Released: 2010, Armoury Records
Through the magic of multiple record companies in multiple territories and multiple versions of the same album, Stratovarius have a very convoluted discography. Armoury now holds the rights to some Stratovarius material and the time is right to reissue this record albeit perhaps a bit premature. This is more of a public service announcement as the album was reviewed on this very site when it came out just last year. I’m also pairing it with the INFINITE reissue that came out at the same time. Check out that review as well, if you wish.
My main question is how to view this release? Is it a re-issue of POLARIS with a live album as the bonus disc…or is it a live album with the studio album as the bonus? Either way it is a treat. My review is going to focus on the POLARIS LIVE disc.
I would have preferred a full, new, stand-alone Double Live album since it has been 12 years and 6 albums since VISIONS OF EUROPE. However, we will have to settle for this oddly packaged (but welcome) 14 track, 75 minute live album. I say odd because the booklet is identical to POLARIS, except for a huge, ugly advertisement. However, it has a single page insert with a flip cover of POLARIS on one side and the POLARIS LIVE album cover on the other. I’m glad because it annoys me when the label prints advertising on the front cover, obscuring the art. The POLARIS LIVE album cover is just a simple shot of the band standing on stage after the show. It’s pretty weak, not a lot of effort went into it.
There is also some conflicting info about the nature of the live album. Some say it is a single show in Italy from January in early 2010 but the backtray itself says, it is a mix of shows from across various countries in 2009 and 2010. You can clearly hear, vocalist Timo Kotipelto speaking with the crowd and talking to people in Bulgaria, Japan and Italy, so don't believe everything you read on the net! Speaking of speaking, I really enjoy the band-audience participation and banter, it adds a depth to the album, making it come more alive.
The track-listing is OK. There are only three songs are duplicated from the last live album, so that's good. Another plus is that they showcase five songs (almost half!) from POLARIS. I like it when a band is brave enough to perform lots of their new material. The only downside perhaps, and this is why it should have been a massive double album is that the band didn't play any cuts from six of their albums. That is half their entire career. Another disc could have had a song or two from each of the 'missing' albums. They play nothing from the first three albums and nothing from the previous three, prior to POLARIS of course. It would be nice to hear an older, rare song instead of focusing on the 'glory years' of the late 90's.
Technical data and packaging curiosities aside, the bottom line is we have the first new live material in over 10 years to enjoy! The sound is great, it's hard to mess up sound these days when you record right into the board. It's clear and loud and the crowd is nice and loud in the mix. The performances are exuberant and enthusiastic. It is brave of them to open the show with the 10 minute cut 'Destiny'! To my ears this sounds a little more 'live' than the last live album. I saw this tour and the set-list was very similar so it is a nice memento of that tour for me. It's a great addition to any Stratovarius' fans collection.