While the choirboy vocals and classical melodies of power metal may not be for everyone, Finlands Stratovarius remain a gripping listen nonetheless, owing to their phenomenal musicianship and the debt they owe to masters of melody such as Iron Maiden. They were founded in 1984 in Helsinki by songwriter Timo Tolkki (Helsinki, Finland; guitar), John Vihervä (bass) and Staffan Stråhlman (b. Finland; guitar), who had originally played together as Black Water. The trio concentrated initially on reproducing the doom-laden sounds of Black Sabbath but soon moved towards the more polished sound of Rainbow and Dio. Personnel changes saw founding member Tolkki joined by Jyrki Lentonen (bass), Tuomo Lassila (drums) and Antti Ikonen (keyboards), as the band mutated towards a smooth, Helloween -like sound, with the players classical training put to good use, and a fanbase beginning to gather. The cumulative success of several albums, notably 1994s...
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