Stratovarius represented the European melodic Power/Thrash Metal movement, much like Helloween, Blind Guardian and Gamma Ray. Featuring members Antti Ikonen (keyboards), Tuomo Lassila (drums), Jyrki Lentonen (bass) and Timo Tolkki (guitar/vocals), they premiered in 1989 with Fright Night.
There was a bit of rethinking of sorts in their ranks, for several years passed before Twilight Time emerged in 1992. During this time, a major house cleaning was in the works in the form of membership changes with Jyrki Lentonen leaving to be replaced with Jari Kainulainen. Dreamspace (1994), their next effort, was more melody then it was Metal. The follow-up, Fourth Dimension (1995), continued much on the same lines, now with Timo Kotipelto on vocals. But over the next successive albums of Episode (1996) and Visions (1997) they would improve the formula.
The Past And Now (1997) was their first "best of..." compilation and signaled the start of their infrastructure upgrades. Part of their improvement plans was more house cleaning, with Jens Johansson (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen/ex-Dio/ex-Mastermind/ex-Silver Mountain) and Jörg Michael (ex-Rage/ex-Running Wild/ex-Mekong Delta/ex-Unleashed Power/ex-Headhunter and most other European melodic acts) replacing Ikonen and Lassila respectively. This line-up would last for their remaining albums thus far. Visions Of Europe Live (1998), a live gig, would immediately follow. The follow-ups Destiny (1998) and Infinite (2000) proved to be much more of an almost perfect mix that gave some of the tracks contained within airplay on college and specialty stations. 14 Diamonds (2000) was a compilation of their work, while Intermission (2001), Elements Part 1 (2003) and Elements Part 2 (2003) represented their most recent.
The release of their self-titled album in 2005, saw Kainulainen depart to be replaced by Lauri Porra. In 2008 guitarist, sole composer and main lyricist Timo Tolkki, who was critical of the last album and tired of tensions between the members, decided to disband Stratovarius. However, at the demand of the rest of the band, he agreed to let them assume the name but quit all the same. He subsequently regretted his decision, stating that the current band had nothing to do with Stratovarius which he considered as mainly his own work.
Despite the controversy of Tolkki's departure, the band's following albums Polaris (2009) and Elysium (2011), the first albums with Porra and new guitarist Matias Kupiainen; all members except Michael were part of the songwriting process. Critics noted the album as one of the band's best in 10 years. After a small "Farewell Jörg" tour in Finland, Jörg Michael departed for personal reasons in 2012; drummer Rolf Pilve took his placed. The band released its fifteenth album Nemesis in 2013, with Eternal following in 2015.
Footnote: Just before writing, in March 2004, Timo Tolkki was attacked in Granada, Spain by a man armed with a knife - Tolkki was cut twice on the arm and punched in the face and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was treated and released.