• For cars, portable music players and new fans - A review of Stratovarius' "Best of"

    Stratovarius - Best of (2016)

    After a career of more than thirty years and ten years after the last compilation, it's about time for a new greatest hits release. Stratovarius' simply titled "Best of" offers a balanced mixture of the band's catchy, saccharine and short singles like "Hunting High and Low", "Eagleheart" and "Shine in the Dark", some more obscure, experimental and diversified cuts from the early years like "Break the Ice", "Wings of Tomorrow" and "Will My Soul Ever Rest in Peace?" and a few creative, epic and progressive tunes like "Destiny", "Elysium" and "If the Story Is Over". The tracks come around with an organic remastered production and a nice booklet with liner notes from all current members and lyrics of all songs. Obviously, some fans might argue that a few tracks are missing on this compilation. There isn't one single song from the heavy metal debut Fright Night for example. Still, all other albums are covered and this release doesn't only contain commercially successful hits but also live favorites and epic fan favorites which makes this compilation undoubtedly the best in the band's extensive discography.

    While this compilation is an extraordinary starting point for new fans or occasional listeners, it also offers a few new things to old fans. There is one brand new track called "Until the End of Days" which is though a rather average song that belongs to the band's category of catchy, saccharine and short tunes. The tune recalls several previous single hits of the band and doesn't really offer anything new. The other new addition is the third disc of the limited edition which contains the entire Wacken Open Air show recorded in the summer of 2015. The show consist of ten tracks plus an instrumental introduction with a running time around fifty-five minutes. Most of the songs are performed passionately and tightly. The crowd is audible and enthusiastic. The production is above average and quite powerful. The best atmosphere can be found in the performance of "Hunting High and Low" while "Paradise" is probably the least infectious cut from the show. Overall, it's an above average performance offering a consistent summary of the band's greatest hits but it might have been more interesting to record a regular concert of the band on tour with a longer playing time like the show at the 2013 edition of the Loud Park festival in Japan that was added to the limited Japanese edition of the band's previous studio record Eternal.

    In the end, this compilation is particularly recommendable for new and occasional fans of the band. It also serves very well as diversified greatest hits release for your car or portable music player. The concert is a welcome addition to the best tracks while the new track is far from being one of Stratovarius' best choices. I didn't regret buying this extensive compilation because it helps me rediscover different albums, eras and songs of the past twenty-four years.

    Final Rating: 80%

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