Stratovarius are always welcome at UK venues with their solid fanbase showing their full support to the Finnish iconic power metallers. Inventors of the icy melodic Finnish power metal guitar sound that was adopted by Children of Bodom, Sonata Arctica and Nightwish amongst numerous others, Stratovarius waste no time in entertaining the audience with well-composed and virtuosic power metal tunes. Frontman Timo Kotipelto’s voice soars unflinchingly through the venue with crystal clarity and infinite power. The keyboard wizardry of Jens Johanssen has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated as his fingers dance all over the keys creating that idiosyncratic Finnish power metal atmosphere that has been replicated by other bands excessively. Guitarist Matias Kupiainen has certainly filled the shoes of previous guitarist Timo Tolki and fixates on his guitar intently during the intricate and beautifully melodic solos. It is excellent to hear the band play favourites such as ‘Kiss of Judas’, a somewhat dark track for power metal full of a range of emotions, the infinitely optimistic ‘Eagleheart’, complete with sing-along chorus, and ‘Speed of Light’, which definitely showcases some of the best guitar and keyboard solos in power metal. The ballad ‘Winter Skies’ from last year’s ‘Polaris’ makes an appearance and Stratovarius treat their fans to a new song from the forthcoming ‘Elysium’ album entitled ‘Darkest Hours’, which the audience certainly enjoys. A great closing one-two punch of ‘Hunting High and Low’ and ‘Black Diamond’ reminds the audience why Stratovarius should be considered as one of the finest power metal bands and very appropriate for supporting the legendary Helloween. For those that demand more, Kotipelto promises the Finns will return soon.
Sunday 5th December 2010
Forum in London, UK
Reviews by Elena Francis
After what feels like an eternity setting up the stage, Helloween explode into the new single ‘Are You Metal?’, complete with audience triumphantly singing along. Behind the band stands the impressive circular saw switch-blade hybrid that appears on the front cover of the new release ‘7 Sinners’. Singer Andi Deris is on great form, particularly expressionate with a grand stage presence and an interesting choice of jacket. Guitarists Sascha Gerstner and Mikael Weikath alongside bassist Markus Grosskopf are all smiles (well, Weikath less so) and animated. The entire band looks somewhat cartoony which contributes positively to their style. Contrasting sharply to Stratovarius’ glacial Finnish power metal sound, Helloween’s inventive German power metal is less focused on atmosphere and more so on heavy metal with more articulated riffs and a lesser focus on atmosphere than the support band. The Helloween gig staple ‘Eagle Fly Free’ secures intense celebratory uproar as Deris strains to push his voice upwards to hit the notes that previous singer Michael Kiske did albeit with strong confidence. It feels unfairly like the older Helloween songs will always receive a more significant reaction than the later tracks, despite how good the later songs are. ‘I’m Alive’ and ‘March of Time’ are executed alongside the less common songs ‘A Handful of Pain’ and ‘Steel Tormentor’ from the ‘Better Than Raw’ and ‘The Time of the Oath’ albums respectively. In typical Helloween fashion, there are also guitar and drum solo spots, which are a little tiresome if you have seen these German power metallers before and it does feel like these showboating affairs eat into the set a little too much. Eager to please as many punters as possible, a medley consisting of ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’, ‘King for a Thousand Years’ and ‘Halloween’ is constructed as an alternative to just playing one of the band’s lengthier numbers or all of them and thus having to remove more songs from the setlist. The effect is commendable and despite the time gap between the first two parts and ‘King for a Thousand Years’, the medley compliments itself. When the band play the opening notes of ‘I Want Out’, the venue is leaping up and down on its feet and singing along to the bold song and that end-of-gig feeling strongly saturates the air. Helloween leave the stage, only to return for the obvious gaps in their setlist and then some. ‘Ride the Sky’ is a fantastic track and it is good to see they have not neglected their debut album in any way. ‘Future World’ beckons fans to sing along in addition to seemingly close the set for a second time. However, the night is not yet over as the band return for ‘Doctor Stein’, complete with a variety of characters dressed up as the crazy scientist themselves, as part of a competition Helloween had organised beforehand on this tour. Literally everyone appears to be having fun and Helloween’s reputation for live entertainment is tricky for other bands to surpass. After a night of wild smiles and great music, the band bow and leave gracefully. Hopefully they will return to London again soon because it truly is impossible to get enough of these German power metal vanguards.