The Trooper

All posts tagged The Trooper

By Carl Begai

Ever since Guns N’ Roses and Tesla made it cool for hard rockers and metalheads to mess around with acoustic guitars – with G’N’R Lies and Five Man Acoustical Jam respectively some 20+ years ago – it seems every band has flirted with the unplugged concept. Hell, at press time Mpire Of Evil had kicked off their first ever Japan tour with an in-store featuring a set of acoustic Venom classics (!). So, when word got out a few years ago that Stratovarius frontman Timo Kotipelto and ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen had teamed up for a dynamic duo acoustic tour through their native Finland it wasn’t an earthshattering surprise. Their respective fanbases went suitably mad searching for footage on YouTube, of course, and the resulting requests, demands and yammering over the years for an album’s worth of acoustic material from the pair have finally been answered. Working under the Kotipelto & Liimatainen moniker, they’ve put together a collection of bare bones covers on Blackoustic, an album made for the fans rather than trying to cash in on a still-popular musical format.

“I’ve been doing these acoustic gigs with Jani for about two-and-a-half years now, and it did start like that,” says Kotipelto. “We basically got fed up with people complaining and decided to go to the studio and do it (laughs). We were laughing about it at first because nobody puts out acoustic albums like this, and as a duo it really doesn’t make any sense especially since we do mostly cover songs at the gigs. Why would we do it, really? And the problem is that when we do the live gigs, a third of the songs are ballads and the rest are rock songs. We did an acoustic version of ‘Speed Of Light’ (Stratovarius), for example, and we could play it at the proper tempo but that wouldn’t make any sense. We actually had to consider what was important in the song, try to find that red line, and make a good arrangement of it. The album is a little different from what we play live because there’s more energy at the live show because of the audience.” Continue Reading

With their comeback only two albums young – the decent enough Reborn (2005) and the superior Murder By Pride (2009) – news that Stryper were gearing up for a cover album seemed like a step backwards. A tracklist of done-to-death classic metal staples from the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Scorpions and Deep Purple made the band’s lack of inspiration all the more apparent, and tacking on a title that sounds like a 2-for-1 Wal-Mart housewares sale item did nothing to raise dangerously low expectations. A mere two songs in, however, and vocalist / guitarist Michael Sweet’s claims that they are paying tribute to the bands that molded and shaped the Stryper sound ring true. On 10. In fact, with the exception of a painfully dull rendition of Judas Priest’s ‘Breakin’ The Law’ – which falls as flat as the original studio version – The Covering is a romp that breathes new life into a metal history many of us take for granted.

Lead off scorcher ‘Set Me Free’, originally done by Sweet (the band, not the man), makes the Vince Neil / Steve Stevens version from Neil’s Exposed solo record (1993) pale in comparison – no easy task – served up fully loaded with guitar shred. The Scorpions’ ‘Blackout ‘ is delivered vocal warts and all, the arrangements for Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’ are eyebrow-raising surprises in that they’re played straight yet loaded with elements (guitar leads, vocal harmonies) that are distinctly Stryper. Continue Reading