(Nuclear Blast)

01. Hunting High and Low
02. Millennium
03. Mother Gaia
04. Phoenix
05. Glory of the World
06. A Million Light Years Away
07. Freedom
08. Infinity
09. Celestial Dream

RATING: 7/10

Having been a fan of STRATOVARIUS' neo-classical sound since the group's excellent 1996 Episode release (the band's fifth), I was genuinely hoping that the quintet's latest album would offer a slightly different twist to what has become an increasingly predictable songwriting approach. Unfortunately, this was simply not to be.


As is always the case with STRATOVARIUS, one would be hard-pressed to find fault with the group's musicianship or the production, both of which have been fine-tuned to near-perfection through years of experience. However, much like YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, STRATOVARIUS tend to use and re-use the same formula when composing their material, and after awhile, many of the group's songs start sounding virtually indistinguishable from one another. This is not to say that STRATOVARIUS are a musically one-dimensional act indeed, there is a sharp contrast between the double-bass intensity of "Millenium" and the touching emotion of "Mother Gaia". But when all is said and done, there is an air of familiarity behind these songs that is very difficult to shake off, and one need not look any further than the band's last three recordings to find references for virtually all of the group's current musical ideas.


As disappointing as Infinite may be to some longtime fans, it is by no means a bad album, and it would still serve as a potent introduction to the band's music to all those who have a liking for the YNGWIE/early HELOWEEN neo-classical metal sound.


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