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Stratovarius are a Finnish power metal band, which formed in 1984 under the name Black Water. The founding members were Tuomo Lassila, Staffan Stråhlman and John Vihervä. In 1985, Timo Tolkki joined the band, becoming the new lead guitarist (replacing Staffan) and also the singer (replacing Lassila). He also renamed it Stratovarius, a combination of Stratocaster and Stradivarius.
They released a demo to various recording companies, and were picked up by CBS Finland in 1987. In 1989 their first album, Fright Night, was released.
Shortly after, Twilight Time was released, but the band were dropped by CBS Finland. Jari Kainulainen joined the band in 1994 while they were more than halfway through recording Dreamspace, their third album, and he became the new bass player. However, Tolkki found that his voice was beginning to fail, and decided to find a new singer. That singer came in the form of Timo Kotipelto, a Finnish singer from Lappajärvi who was previously the singer for a cover band called Filthy Asses. According to Tolkki, as soon as Timo opened his mouth they knew they had found their new singer. Timo Kotipelto became the singer, and they recorded Fourth Dimension with him on vocals, which was a huge success.
After this, they decided it was time for a change. They got rid of the old drummer and keyboardist Lassila and Antti Ikonen, since their style wasn't the kind Stratovarius were going towards, and hired two new people. Their new keyboardist was Jens Johansson, a Swedish guy who used to play in a band called Silver Mountain with his brother Anders. The new drummer was a German named Jörg Michael. With this new line-up, they recorded Episode, one of the biggest Stratovarius projects of all time, involving a full string orchestra and choir in some of the songs, and containing classics such as "Father Time" and "Will the Sun Rise?" to name a few. It also contained a song called "Speed of Light" which Tolkki said was the fastest song they had ever written.
Continuing with this line-up, they released three more albums over the years: Visions, which contained the song "Visions (Southern Cross)", based on Nostradamus' prophecy that the world would end in 2000, and also contained the most well-known and most popular Stratovarius song of them all, "Black Diamond"; Destiny, with classics like "S.O.S." and "4000 Rainy Nights"; and Infinite. They also toured extensively during this time, and even recorded their first (and so far only) live album, Visions of Europe, in Milano, a club in Athens, Greece.
After this, the band took a vacation from the music career to rest up before they tackled the big project they had been planning. They knew their fans would be impatient, however, so they recorded a new album: Intermission. This album contained no new songs, but rather, all the songs they had recorded in the past that didn't make it onto the albums they were originally intended for, and also some bonus tracks such as "Cold Winter Nights" (the bonus track for Destiny) and "When the Night Meets the Day" (the bonus track from Episode). It also contained a live cover of "I Surrender" by Rainbow and a live version of "Hunting High and Low" taken from the Infinite tour in 2000, as well as a cover of "Kill the King" by Rainbow and "Bloodstone" by Judas Priest.
When the band came back in 2003, the big project did not disappoint. Elements was the most epic thing Stratovarius had ever done. It was divided into two albums. Elements Part 1 was released in 2003, and reached a peak in their new style of symphonic power metal. After this was a world tour, followed by Elements Part 2, which had the single "I Walk to My Own Song" on it.
After this, though, things started to go downhill for the band. The long years of touring and playing began to affect Timo Tolkki psychologically. He kicked Kotipelto and Jörg out of the band for very vague reasons, replacing them with a female singer named Katriina Wiiala ("Miss K") and Anders, Jens' brother, respectively. While kicking Kotipelto out may have seemed crazy enough, that wasn't the end to Tolkki's madness. He wrote a long news article on the website, in which he explained that he had converted to Kabbalah after reading Madonna's autobiography and apparently being contacted by Jesus. However, Jewish fans wrote on the forums that the principles of Kabbalah that Tolkki explained in the news post were actually nothing to do with Kabbalah at all, and the webmaster removed the post from the site.
Tolkki phoned Anders a few days later and began ranting nonsense about Hitler. Anders freaked out and just quit the band right there. Fans became worried about Timo's mental condition, and in April 2004 he was diagnosed with chronic depression and a nervous breakdown, and confined to a mental hospital. When he was released, he apologised to the fans on the website and began trying to negotiate with the band. Fans waited anxiously to hear whether Stratovarius would go back to normal.
To the relief of many, Stratovarius reunited in January 2005, with Kotipelto and Jörg back in the fray. In June 2005, Jari left the band. Tolkki reassured fans that there had been no drama, and Jari was simply leaving because he apparently didn't have the energy to tour as heavily as Stratovarius were anymore. He left and was replaced by a younger Finnish bass player named Lauri Porra. With him, they recorded another album, a self-titled album named Stratovarius. It spawned a single, "Maniac Dance". They also did a world tour in 2005, visiting the US and Canada for the first time ever. However, things got worse after this. In 2008, after a long period of silence from the band, Timo Tolkki announced the official breakup of Stratovarius on the website, to the shock and dismay of many fans. He cited the reason as that there had been too much internal tension between the band members. Stratovarius were planning on releasing an album, codenamed R.... R....., but it ended up becoming a solo album from Tolkki, who broke away from the band to form his own, named Revolution Renaissance.
However, the rest of the band didn't like the idea of a breakup, and claimed that while Tolkki had given up on Stratovarius, they weren't ready to throw in the towel just yet. Tolkki eventually handed over the rights of the band to them and left for good. Since Tolkki had written about 95% of the songs prior to this, his leaving would change the style of the band considerably, as he pointed out to them in his final statement before he left. He was replaced by Finnish guitarist Matias Kupiainen.
The next year (2009) saw the release of Polaris, which contained the single "Deep Unknown". When performing live in the Starlite Room in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to promote the new album, a ceiling-mounted PA speaker caught fire, stopping the concert halfway through, though fortunately no one was injured. The band planned to finish their album-promoting tour in summer 2010 and then work on their next album.
Their latest album, Elysium, was released in January 2011, preceeded by the lead single "Darkest Hours", and followed the same direction as Polaris.
The lineup as of 2011 is:
- Timo Kotipelto - Vocals
- Jens Johansson - Keyboards/Piano
- Jörg Michael - Drums
- Lauri Porra - Bass guitar
- Matias Kupiainen - Guitar
- Timo Tolkki - Guitar (Left the band in 2008 due to tension between the band members), also vocals until 1994 (though he continued to sing backing vocals after that)
- John Vihervä - Original bass guitarist, left in 1984
- Staffan Stråhlman - Original guitarist, left in 1985
- Tuomo Lassila - Original drummer and vocalist, replaced as vocals by Tolkki and then kicked out in 1994
- Jyrki Lentonen - Bass guitar from 1984-1989
- Antti Ikonen - Keyboards from 1988-1995
- Jari Behm - Bass guitar from 1989-1993
- Jari Kainulainen - Bass guitar from 1993-2005, left due to personal reasons (though there was no drama involved)
- Sami Kuoppamäki - Drums from 1994-1995
- Anders Johansson - Replaced Jörg Michael briefly in 2004, though never featured on an album
- Katriina "Miss K" Wiiala - Replaced Timo Kotipelto on vocals in 2004 briefly, though she was never featured on an album
Stratovarius are mainly known for their symphonic and classical tendencies (hence the genre of the band), often using choirs or orchestras as well as traditional metal instruments. They are also well-known for Timo Kotipelto's distinctive high-pitched singing voice.
Studio albums to date:
- Fright Night (1989)
- Twilight Time (1992)
- Dreamspace (1994)
- Fourth Dimension (1995)
- Episode (1996)
- Visions (1997)
- Destiny (1998)
- Infinite (2000)
- Intermission (2001)
- Elements Part I (2003)
- Elements Part II (2003)
- Stratovarius (2005)
- Polaris (2009)
- Elysium (2011)
- AI Is a Crapshoot - The song "030366" seems to be about this.
- Audience Participation Song - "Distant Skies" is the best example.
Kotipelto: Destination unknown...
- Cloudcuckoolander - Some scenes on the Infinite Visions DVD indicate that Jens is one.
- Concept Album - Visions and Destiny are usually cited as a two-part concept album, though there's nothing that suggests any form of concept in the songs themselves...
- Cover Version - Included on the Intermission album are covers of "Bloodstone" by Judas Priest and "Kill the King" by Rainbow, as well as a live cover of "I Surrender" by Rainbow. Also, the S.O.S. single has a cover of "Blackout" by Scorpions.
- Creator Breakdown - Timo Tolkki suffered from a particularly bad mental breakdown in 2004, as a result of constant stress and the pressure of touring and recording, resulting in Timo Kotipelto and Jörg Michael getting kicked out of the band for vague reasons and being replaced with Anders Johansson, Jens's brother who plays drums in a band called Silver Mountain, and Katriina "Miss K" Wiiala, a female vocalist. Fans were not happy with this decision, but thankfully, after Tolkki was admitted to a mental hospital, he restored the band to its former glory.
- "Venus in the Morning" is a song Tolkki wrote about his father.
- Distinct Double Album - Elements Pt. 1 and 2, conceptualized together but released several months apart.
- Dream Weaver - The name of one of their songs.
- Epic Rocking - Not so much as other bands, but some songs like "Visions (Southern Cross)" and "Fantasia" could qualify. The two-part "Emancipation Suite" on Polaris is also a good example.
- That's nothing. The title track of Elysium is a record-smashing 18 minutes, broken down into 3 movements (all in the same song, though).
- Face of the Band - Timo Kotipelto is very popular in Finland outside Stratovarius, and even Timo Tolkki admitted once on the Web site, "Without Kotipelto, it's just not Stratovarius."
- Green Aesop - The song "We Are the Future".
- Ditto "Paradise."
- Heavy Mithril - "Visions (Southern Cross)", based on Nostradamus's prediction that the world would end in 2000. Also "Fantasia", based on the movie The Neverending Story.
- If new (at the time of writing) album Polaris is any indication, the post-Tolkki Stratovarius are heading in this direction. Songs like "King of Nothing" and the two-part "Emancipation Suite" are the best examples.
- Humans Are Bastards - Invoked in some of their songs, notably "We Are the Future" and "Infinity".
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY" - The band's name is pronounced Strato-vah-ree-us. Not Strato-various.
- Pep Talk Song: "Hold Onto Your Dreams", "Season of Faith's Perfection"
- Punctuated for Emphasis - In a few of their songs. Kotipelto also seems to be fond of doing this live. "The song is called... S! O! S!" "Tokyo, tonight, you! Hold! The! KEY!"
- At! The! Speed! Of! Light!
- Zero! Three! Zero! Three! Six! Six!
- And the wisdom to know! The! Difference!
- Talky Bookends - "Event Horizon" combines this trope with Last-Note Nightmare: alarms and an automated voice warning about approaching a black hole.
- Tear Jerker - "When Mountains Fall" is a good example of this.
- No mention of Forever? Really?
- Throw It In - "I'm Still Alive" ends with a conversation between two (presumably) band members.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change - In "Somehow Precious," "Darkest Hours," "Hunting High and Low" and a few other songs.
- What Could Have Been - Jens auditioned for Dream Theater and was rejected before joining Stratovarius.
- A World Half Full - "We Hold The Key" and "Infinity," among others.