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Stratovarius rumbles our in the big wide world

"You have to be patient, nothing happens in a year", guides Tolkki of Stratovarius

Usually a big press conference is arranged, when a Finnish rock band begins dreaming of success around the world. What is hoped to happen during the next couple of years will be told as the definite truth.

But when the world doesn't kneel before the Finnish men, they come home silently. Naturally the failure isn't because of the band, but because of the cheating record company, jealous press, and audience that doesn't understand anything and can't be offered "real" rock anyway.

To avoid this famous Gringos Locos phenomenon, Stratovarius chose another method. Finnish metal men decided to first learn how to play, then make some records and especially work hard playing gigs around the world.

Big talks shouldn't come until after the success, if even then.

Today Stratovarius is a heavy metal band approaching the stadium size, whose total record sales threaten the respectable limit of half a million copies with the new album Visions.

According to the old wisdom, no-one is a prophet in his own country. The band is a mega star in Japan, and highly respected group in the metal market of Central Europe, but in Finland fame and glory are limited strictly to the metal fans. It doesn't bother the band themselves, as the big world is more challenging than smaller circles at home.

Stratovarius has already several times proved their capabilities abroad.

Guitarist and song-writer Timo Tolkki believes in hard work, though "there's no such thing as win-through-work". The band doesn't become successful by accident, in the final analysis only the strong results lead to the success.

Pastiche metal changed to baroque metal

Stratovarius' own road is summarized in Tolkki's comments. The band was formed already fifteen years ago. When Tolkki's influence grew, Black Sabbath-style pastiche metal of the early days changed to the synthesis combining classic music and traditional heavy metal. The debut album Fright Night was released in 1989. It had in their infancy the basic elements, that current success of Stratovarius around the world is based on.

- Somebody has once defined our music as baroque metal. The desctiption is appropriate. There is much influence from the classical music in Stratovarius songs, feels Tolkki.

The reason for the baroquism of Stratovarius metal is found from Tolkki's childhood. He got his first guitar, nailon stringed Landola, when he was seven, and began studying classical guitar playing. Rock came in years later.

- From the classical side I've always been interested in the baroque music. Modern concert music doesn't inspire me, in my opinion music should always be melodic. Melody is the most important element for me, thinks Tolkki.

He remembers having his first touch to metal when he was 12 years old. The song that blew his mind was naturally Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple.

- When I heard it for the first time, I immediately wanted an electric guitar. The next Christmas I got what I had desired.

Ominous prophecies of Nostradamus

Stratovarius' new album was made carefully for a long time. The total cost reached 300.000 marks (over $60.000).

- Record company invested a lot in Visions. In the end we got everything we wanted. We had virtually unlimited studio time, tells Tolkki.

Stratovarius spent three months in studio. Tolkki recalls recording guitars in four days, to keep up the spontaneous feeling in the playing.

- I've played guitar for so long that it has become similar subconscious action as grammar or driving car. No-one thinks about grammar when he speaks, compares Tolkki.

- We didn't make any compromises. Our music doesn't follow anything that's popular right now, he continues, referring to the nature of Visions as a concept album like in the 70's.

Nostradamus' ominous prophecies of the world reaching its end make up the album's big story. Tolkki, who wrote the title song, tells that he's been studying the predictions of Nostradamus already for a long time.

- However, I'm not religious at all, instead more like a fatalist, he emphasizes.

He doesn't consider Visions a clear concept album, but the record has common themes and atmospheres. It is left for the listener, whether he experiences the record as separate songs or as the mosaic of compositions that are interlinked together.

- Our next record will definitely be a pure concept album. I'm currently building a scheme and story for it, reveals Tolkki.

The stories are born in Finnish woods

Ths stories of Stratovarius are born far away from the noise of the big world, in the woods of Klaukkala. For Tolkki the home in the middle of the nature is both a hidind place from the demanding touring and pressures of publicity, and an environment where the new ideas and compositions are formed.

- I can't write on road. I must have peace to do, or I get nothing done, he describes.

During the spring and the summer Tolkki doesn't have time to grow old in Klaukkala, because Visions will take Stratovarius to three continents. In addition to the familiar touring in Japan and Central Europe, this time the band travel to the South America too. In July Finnish metal rocks in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Text by Tommi Aitio
Published in Salon Seudun Sanomat on 17th April 1997
Translation by Sami-Pekka Haavisto

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