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Stratovarius: Elements Pt. 2

Stratovarius are the elder-statesmen of European Progressive Metal. Their style was always straight-ahead Prog-Metal meets Power-Metal. Song-oriented, well structured and very well executed. Honest stuff.

And then along came their early-2003 release Elements Pt.1, which seemed to herald an important development in their song writing style. The sound was bigger than before with liberal use of an orchestra and a choir, mellow guitars and wonderful melodies. It was more progressive and imaginative than anything they had done before and the sound was something like a less-heavy, more melodic version of Symphony X's V. And Elements Pt.1 will be a sure candidate for a Best-of-2003 pick.

Well Elements Pt.2, is none of those things. We're back to the straight-ahead, less complicated progressive / melodic metal of Vision-era Stratovarius (i.e. 2 albums ago). That isn't a bad thing, but it's hard to understand how Pt.2 is a sequel to Pt.1. This is relatively formulaic prog-metal. Song oriented, 3 really nice power ballads, and no track over six-and-a-bit minutes. We progressive metal fans appreciate intelligent lush sounding metal, but some hardcore metal fans were disappointed by Elements Pt.1. Perhaps the band was trying to lasso them back into their fan-base?

Timo's guitar work is as great as ever. The other Timo (Kotipelto ) is one of the best vocalists in metal today. A strong, effortless, slightly accented delivery that defines the standard, he ranks up there with the D.C.Coopers and the James LaBries and the early-day Geoff Tates. Jens's keyboards sound excellent as they always do, and he and Timo deliver several passages of tight keys / guitar interplay. You getting the picture? The drums and bass guitar work are faultless too. So the issue is not with the execution but with the songwriting which is solid, but sounds tired and less inspired than Pt.1 had led us to anticipate. This review would probably have a more positive tone if the album had a different name. Perhaps it is unfair to compare it with the excellent Pt.1, but hey, the album's name invites the comparison!

Pt.1 was dedicated to Fire and Water and the lyrics in the track "Elements" were consistent with that. Pt.2 is supposed to be dedicated to Earth and Wind, but aside from the cover art there is little reference to those elements leaving the concept behind the 2 Elements albums somewhat unclear.

So it took a conversation with Stratovarius for us to clarify for you that Elements is not a concept album, and there is no logical continuity between the two parts. What happened was the band took a long hiatus after 2001's Intermission, and came back to the studio brimming with song ideas. So the new material was split into two similarly-named but essentially separate albums.

Make no mistake Elements Pt.2 is an excellent album, a must-have for prog-metal fans and worth its 4 stars. But it leaves us wondering : Which way will the band go from here? Back to the past with the Pt.2 sound, or back to the future with the ambitious epics of Pt.1?

Track Listing
1. Alpha & omega 6:38
2. I walk to my own song 5:03
3. I'm still alive 4:50
4. Season of faith's perfection 6:08
5. Awaken the giant 6:37
6. Know the difference 5:38
7. Luminous 4:48
8. Dreamweaver 5:52
9. Liberty 5:01

Added: December 25th 2009
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Related Link: Stratovarius's Web Site
Hits: 3776
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Stratovarius: Elements Pt. 2
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-12-25 08:01:50
My Score:

*******This is a review of the 2009 reissue/remastered version of Elements Part 2*******

Perhaps less successful than Elements Part 1, the quick follow up from Stratovarius still was a cut above most other releases in the genre back in 2003. Though opening track "Alpha & Omega" signalled a continuation of the orchestrated & symphonic path that the band seemed to be going in on Elements Part 1, once you start to dive into pieces such as "I Walk to My Own Song", "I'm Still Alive", and "Know the Difference", the tried and true Stratovarius formula seems to once again be taking over the band. Frantic double bass drums, speed metal riffing, Malmsteen influences guitar solos, high pitched vocals, and stabbing synth lines...solid, well played, yet very familiar. Gotta love the slower, crankin' number "Awaken the Giant", complete with some monstrous riffs from Timo Tolkki, and the gorgeous ballads "Luminous" & "Liberty" really show the talents of singer Timo Kotipelto.

While Elements Part 1 really let keyboard star Jens Johansson shine, Elements Part 2 is more a vehicle for the two Timo's, as it's a pretty guitar heavy album with some stunning vocals. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but after the sophisticated and orchestral brilliance that was Elements Part 1, this one here is very solid yet something of a letdown.

Metal Mind's reissue sounds great, housed in a beautiful digipack that perfectly recreates the original release artwork of Derek Riggs, though sadly there's no bonus tracks included here.

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