While one will likely question the validity of such a claim, “New Era” is an anomaly among the usual offerings from the typical list of Euro-flavored suspects, even though it really isn’t. Point blank, there is nothing “revolutionary” here, nor is it a “renaissance” of any kind, and, as cutthroat as it might seem for the opening of a review, “New Era” channels a lot of previous Stratovarius material beyond the typical nuances of the sound. For example:
The solo in “Heroes” is lifted right out of 1995’s “Against the Wind”
“Born Upon the Cross” is essentially a slowed down version of 2003’s “Elements”
Yet, as odd as odd as it may seem, even with these kind of things staring me right in the face as I listen, and falling out of love with some of Stratovarius’ previous material over the last few years, it doesn’t make me angry. It doesn’t scream “rehash” or “lazy” at the top of its lungs like the similar occurrences on Stratovarius’ “Polaris” does. The reason behind this has a lot to do with the last, self titled Stratovarius album released in 2005. Looking back and listening to at that album, and taking Tolkki’s dislike of the album and band’s turmoil into account, it’s not hard to look beyond that music and see that the band was, quite literally, a mess, miserable and together mainly out the legal implications they would have faced if they didn’t reconcile. Simply put, it was an album that was far from honest even though I have to admit I liked the Dreamspace-esque darkness that dominated some of its songs.
On the other hand, “New Era” does sound honest. Listening to it, it sounds as if Tolkki and his trio of vocalist actually enjoyed making this album instead of just aiming to get something out there to avoid breaching a contract. Again, if Kotipelto (a vocalist who’s voice is becoming less and less a personal favorite) sang these songs as originally planned, this would probably just be another, near soulless Stratovarius album, but the tri-fecta of singers borrowed from other outfits (Edguy, ex-Helloween, and Thunderstone) is much more than the gimmick it initially appears to be. Can’t imagine anyone other than Kiske singing “Last Night on Earth or “Revolution Renaissance,” the best title cut Tolkki has written in years despite the obvious and obligatory cheese. The same applies to the other vocalist and their efforts and are, and much like Olaf Hayer’s work for Luca Turilli’s solo works, are easily half the reason I’ve stuck with the album as long as I have, which is saying a lot when the newest albums by HammerFall and Gamma Ray fail to stick even when they do offer something different.
In the end, there isn’t anything special about “New Era” – especially from a technical point of view. Still, even though it’s easy to acknowledge and accept this, the album (especially as a whole) does kind of feel special in some abstract, intangible way.