar leads it in another symphonic progression, ala more typical technical metal. This is quite a diverse and powerful cut that works really well. There is a short drum solo later in this cut.
Father Time
Technical speed metal rules the day here. This is more in keeping with the sound we’ve heard a lot on the disc. It’s not bad, by any means, but perhaps a bit too “expected.” Still, everyone puts in great performances and this is killer epic metal.
Hunting High And Low
This is a pretty typical cut, but it has spoken parts and sections with the audience singing along. It was probably pretty cool live, but I don’t know if it translates well when you aren’t part of the audience. Still, when it is Stratovarius, it’s always strong.
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