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Stratovarius - Under Flaming Winter Skies: Live In Tampere (earMusic/Armoury Records)

By: Kenneth Gallant

[8/10] The last time Stratovarius recorded a live album was in Greece in 1998, and that was on the heels of their successful touring cycle for Visions. This time around, they have chosen Tampere, Finland to set the stage for a remarkable live album and also mark the final appearance of Jorg Michael behind the drum kit.

What you will be hearing on this release is a raucous affair between a rabid audience and a band delivering an array of major hits, setting Under Flaming Winter Skie - Live in Tampere up as a sentimental release. This might sound like I am telegraphing this a bit, but you can tell from the warm reactions of the fans in attendance, that a splendid live album was in the offering. Tons of solid power metal is on display throughout the 2-disc set and this might serve as a great synopsis of the history of Stratovarius.

In terms of the set list deployed for this concert, Under Flaming Winter Skies spans six albums over the course of 16 years of the band’s existence. The opening song “Under Flaming Skies” is a strong mid-tempo rocker, setting the stage for several quick paced numbers to follow and dazzle fans into a tizzy. It certainly helps to bang out songs like “Speed of Light” and “Eagleheart” with singalong choruses, and then go for the gusto with epics tracks of “Twilight” and “Father Time.” This is definitely a well paced show for the fans in attendance.

Even the performances of the entire band are flawless, so you won’t hear a single mistake or bad note played throughout the set. Timo Kotipelto is on fire with his splendid vocal delivery, thus proving he can carry a live show as a frontman. Also, I have always been a fan of keyboardist Jens Johnassen and the man is a true genius at his position, challenging his bandmates to the brink of perfection without ever upstaging the soaring guitar leads. I am giving his performance a big thumbs up too.

As far as live albums go, this release is heartfelt and genuinely radiates a passion for the material. Drummer Jorg Michael is getting an incredible send-off, so I say hats off to Stratovarius for giving him a fond farewell. If this is not reason enough for enjoying this CD, then marvel at the sheer power they bring to a live set. It’s well worth the purchase of your hard-earned cash.

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