Photo by Hannu Tiainen

Stronger than ever – Stratovarius live at Tavastia, Helsinki 14.12.

Author John Wins - 18.12.2023

The night of Thursday, December 14th, was a little unusual in the Finnish capital. Public transport was on strike, so getting around was not so easy for many fans, but Stratovarius fans did not disappoint and made it (an almost sold-out) Tavastia.

The opening band, directly from Kuopio, was Nibiru Ordeal, playing very classic power metal, which was certainly also inspired by the hosts of the night. Vocalist Mathias Indergård is charismatic and the band was well received by the audience in Helsinki.

With a good playlist of rock and metal classics playing on the speakers, the atmosphere was already very pleasant when the clock reached showtime at 8:30 pm and the intro started, bringing the five musicians to the stage.

Stratovarius continues to promote their latest album, the excellent “Survive” from 2022, and nothing better than starting with the title track, which already brings the combo that made the band famous: heavy and melodic.

The lights are already great since the beginning, always bringing colors that speak to the energy of each song, like during Eagleheart. It was possible to see several fans singing the chorus together with the always charismatic Timo Kotipelto.

Before the track Glory Days, which debuted this year in the setlist and is also from the new album, the vocalist made a point of showing the band’s gratitude to everyone who attended the show, given the small chaos that the strike generated in the capital on that cold December night. It’s always good to see examples of humility and appreciation from an artist towards their fans and in that sense Stratovarius has always done very well.

Paradise is another classic from the old era of the band and excites the audience who accompanies its intro with a “sea of applauses”, but here the big highlight goes to guitarist Matias Kupiainen, who brings the best of the old Strato sound with his own personal touch.

It’s incredible to note that the new songs work very well a year after their release. World on Fire is another hit on the setlist and what a privilege it is to see bassist Lauri Porra live. Always happy and precise! A small acoustic moment occurs during If the Story Is Over, which returned to the setlist after 10 years, with Kotipelto delivering a very emotional performance.

The medley with Stratosphere/Holy Light, that ended with Legions, is a delight for fans of the 90s, where Stratovarius marked their name in the history of power metal. Here the gig shows how tight the band is, but also puts the spotlight on the always talented Jens Johansson, who still is a great reference on the keyboard with his neoclassical style. Matias continues his night, bringing the best of the Tolkki era, but also showing his personality in the solos and riffs.

It is already a tradition in the almost twenty years that Lauri has been part of the band, to have a solo moment that always culminates with references to classical music. In addition to being one of the best musicians that the land of a thousand lakes has ever exported, the bassist is full of joy in what he does. After its intricate bass intro, Frozen in Time comes to life. Despite having interesting work from drummer Rolf Pilve, some old fans don’t interact much with the track, but another classic was about to come…

After a brief solo by Johansson, one of the most-known intros in melodic metal begins and then everyone present sings each verse of the anthem Black Diamond. Despite being a song that never left the setlist after its debut, the musicians still find ways to make it interesting and fresh, such as the dynamic between Lauri and Jens, in which the bassist plays on the keyboard or the drum solo by the excellent Rolf. In fact, it is good to highlight the friendly and healthy atmosphere that all the members have on stage. Constant exchanges of smiles and interactions show the audience that the band is experiencing the happiest moment in its history.

The return for the encore, which starts with Destiny, once again has Timo Kotipelto’s voice standing out, with a beautiful intro, but it’s hard not to be happy when the singer waves or smiles at some of the hundreds of fans at the legendary Tavastia. The second to last track of the night, Unbreakable, sums up a lot of what Stratovarius is these days, a mix of fun and heavy metal. The track has heavy riffs, but at the same time it has that “let’s party” atmosphere, which could be seen on each fan’s face, regardless of their favorite phase of the band.

The end, as usual, is with the group’s greatest hit Hunting High and Low, which was well summarized in Kotipelto’s definition “Meidän Paranoid“. Interaction, clapping, choirs, smiles and everyone singing the chorus that at some point marked the lives of each of those present.

With joy and a sense of mission accomplished, the band said goodbye and once again showed that they are stronger than ever, surviving with quality and more than that, doing what they love.

You can listen to Stratovarius latest album “Survive” here: