Finnish power metal band Stratovarius are an unlikely offering for the maximum capacity 311 West End Cultural Centre. The venue, often hailed as the best sounding room in Western Canada, is usually the home to folk, blues, jazz, punk and indie music. Top notch European metal bands are a rareity, indeed.
Like their albums, Stratovarius, for me, are best enjoyed when they are playing their fast and heavy tunes, as opposed to their ballads and more pop-oriented sounds. Singer Timo Kotipelto engaged the crowd in the ususal audience participation games. It was cool to a fair number of the kids moshing during the faster numbers. They played two encores, with two ballads and one of my favorite tracks, Black Diamond, as the final tune.
Drummer Jörg Michael, he joined Saxon last September, was a machine with his relentless, double bass drum sound. His face resembles Andre the Giant. Timo Tolkki was superb on both electric and acoustic guitars. He is a virtuoso player and served on backup vocal, as well. He also bears a bit of resemblance to Canadian folk balladeer Ron Sexsmith. New bassist Lauri Porra wowed the audience with his solo early on. He replaced Jari Kainulainen, who left in July. Beared Jens Johansson is well known as someone who has played with Yngwie Malmsteen, and Dio, among others. He played a teasing introduction into Black Diamond at the end. Also, the band managed to work in the old Jewish wedding party standard, Hava Nagila. During some of the solos, Johansson manned a handheld camera, which displayed on a large video screen above the drum kit. Musically, there are no weak links in this band. All are superb players and vocalist Timo Kotipelto is a lively performer with an excellent voice. It’s really quite strange to see such a popular European band in a tiny venue, but they were turning people away at the door and I suspect Stratovarius will have to play a larger venue, next time.
It was interesting to see the band display the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the video screen, as well as messages of peace and love. Clearly, Stratovarious are a positive band who are not afraid to share their beliefs of the unity of mankind. Read the band’s tour diary to hear them more about what life is like on the road, etc.
Andre the Giant
Some of the tracks played in the two-hour set included Father Time, Will The Sun Rise ?, Destiny, Black Diamond, Against The Wind, Twilight Symphony, Forever, Hunting High And Low.
Into Eternity’s Rob Doherty and Troy Bleich
Dream Quest, a Canadian power metal band, opened the show. Obviously influenced by European power metal, they were actually enjoyable. Their guitarist sounds like he’s listended by a lot of Helloween. I purchased their 2004 CD “The Release” and it’s solid melodic European power metal with only the vocals being weak. Regina, Saskatchewan’s Into Eternity were up next, and this five piece band have a lot going for them. Their lead singer is augmented by two singing guitarists. At point in their set, they encouraged the crowd to sing by doing their best “Cookie Monster” impression. These guys don’t take themselves too seriously, but have their the power and finese to go places and a charasmatic lead singer in Stu Block.
Into Eternity’s Stu Block