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3.31 | 22 ratings | 1 review
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Album · 1995

Filed under Power Metal


1. Against The Wind (3:48)
2. Distant Skies (4:10)
3. Galaxies (5:01)
4. Winter (6:32)
5. Stratovarius (6:22)
6. Lord Of The Wasteland (6:11)
7. 030366 (5:47)
8. Nightfall (5:09)
9. We Hold The Key (7:54)
10. Twilight Symphony (6:59)
11. Call Of The Wilderness (1:32)

Total Time: 65:45


- Timo Kotipelto / vocals
- Timo Tolkki / guitars and backing vocals
- Jari Kainulainen / bass
- Tuomo Lassila / drums
- Antti Ikonen / keyboards

Guest musicians:
- The Three Tenors: Timo Kotipelto, Marko Vaara
and Kimmo Blom / backing vocals
- The Houdini String Quartet: Kimmo Tullila,
Marika Bister, Petteri Poljärvi and Antero Manninen - arrangement by Toumo Lassila / strings (10)

About this release

Release date: March 1995
Label: Noise Records/T&T

Japanese bonus track: "Dreamspace (Live) (6:16)"

Thanks to progshine for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Ah, yes. Evolution. It’s a beautiful thing. Millions of years pass by, with natural selection weeding out the unworthy, until finally you have the perfect species of…wait, what’s that? We’re talking about music? Oh. Right. As you might have guessed, I hold evolution in high regard, especially concerning Finnish power metal bands circa 1995. Just as a writing maggot eventually becomes a gorgeous butterfly, Stratovarius changes into a majestic metal titan, and then reproduces thousands of times to unleash waves of annoying clone bands upon the metal scene. But before all of that good stuff happens, there must be a middle ground. This is Fourth Dimension.

If you think that this album is some super duper breakout album that single-handedly invents a genre and thrusts a band into the metal history books, then my analogy didn’t work very well. Fourth Dimension has plenty of flaws, especially compared to the string of excellent power metal cookers that Stratovarius would release in years to come. But hey, I’m an optimistic guy, so let’s start with the good first, huh?

The casual metal fan knows that before there was Stratovarius, there was Stratovarius with Timo Tolkki on vocals. The casual metal fan also knows that Fourth Dimension is where this changed. Tolkki decided that he didn’t want to sing anymore and would rather focus on his guitar work. Enter Timo Kotipelto, stage left. Hired by Stratovarius during the recording of Fourth Dimension, Kotipelto delivers the first of many excellent vocal performances, his unique delivery and great range perfect for a band such as this one. His vocals are powerful and heartfelt, especially on tracks such as “We Hold the Key” and “Distant Skies”. Believe it or not, he started his musical career as a drummer…Yeesh!

The songs are a mixed bag. They’re a group of somewhat confused tracks, as the band morphs from their previous sound to something more associated with today’s Euro power metal style. You have the first Stratovarius instrumental with a Strato-prefix, cleverly titled “Stratovarius”, which shows off the traditional Tolkki neoclassical shredding style. “We Hold the Key” is excellent in pretty much every way, and in my humble opinion is one of the best Stratovarius songs ever. “Against the Wind” is a fun track that would go on to be the blueprint for a crapload of fast power metal songs in the future. It may sound like you’ve heard it before (because if you’ve listened to power metal at all, you have-I guarantee it), but how can you not love that chorus? Uplifting, I tell you! “Galaxies” is so catchy that Edguy did almost the exact same thing with a keyboard intro three years later. That’s pretty much it, though. The rest of the album has decent, but not anything to write home about, songs, and one song that is completely out of place. That would be “030366”. It sounds a lot like Queensryche…and believe me, I love Queensryche as much as they next guy. But, it simply doesn’t work here.

The biggest beef I have with this album is that I believe Stratovarius made several mistakes recording it. First, as choirs have not been introduced in the band yet, backing vocals are left to Tolkki (yes, he’s still hanging around vocally), Kotipelto, and two fellows by the name of Marko Vaara and Kimmo Blom. Unfortunately, none of them can display their talents accurately, because the backing vocals are so poorly recorded that you can barely understand them. Additionally, Tolkki is a great guitarist, but he didn’t do himself any favors with this production. I wouldn’t say it’s “muddy” per se, but it just doesn’t sound good. Both of these problems are seen in the choruses, where they tend to drown out Kotipelto’s soaring vocals. Fortunately, this was the only Stratovarius album that really had these issues, as Tolkki’s production skills improved on “Episode” and beyond.

The lineup on Fourth Dimension, as are the rest of its aspects, is a middle point of sorts. Kotipelto’s on board, and Tolkki and Jari Kainulainen on bass are going to be around for a while. However, on drums and keyboards you have two names that aren’t so househould in Tuomo Lassila and Antti Ikonen, respectively. Ikonen’s keyboards are well-heard throughout the album, whether setting the atmosphere or dueling with Tolkki. Lassila, on the other hand, is just there. His drumming isn’t anything spectacular, especially on the faster tracks. Once again, Stratovarius will receive some upgrades in these departments on the following album.

Evolution, as awesome a phenomenon as it is, is a funny thing. What’s funny here is how a band that would go on to be amazingly repetitive is still making music that’s somewhat creative. The songwriting on Fourth Dimension is so-so, and the production is bad, and it isn’t particularly memorable, but this doesn’t take away what an important step this album was for Stratovarius and the power metal genre. 2.5 stars

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