Stratovarius – Survive

Finland’s power metal masters Stratovarius have returned after seven years of silence. Was Survive worth the wait? Let’s find out.

Stratovarius has been a big player in the European power metal scene since at least 1989’s Fright Night. Founded by guitar player extraordinaire Timo Tolkki, the band quickly started to make waves in the scene because of its speedy, uplifting power metal and its neoclassical influences, with Tolkki himself Malmsteen-ing away at every possible opportunity. The band really hit its stride, however, with the release of Episode in 1994. Amongst other new recruits, the most notable changes were Timo Kotipelto being handed the microphone and Jens Johansson being stationed behind the keyboards. The rest is history, as they say, with the band enjoying a very successful run up to and including 2003’s Elements duology. Then disaster struck, internal struggles nearly tore the band apart until Tolkki, reduced to a mental wreck at that point, left Stratovarius after the dismal and disappointing self-titled album in 2005.

Fast forward seventeen years and Stratovarius just released its brand-new album Survive. There have been four other albums since Tolkki left and I’ve heard some tracks left and right over the years but none of those really made a lasting impact, let alone prompted me to go out and by a new album. I knew Kotipelto and Johansson were still steering the ship, now with Lauri Porra on bass, Matias Kupiainen on the guitar and drummer Rolf Pilve, none of whom I was familiar with prior to hearing the album. The title track of the album was released early Summer and like always I wanted to check out what the guys were up to these days, expecting as always to be enjoyed but not impressed. How wrong could I have been?

The answer is, of course, dead wrong. The title track sported an uncharacteristically heavy riff, excellent playing, a catchy chorus and a really crunchy production. World on Fire and Firefly, the two songs released on Survive’s tail also impressed mightily and for those still on the fence I can gladly say: the album in its entirety is an absolute triumph. It’s still the speedy, uplifting power metal you’ve come to know from Stratovarius, but its more powerful in its delivery this time. The riffs are meaty and the individual songs are varied enough to keep demanding your interest. The album really flows very well as a whole without any songs really dragging the overall quality down, so it’s smooth sailing from start to finish.

Highlights are plenty here: Glory Days is textbook Euro power/happy metal, Broken is your typical hopeful live anthem, Frozen in Time is the big mid-tempo banger and so on. To make Survive even more fun is that every song has that little something extra to make it special. Frozen in Time has these huge banging drums in between its regular song parts, Broken has an amazing instrumental bridge section that’s augmented even further by Johannson’s epic synthesized choirs; there are little touches to every song that make them stand out better individually and it raises the album as a whole to another level. Special mention should be made of the big eleven-minute closing track Voice of Thunder. I can’t remember having heard Stratovarius being this driven and this epic before and it’s impressive to say the least.

I’m hesitant to call Survive a return to form after not having heard the last few albums in full, but one thing is certain: it’s a damned fine metal album by the Finns. So good in fact that I’m sure that it will pop up in the upper regions of a lot of year lists. If not your list, at least on ours.

Label: earMUSIC

Buy it here:


  1. Survive (04:39)
  2. Demand (04:03)
  3. Broken (04:57)
  4. Firefly (03:38)
  5. We Are Not Alone (04:34)
  6. Frozen in Time (06:43)
  7. World on Fire (04:26)
  8. Glory Days (05:06)
  9. Breakaway (04:28)
  10. Before the Fall (04:15)
  11. Voice of Thunder (11:10)


  • Timo Kotipelto – vocals
  • Jens Johansson – keyboards
  • Matias Kupiainen – guitars
  • Lauri Porra – bass
  • Rolf Pilve – drums

Review by Ralph Plug


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