Nuclear Blast Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/01/2001
Okay, I've had it. I might not be the world's leading authority on progressive rock (and have never claimed to be), but there's one thing I know about this genre that every prog-rock band in the world had better listen to:
Progressive rock is more than throwing constant double-bass work into songs, and including keyboard lines that try to fit a million notes in just under five seconds. (Jeezus, my five-year-old can do that... and I don't see anyone lining up to sign her to a multi-album deal.) If you're in prog-rock band and you're guilty of overindulging on these two cardinal sins, then stop it... right... now...
I bring this up after spending what seemed like an eternity listening to Infinite, the eighth release from Finnish prog-rockers Stratovarius. (Yes, I know the band has a new release out there... it's just not in my filthy little hands yet.) Just because you're named after a musical genius doesn't make you one through osmosis, and the nine songs on this disc show a band who may have the right idea, but then quash it with instrumental overkill.
Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of great prog-rock bands out there who can insert a quick keyboard run or use double-bass kick drum to their advantage. Unfortunately, Stratovarius isn't one of those bands - mainly because their songwriting still needs work. (With strong songwriting, a band can even get away with occasionally overdoing it on the flamboyant side.)
It's not that the band isn't trying; I have no doubt their intentions were good. But tracks such as "Hunting High And Low," "Phoenix" and "Infinity" just don't hook the listener like one would hope they would. Even when the band tries to do something unique, as they attempt on "Mother Gaia," they're just not able to get things to click.
Sometimes, it's just the fault of the songs themselves. Other times, it's almost as if the song is just about to turn the corner, when keyboardist Jens Johansson seems to pop up and say, "Gee, look what I can do!" Jens, we know what you're capable of; you don't get to be a sideman with Yngwie Malmsteen if you don't know your chops. But instead of wowing me with the lightning work on the faux-ivories, why not work on melody and harmony first?
Infinite falls prey to the same trap that many prog-rock albums of late hit: they put technical precsion ahead of musical soundness. Stratovarius is a band who should know better than this.