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Stratovarius: Elysium

First off, this is a judgment based on Elysium and not a comparison to the previous incarnation of the band. Sometimes you just have to let it go and get on with life and forget about how things use to be. From that perspective, Stratovarius gives you a dynamite dose of power metal with more than its share of progressive moments on the new disc. If you are looking for the album of the year though then you are in the wrong place but you will find a terrific work that highlights musicians who know their craft and deliver an album worth of high quality music even if they seem to be going through the motions for a good portion of the disc. Just keep in mind with a band of this caliber, playing it safe is still better than 99% of what you are going to find out there.

If Stratovarius pushes the envelope anywhere on this disc it is the eighteen minute closing title track "Elysium". Knowing how difficult it is to keep the attention of the listener to begin with, to be able to do so over that kind of time span takes something special. Weaving a masterful yarn, the band gives you an amazing musical journey which pulls you along through the multitude of styles and shifting attitudes just like the pied piper. Wherever they decide to go with the music you are more than willing to follow. Coming complete with breathtaking guitar work by Martias Kupiainen, exemplary keyboards as always from Jens Johansson and the soaring vocals of Timo Kotipelto they give you enough magic on this song to make this one worth the purchase price alone. Sure there is the overblown orchestration at times along with the choral vocals that take it a bit over the top but isn't that one of the reasons to purchase these guys in the first place? Stratovarius makes it work and work well enough to be one of those real treats when it comes to power/progressive metal.

While they do save the best for last, Elysium starts out in high fashion too. Kicking off with a terrific trio of songs, you almost think that this is going to be the disc to end all discs as they hit you with the dramatic "Darkest Hours" followed by the guitar driven power metal showcase "Under Flaming Skies" and then follow it up with the hauntingly effective "Infernal Maze". It is after this point that things seem to slow down a bit. Not musically but creatively. From here on out even though they still pack some punch it is as if they are resting on who they are as opposed to what made them Stratovarius. "Fairness Justified", "The Game Never Ends" and Lifetime In A Moment" are all very good examples of melodic power metal but nothing spectacular. Like I have stated, good Stratovarius is better than most everything you can hear out there and this kind of song reminds you of that fact but none of them have any kind of lasting effect.

The slow "Move The Mountain" starts off with a meter and feel that made me think of the Billy Joel song "Goodnight Saigon". OK…it doesn't stay that way for sure but it still is the most ballad like song on here and being so keyboard driven it is one song that even though it is strong, just seems to be there, nothing more.

Reading over this review it sounds like I hated this album which is far from the truth. It really is a very good work that is strong enough to merit frequent playing around here but falls short of being called a classic. With repeated plays this one does grow on you and eventually the songs will find a niche in your repertoire even though most do not really stand out from the multitude of good music out there. It might be that I expected too much from these guys.

Track listing:

1. Darkest Hours
2. Under Flaming Skies
3. Infernal Maze
4. Fairness Justified
5. The Game Never Ends
6. Lifetime In A Moment
7. Move The Mountain
8. Event Horizon
9. Elysium

Added: January 22nd 2011
Reviewer: Scott Ward
Related Link: Band's Official Site
Hits: 2965
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Stratovarius: Elysium
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-01-22 06:12:33
My Score:

Generally speaking, you always know what you are going to get with a Stratovarius album. These power metal veterans have been cranking out one solid album after another for quite a while now, and despite the issues with former member & founder Timo Tolkki in recent times, the band has moved on without him and Elysium is their second release since Tolkki's departure.

For the most part, this is, once again, Stratovarius doing what they do best. Plenty of catchy power/prog metal on this one, yet you can tell that the band is trying for a more unified sound, where in the past many of the arrangements were taken over by Tolkki's guitar pyrotechnics. New guy Matias Kupiainen is now on his second release with the band, and he plays perfectly for the song, contributing plenty of crunchy riffs and brief, tastly solos. While many of the early Stratovarius albums contained a plethora of guitar/keyboard trade-offs between Tolkki and Jens Johansson, here things seem more 'song oriented', as Johansson concentrates on colors and atmospheric textures rather than blinding solos, though fear not, the keyboard wiz does toss in a few jaw dropping excursions in a few spots.

The real star of the show is vocalist Timo Kotipelto, whose status as one of the premier vocalists in the genre just seems to keep rising year after year. He's really on top of his game here, soaring to the heavens on tracks like "Under Flaming Skies", the passionate "Infernal Maze", the heavy "The Game Never Ends", and the power ballad "Lifetime In a Moment".

Though there might be a tad too many mid-paced rockers here for some, thankfully the band throws in the speed metal ripper "Event Horizon" to remind everyone that they too remember where they came from originally, and the monstrous 18-minute title track is more in line with the epic material the band was moving towards in Tolkki's final years with the band. This one is quite adventurous and perhaps the highlight of the CD.

In summary, it's hard to fault Elysium too much. The playing is flawless as always, and Kotipelto's vocals are outstanding. A few of the songs seem somewhat 'ordinary', though not in a bad way, but it's great to see the guys haven't lost their desire to also crank out some challenging material, like on the title track and a few others. In the end it's another solid effort from Stratovarius that might not win them many new fans, but will certainly keep their horde of loyal followers happy.

Stratovarius: Elysium
Posted by Scott Jessup, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-01-22 05:10:20
My Score:

After turbulent times when it looked at one stage like the end of Stratovarius may be near, they got through it all and the band returned with Polaris. There were some very good songs so I did like Polaris, just not quite in the same way of some of those earlier Strato releases. But really it was just good to know the band was still creating new music and now Stratovarius have released Elysium. It has been a while since a Stratovarius release totally won me over, but with Elysium Stratovarius has gone close as this is one impressive CD.

The single "Darkest Hours" kicks off the album, and really while it's quite ok I generally feel the urge skip this one and get straight into the "Under Flaming Skies", one of Elysium's best with a brisk uplifting chorus. So you shouldn't be put off by the single if it didn't meet your expectations, as Elysium does have better songs on offer.

Timo Tolkki was such a major player in the band so it is interesting to now see who composed Elysium's nine songs, well there's one from bass player Lauri Porra called "Lifetime in a Moment" and it's a memorable heady slower paced song. Keyboard master Jens Johansson has two tracks, and yes Jens adds plenty of his tasty solos to this recording. Leaving vocalist Timo Kotipleto and guitarist Matias Kupiainen to handle the remainder, including the eighteen minute title track "Elysium" where they have succeeded in putting together something special. The results are Elysium has a good balance of variety throughout, it's not a flat out speed fest nor a collection of repetitive songs, and naturally with three long term members remaining there's no doubting that Elysium is a release of the Stratovarius kind.

After bouncing back with Polaris and now Elysium, Stratovarius are still giving their fans plenty to smile about.

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