May 26, 2020

Altaria is a heavy melodic rock band from Jakobstad in Finland, formed in 2000 by ex-Blindside members Marko Pukkila (bass) and Tony Smedjebacka (drums). They were soon joined by vocalist Johan Mattjus and guitarists Jani Liimatainen (ex-Sonata Arctica) and Emppu Vuorinen (Nightwish) to make a very strong team for the debut release, Invitation, in 2003. The album was particularly well received especially in Finland, and they released several more albums that built on the good work of the debut. There were also quite a few comings and goings in the personnel department including changing vocalists several times. Despite this the band continued to progress with their very high quality melodic rock which, to me, combined the slick power of Journey and the refinement of Asia. The changes, though, meant that, at one stage, the only original member left was drummer Tony Smedjebacka.

The fifth album, Unholy, was released in 2009 which led to a period of very sparse activity for the band and eventually they called it a day in 2016. The power of YouTube then intervened and the number of hits the band received for their tracks forced a change of mind; the band is now back with the 2006 line-up of Tony Smedjebacka, Juha Pekka Alanen (guitar), Petri Aho (guitar), Taage Laiho (vocals) and Marko Pukkila (bass) and seemingly keen to make up for all those missing/wasted years. As a kick-starter, album number two and the band’s most commercially successful, Divinity has been re-mastered and a couple of bonus tracks added to make for a very attractive package. The two identified bonuses are the Accept cover of Balls To The Wall and Cacophony cover of Stranger – although it may be that Stranger is only available on the Japanese release; neither of the cover songs were sent for review so no comment can be made.

This should certainly whet the appetite until the planned new album is out towards the end of 2020. Divinity is a near perfect slab of storming melodic rock and is both smooth and cultured but also hard rocking and hitting, truly all the stars were aligned when the band worked on this one. If new to you then this is a great place to start, and then you can work your way through the back catalogue as you await the new album later this year which promises to be a treat indeed.

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