HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

VOTUM
Metafiction (Armoury/Mystic)

Second record for this quality progressive metal act from Poland, Metafiction finds the band carving territory for themselves due to their choice of copious pure prog of an atmospheric sort placed against roiling, drum-fueled metal of a Dream Theater sort. The overall loudness factor is above Riverside to about Porcupine Tree levels but the vibe is enticingly Fish-like. Not crazy about Maciej Kosinski's naked vocals - perhaps some effects and some lowering of his volume in the mix would help the overall package but yeah, solid singer but a little bit of a weedy voice and too much drama down a thespian James LaBrie pathway.
Rating 6.5

STRATOVARIUS
Polaris + Live (Armoury/Eagle Rock)

Call it tour edition, whatever ya like... in any event, call this more of a news bit, Stratovarius' most recent album Polaris seeing reissue on tidy US semi-indie Armoury with a second 75 minute live CD tacked on, from the Polaris tour, 14 tracks, fully five of which hail from Polaris, the band's re-emergence play from the shadow of guitarist and founder Timo Tolkki, who is capably replaced by Matias Kupiainen. The production is resplendent, everybody's intense performances heard clearly, no surprise that Jens, with his cutting keys, excelling (if anyone is mixed a bit back, it would be Kotipelto). 'Hunting High And Low', 'Kiss Of Judas', 'Father Time', 'A Million Light Years Away'... the hits fly at you in all their churlish melodic glory, and the vibe is hugely celebratory, the rhythm section, proving to be the band's secret or less celebrated weapon of distinction. Of note, Infinite, the band's eighth album, from '00, also sees a repack, its second CD a collection of seven live tracks, demos and other rarities.
Rating 7.5