Released: 1995, Noise Records
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 was a bit a transitional album for Stratovarius. It was the first appearance of new vocalist Timo Kotipelto and the last to feature two of the original members. The band expanded to a quintet, and it is an album many observers point to as the start of a new era and newer sound for the band.
The package is adequate, with a cool, metaphysical cover with flying pyramids. What is it with European Power Metal bands and this whole alien-flying pyramid theme? Axel Rudi Pell, Gamma Ray, Stratovarius all have used that theme, maybe they get their other worldy musical powers from another planet and are secretly letting us know through their album covers. The lyrics and presentation are still very grounded, despite having an overall Science Fiction ‘feel’ to them. For example ‘Distant Skies’ is a very personal story about fear of flying and ‘Nightfall’ is about going for a walk at night but ‘Galaxies’, ‘Lord Of The Wasteland’ and ‘030366’ are more Sci-Fi based. The latter cut ‘030366’ is allegedly Timo’s birthday and is a song about computers and I feel it is a pretty close attempt to write his own version of Queensryche’s ‘Screaming In Digital’ from RAGE FOR ORDER’. It’s not a blatant rip-off but the song structure, lyrical topic and electro-distorted vocals take on a similarity. The album also has a couple of nice instrumentals as well, specifically the signature song ‘Stratovarius’.
The most striking fact are the vocals of newcomer, Kotipelto. Upon hearing this you could instantly tell that he would be among the new breed, the new elite pack of singers, snapping at the heels of the elder gods such as Dickinson, Dio, Halford and Tate. His performance instantly raises the bar for the band. His range, power and clarity are amazing. It is not that Timo Tolkki’s vocals were poor, it is just that Kotipelto is gifted and technically a far superior singer, that’s why they hired him. It shows bravery on Tolkki’s part to hire someone to replace himself as lead vocalist. It was a decision, as time has showed us, that would one day haunt him as years later. Kotipelto would walk away with the band and the rights to name. Contenting to play guitar and write songs, Tolkki’s playing is superb, from speedy cuts to epic pounders like ‘Winter’ (which would become a recurring lyrical theme for the band), Tolkki’s is inspired and playing with passion.
FOURTH DIMENSION takes large strides towards becoming the global powerhouse it would become once the classic line-up is solidified next album and the band start their epic four album, five year run to the end of the millennium. It is a fantastic album that gives a glimpse at was to become.