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 (since then, there has been no original members in the band). 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 following album, Elysium
, was released in January 2011, preceeded by the lead single "Darkest Hours", and followed the same direction as Polaris
. During this time, however, Jörg Michael had discovered a malignant tumor and had to be temporarily replaced while he underwent treatment. After recovering, Michael decided to retire as a drummer, although staying on to help with future Stratovarius projects. After one last farewell tour, the remaining members went looking for a new drummer.
That summer, 23-year-old Rolf Pilve was taken on as the new fifth man of Stratovarius, and soon after the upcoming single "Unbreakable" was announced. Stratovarius's fourteenth and newest album, Nemesis
, was released in February 2013.
The lineup as of 2013 is:
- Timo Kotipelto - Vocals
- Jens Johansson - Keyboards/Piano
- Rolf Pilve - 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)
- Jörg Michael - Drums 1995-2012, left the band after a battle with cancer
- 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)
- Nemesis (2013)
This band provides examples of: