“Under Flaming Winter Skies” features the final show with Stratovarius for drummer Jorg Michael. In addition to being Stratovarius’ greatest drummer, Michael’s stellar resume includes Running Wild, Axel Rudi Pell, Mekong Delta, and others. In that sense, his retirement from the band was quite sad for fans such as myself, but it’s also a great reason to release an awesome live album!
Stratovarius’ greatest strength in recent years has been their ability to write catchy singles. From “Hunting High and Low” all the way to “Darkest Hours”, this band writes songs that were made for playing live. As you might guess, that makes for a stellar setlist. In addition to all of their poppy singles, the band played an amazing 6 tracks from “Visions”, all of which were highlights on this record. In fact, the only real disappointment was the lack of songs from the new album, which is probably their strongest record. Although covering Deep Purple’s “Burn” seems like a weird idea, it actually worked quite well and is not a song I’d cut.
The individual performances here are stellar. Vocalist Timo Kotipelto sounds exactly the same as he does on the albums. Likewise, both Jorg Michael and Jen Johannsson don’t do anything too different, but still play the songs well. New guitarist Matias Kupiainen is much better than Timo Tolkki could ever dream of being, and he does justice to their entire catalogue. Bassist Lauri Porra is relatively quiet, and doesn’t stand out much aside from the bass solo. When it comes down to it, this isn’t too much different from any of their albums, and that’s my main problem with it. You’d be better off listening to “Visions” and a greatest hits album, and you would have a similar experience, except that the studio records sound a little better. That doesn’t mean this a worthless release; after all, these songs are awesome, and it is fun to hear them in a slightly different setting, but is probably not worth the price of admission. On the other hand, I imagine the DVD of this album is worth buying if you’ve never seen the band (especially since they don’t come to North America often enough!). Both major and casual fans should definitely give this a listen. If not for the quality of the release, do it at least for Jorg Michael's last show. This is a fitting way for him to go out, and a necessary live release for a band that hasn’t put out a live record in over a decade.
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"Hunting High And Low"
3.9/5 or 78%.
Written by Scott