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Stratovarius
Episode
October 2014
Released: 1996, Noise Records
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Editors Note: Metal-Rules.com was founded in 1995 as a forward thinking site. Our goal is, and always has been, to support Real Metal. The decision was made that very rarely do we ever go back and review an album from before 1995. Does the world really need another CD review of Master Of Puppets, Powerslave or Screaming For Vengeance? We don’t think so. We have always supported what is happening now.



Starting in January, 2014, as we head towards the 20th Anniversary of Metal-Rules.com, we are looking back and filling in a few gaps in the review database. We want to complete the post-1995 review catalogue of some of the bands that we have supported since 1995, when very few, if any websites were supporting real Metal. It’s fun to go back and revisit some of these albums that we did not review when they were first released. Enjoy!



This is the album where it all fell into place. Two of the original members, Tuomo Lassila and Anti Ikonen are replaced with with the first non-finnish members of the bands, Jens Johannsen (Malmsteen) on keyboards and Jorg Michael (Rage, Running Wild) a Swede and a German respectively. With no offence to the other departing members, the new line-up had much more capable and experienced musicians giving the band a bit of an international, all-star feel. The act immediately gelled and put out the first album of an almost unprecedented run of four virtually flawless Power Metal albums in five years.



EPISODE carries on visually the band tradition of metaphysical album titles and album covers, tying the artwork back to the previous album cover. The package and presentation is decent and the production clear and high as this type of Metal often is, with clean guitar tones and vocals way up in the mix.



This is an important album in a sense because Timo Tolkki starts to loosen the reigns on the song writing and share the load. This resulted in a more diverse sound. This was also the album where the band introduced more neo-classical and symphonic elements more heavily into the songs. The previous album FOURTH DIMENSION flirted with the advancement in style but EPISODE is where the band defined their signature sound. The album kicks off and is top heavy with fast songs in the first half with cuts like ‘Will The Sun Rise’, and opener, ‘Father Time’ these songs making the set-list even today. On the slow end of the scale the inspirational ballad ‘Forever’ closes out the album with some violin or cello accompanying a restrained and quiet vocal line from Kotipelto. ‘Babylon’ with it’s middle eastern musical theme is also a highlight of the album, a seven-minute opus about ancient Babylon. The addition of Jens as keyboardist adds an important element to the bands sound, being used far more prominently in almost every song. Tolkki has a very nice, melodic instrumental called ‘Episode’ which serves as the intro to the fast cut, ‘Speed Of Light’.



Lyrically, Timo Kotipelto took over and wrote most of the lyrics, unlike the last album, where as the ‘new guy’ he had limited input for a few songs. It seems like singing his own words, he delivery is more power and confident than ever before. His range and power helped catapult him to the top as one of Power Metal most recognized vocalists. Showing his diversity on the symphonic cut, ‘Season Of Change’.



Stratovarius have a lot of records (15 as of time of writing) and most fans and critics still point to the 1996-2000 run of EPISODE, VISIONS, DESTINY and INFINITE as the bands creative and commercial apex. EPISODE was the album that saw the band energized, creative and ready to conquer the world.
Track Listing

1. Father Time
2. Will the Sun Rise?
3. Eternity
4. Episode
5. Speed of Light
6. Uncertainty
7. Season of Change
8. Stratosphere
9. Babylon
10. Tomorrow
11. Night Time Eclipse
12. Forever

Lineup

Timo Kotipelto Vocals
Jörg Michael Drums
Jens Johansson Keyboards
Jari Kainulainen Bass
Timo Tolkki Guitar


Next review: » Stratovarius - Fourth Dimension
Previous review: » Stratovarius - Elysium





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