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Stratovarius - Biography






Stratovarius was founded in 1984 by three guys from Helsinki, Finland; drummer and vocalist Tuomo Lassila, bass player John Viherva and guitarist Staffan Strahlman. Before Stratovarius the same line up performed under name Black Water.

The music of early Stratovarius was very different from what it is today. Back then it was heavily influenced by Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. Guitar player Staffan brought in some classical elements. Bass player John left the band by the end of 1984 and was replaced by Jyrki Lentonen, who previously played with Timo Tolkki in a band called Road Block.

1985 Staffan did not want to play in Stratovarius anymore and he left one week before the band was supposed to play one gig in Aalborg, Denmark. Tuomo Lassila phoned to Timo Tolkki and asked him to join the band. Timo learned all the songs from cassette tape and after a few rehearsals the band travelled to Denmark. At that time Tuomo was still singing and playing the drums at the same time. It soon became evident that the band needed a singer because Tuomo's vocal range. However, good singers are few and far between and so Timo Tolkki took over the vocal duties. At this point the music was starting to sound more like it is today: very melodic and classically influenced. Timo Tolkki brought along his influences; Blackmore, Rainbow and Baroque music. The band rehearsed and gigged extensively in Helsinki and made its first demo tape under this line up in 1987. It contained songs "Future Shock", "Fright Night" and "Night Screamer".

The demos were sent to various record companies in Finland and CBS Finland wanted to sign the band after seeing a show at Tavastia Club, Helsinki. At this point the band had a new keyboard player Antti Ikonen. The band recorded its first single "Future Shock/Witch Hunt" in 1988. This was followed by another single "Black Night/Night Screamer" in the beginning of 1989 and finally the debut album "Fright Night" saw daylight in May 1989.

The band gigged extensively during the summer and autumn 1989 and played a huge outdoor gig Giants Of Rock in Hameenlinna with Anthrax and many other metal acts. After all this bass player Jyrki Lentonen left the band. New material was written and demoed early 1990 but CBS lost interest of releasing more Stratovarius material. The band did not give up but rehearsed a lot and made new songs and finally went to record the follow-up to "Fright Night". All this time the band did not have a record contract and it had to finance the recordings by itself. Timo played all the bass parts and even though there is a photo of a new bassist Jari Behm in "Twilight Time" actually play on the album. Soon Jari was asked to leave the band because his style of playing did not fit to the band's music at all.

The second album called "Stratovarius II" was released in Finland early 1992. At this point it was pretty clear that the market for Stratovarius was outside Finland. Many tapes were sent all over the world and Shark Records wanted to sign the band after hearing the song "Hands of Time". Finally "Stratovarius II" was released with a new cover and a new name "Twilight Time" in October 1992 all over the Europe. Soon import copies started to spread to the Japanese market and "Twilight Time" was five months in Top 10 of import disks in Japan. Evetually it became the best selling import album in Japan in 1993. The band also got a big record contract with JVC Victor Entertainment inJapan which released "Twilight Time" in July 1993. Timo Tolkki flew to Japan for the first time in the same month to do promotion and saw that the bands popularity was skyrocketing with enthusiastic fans. The spare time between searching for the record deal was spent on writing new material and the band recorded new songs during the whole year 1993. Also a new bass player Jari Kainulainen joined the band as 70% of the new material was already recorded. At this time Tuomo Lassila had a severe stress injury in his both hands and was not able to play drums for 8 weeks. The record had to be completed with Kingston Wall drummer Sami Kuoppamaki, who played on 4 tracks.

Finally the third album "Dreamspace" was released worldwide in February and March 1994. It was highly praised among the critics and took the bands popularity to a different level. It contained such all time Stratovarius classics as "Dreamspace", "4th Reich" and "Chasing Shadows" to name a few. In June the band headed to Japan for the first tour and played concerts in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya seeing Japanese fans face to face for the 1st time. In Finland they played just one gig before heading for Japan in the now defunct, legendary Shadow Club in Helsinki. This was also JK's very first live appearance with Stratovarius.

New material was written from the spring to summer 1994 and band hit the studio once again with very good vibes from Japan Tour. Timo Tolkki fulfilled his long time dream by recording the solo album "Classical Variations and Themes". It contained songs like "Fire Dance Suite", which was originally written for "Stratovarius" back in 1986, "Lord Of The Rings" and many other classically influenced tracks. The album was released in October 1994. Stratovarius spent the whole summer of 1994 in studio finishing its fourth album.

At this stage Timo Tolkki decided that his singing days were over and that the band should find a proper singer to take the band's sound even further. As advertisements were put to local music papers, somebody remembered a guy from Lappajarvi, Finland, who had approached the band one and half years earlier. So Timo Kotipelto got a phone call from Timo Tolkki and an audition was arranged. The band jammed some songs and as the new guy opened his mouth for the first time, everybody knew that he was the new singer.

Timo's sound can be heard all over the bands fourth release "Fourth Dimension". The title of the album says it all and the sound and the songs on this album were something totally different than before but still the musical style remained as true Stratovarius metal. "Fourth Dimension" was released worldwide in March 1995 and it doubled the sales of "Dreamspace"

The band toured heavily playing shows in all over Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Finland, Greece and Japan. After all these tours Tuomo Lassila and Antti Ikonen, the long time members were asked to leave the band. There were many reasons for this line up change, the most important were personal chemistry and musical differences. The guys just could not play the material that was developing in Timo Tolkki's mind.

After the success of "Fourth Dimension" Timo Tolkki and Timo Kotipelto wanted to take the bands music even further. New drummer Jorg Michael and new keyboard player Jens Johansson entered the band.

The mixing of bands fifth album "Episode" took place at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki. This album was once again a huge step forward for the band. With the fresh attitude and sound of Johansson and Michael the result was dramatic, melodic and symphonic metal album. Also for the first time a choir of 40 singers and a string orchestra of 20 players were used. The album contains some Stratovarius classics as "Father Time", "Eternity" and "Will the Sun Rise?".

Stratovarius' next album "Visions" was released in the April of 1997 and it hit the Finnish charts position #5 in an instant. It spent a total of 24 weeks on the Finnish Top 40. "Visions" also launched an extensive tour, during which Stratovarius entertained not only Finns but also their fans in Japan, Europe and South America. "Visions" exceeded the gold disc plateau of 20.000 sold copies in Finland and the gold disc was celebrated at Tavastia Club in Helsinki June 10th 1998 with a little party and a special gig with a couple of unusual song choices.

During Visions tour Stratovarius recorded their first live album, double CD "Visions of Europe", which was released late March 1998. It contains over 100 minutes of material. Also this album has been a huge success both critically and commercially.

April 1998 Stratovarius started rehearsing their new studio material for the forthcoming album, their seventh full length studio release "Destiny" The album was recorded at Finnvox studios during the spring and summer of 1998 and the release date was October 5th 1998. The first single from the album is entitled SOS was released August 17th and it hit the chart position #3 on Finnish single charts faster than the speed of light. Strangely enough, Destiny debuted the Finnish charts on position #1 the Thursday BEFORE it was officially released. The future will show us if we will see another Stratovarius gold disc party within one year.

The coming of the year 1999 saw Stratovarius again surpassing the gold disc plateau with "Destiny" and this was but sign of more fine things to come. This year has already seen Stratovarius clinch the merits as the best Finnish metal band in the annual readers' poll of the Finnish metal Magazine"SFP". Also the video for SOS was voted the best domestic metal video in Finland in 1998 in the same poll. Soundi magazine's readers' poll confirmed that Stratovarius is now in the big league in Finland, Timo Tolkki took a landslide victory in the "best musician" category for the second time in a row, Stratovarius was elected th 2nd best band, Timo Kotipelto was voted the 3rd in the "best singer" category, Destiny was elected the 2nd best album and SOS the 2nd best song. Also both Timos vere voted in the "Wondeful Person" category and Jens was voted in foreign musicians category. Stratovarius also got laurels from Finnish record industry, they got an "Emma" trophy for being an outstanding export band.

The closing half of 1999 sees Stratovarius building up their new studio album, which will be released by Nuclear Blast Records February 28th 2000.

The expectations towards Infinite were extremely high and those expectations were met. Infinite was yet again very successful album and it certified gold in Finland. It was 3rd album in a row to do that for Stratovarius.

At the end of 2000 Stratovarius returned form their most succesful and longest Tour ever, promoting the Infinite Album they ever did performing in front of more than 300.000 people. Right afte that they decided to do a break for an unknow amount of time. Some musicians inside the band took the chance to work on their solo albums like Timo Tolkki and Timo Kotipelto. A b-side rare material, bonus track - mix called "Intermission" inlcuding 4 new songs was released in 2001 to close the gap until the new album would be released followed by a very seIective choice of festival appearance in summer 2001.

In 2003, the band released its most epic project yet, the two-album suite named Elements. With these albums, they reached a peak in their progressive and symphonic style of power metal. The first album, Elements, Pt. 1, was released in early 2003, followed by a world tour. The same year, it was followed by Elements, Pt. 2, both released on Nuclear Blast.

In late 2003, the band broke up, with Timo Kotipelto and Jörg Michael leaving after a very vaguely-explained conflict. Tolkki hired a new singer, Katriina "Miss K" Wiiala, and Anders Johansson of HammerFall (Jens' brother) temporarily on drums. The rest of 2004 saw almost complete silence from the band.

Despite the break-up, the band still had to finish off their Elements tour. While touring in Spain, Tolkki was announced to have been attacked by a furious fan. Rock magazines and tabloid papers showed pictures of the stabbed guitarist. However, some time later news begun to spread that no stabbing actually happened. Around the same time, Tolkki was hospitalized because of severe mental illness.

It was later revealed by keyboardist Jens Johansson on the band's forum that the break-up never happened, and that Miss K and Anders were hired as a publicity stunt to generate buzz around the band. The stabbing was also reported to have been a publicity stunt.

In January 2005, it was announced that Stratovarius had reunited with the former line-up. In June 2005, Tolkki announced that the band's bassist, Jari Kainulainen, had left the band due to personal reasons. He was replaced by Lauri Porra, a young Finnish musician.

Stratovarius then released the self-titled album Stratovarius in September 2005. During this time, Stratovarius began a world tour, starting in Argentina, which included a North American leg, where they toured the United States and Canada for the first time in the band's history. They played at such events as Atlanta's ProgPower, and in well-known venues such as B.B. King's House Of Blues in New York and Philadelphia's Trocadero Theatre. The tour also included European and Japanese cities.

After a long period of silence, on March 4, 2008, Timo Tolkki officially stated the break-up of Stratovarius on his site. Internal tensions within the band were cited as the cause, saying that Lauri Porra and Jens Johansson were his only supporters, Jörg Michael was more focused on his session work and Kotipelto was best for having a band by himself. The band was planning to release a new studio album, codenamed R.... R....., in 2008. Instead, however, Tolkki will be releasing the album himself in June 2008, and will be forming a new band around the album called "Revolution Renaissance".

The remaining members of Stratovarius, however, posted a statement online giving their side of the story. They concluded by saying that the band was very much alive but that Tolkki will no longer be a part of it. Tolkki rebutted with another statement online, his final statement, wherein he waived the rights to the Stratovarius name, as well as all profits from their back-catalogue. Since Tolkki has written 95% of all Stratovarius songs since 1989, the continuation of the band without Tolkki would almost certainly change the musical direction of the band.

On August 22, Stratovarius announced that the new guitarist would be Matias Kupiainen. Over fifteen new songs were written and recorded as demos for the new album.

In February 2009, Stratovarius announced the upcoming release of Polaris, which is set for May 21st, 2009. There is an accompanying tour planned for May 2009.