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(Links go to lyrics)

1. The Kiss Of Judas 5.49 *****

This was the first song from the new album I heard, played on a Finnish radio in a metal show, Metal Union. It was a raw-mix, timing over 6.20. When Stratovarius heard the song on the radio, they thought it was too long and shortened it a bit. Well, I like long songs :-)

This mid-tempo song begins for a change with just bass and drums, and yes, you can actually hear the bass ;-) Very melodic, very catchy. Excellent instrumental section with both keyboard and guitar solos in the middle. And the solos are more restrained and melodic than fast and technical. Actually this song wasn't so easy at first, but it really grows on you. Just like Dreamspace. Overall this one is really good, and I figure this one will be one of my favourites in the live set.

The CD includes also a video-clip of The Kiss Of Judas (my CD-ROM drive is currently broken, so I haven't checked it yet).

2. Black Diamond 5.40 *****

Black Diamond could well be the concert opener on the forth-coming tour. Fast-paced killer, begins with cool keyboard riff, that will be heard again during the chorus and at the end. Catchy sing-along chorus and really nifty over a minute long keyboard-guitar -fight. But this is in fact my least favourite from the three actual fast double-bass songs of the album.

BTW, this was the very first Stratovarius video that I've ever seen.

3. Forever Free 6.00 *****

Very good fast-pacer with really impressive chorus. Again solos are melodic, with some nice harmonies. Incredible, Tolkki can compose melodic hooks for the songs this fast. Album every year is fast rate for any band, especially when the quality remains this high.

4. Before The Winter 6.07 ****

This could be described a standard power ballad, in the vein of Tears Of Ice or Nightfall. It is a good song, but it feels a bit too long. It could've been cut down a minute or two, without losing anything important. It's still good enough that I don't skip it, though during the last couple of minutes I always tend to wait for the next track :-)

5. Legions 5.44 *****

The spirit of this song feels more than a little like Manowar. Its lyrics are directly about the fans, "Legions of the Twilight", making it definitely a live song. Opening riff has some similarity to Queensrÿche's Queen Of The Reich. Fast pace, melodic solos, great vocals and excellent chorus. Definitely one of the highlights of the album (at least my favourite so far). Can't wait to see this one live!

6. The Abyss Of Your Eyes 5.39 ****½

This song took a while to grow on me too. I liked it from the very first listening, but not that much. The overall feeling somehow reminds me of Eternity, which I still like more. But this one has its great moments as well, like some really nice keyboards in the background. For a change it doesn't have a keyboard solo, which I think is good, every song doesn't necessarily need one.

7. Holy Light 5.45 ****

If you like to play guitar or keyboards, don't listen to this instrumental demonstration of skill :-) Tolkki and Johansson demonstrate their speed and accuracy with really skilled solos and great, fast harmonies. Although I'm not so musical myself and sometimes this fast technical stuff leaves me a bit cold, I like this one enough to play it again.

8. Paradise 4.28 *****

The most straightforward rock song on the album, also the shortest, but a very good one. The chorus is excellent, and Timo Kotipelto sounds surprisingly much like Michael Kiske did on the Keeper albums!

9. Coming Home 5.36 ****½

I couldn't say this one was a full ballad, or even a power ballad, despite its clear ballad sections. It has also very good heavier parts. It has great melodies all through the song and really good guitar solo towards the end of the song.

10. Visions (Southern Cross) 10.16 *****

I almost cried out in joy, when I first heard that Visions will have a ten minute epic, the longest Stratovarius song ever - I've always loved epics. Visions is no exception. It has diversity, it has both slow and blindingly fast parts, but most importantly, some really good guitar riffs and the feeling is just right for the song like this. Lyrics are built around the prophecies of Nostradamus.

If you like classic, over 10-minute mega-epics of the genre, like Helloween's Halloween or Keeper Of The Seven Keys, and Gamma Ray's Heading For Tomorrow, you will love this one too.


All songs are pretty long, only Paradise lasts less than five and a half minutes. But ten long songs make over an hour of great Stratovarius metal! And I can only admire Timo Tolkki's ability to write excellent, catchy choruses that make you want to play track again and again and again...

This time keyboards have bigger part than just chords in the background and solos, and sometimes it's guitar that does chords while keyboards do the leading riff. And keyboards are up with a good reason, Jens is definitely one of the top players in the world. Jens' style sounds pretty similar to Tolkki's, and the two make a great combination for fast solos and accurate dual-melodies.

Well, having listened to it about 30-40 times in three days, I can without a doubt say that Stratovarius has made it again. If you like power metal, like Helloween or Gamma Ray, or just melodic metal with skilled playing and good singing, you should get this one right away!

Currently I can't choose which one I like better, Episode or Visions, but it is already clear that Visions is definitely one of the candidates for the best of '97. And because I was somewhat disappointed with Queensrÿche's new album, Stratovarius now seriously threatens 'Rÿche's position as my all-time favourite band...

My rating : *****

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