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Stratovarius: Elements Pt. 1

After taking a few years off from recording, Finland's melodic power metal legends are back with a brand new platter titled Elements Pt. 1. Featuring all the trademark Stratovarius characteristics; majestic melodies, raging double bass drums, virtuoso guitar and keyboard work, and soaring vocals, the new CD is sure to please fans worldwide. However, after repeated listens there appears to be a slight changing in the bands sound, which in my book is good news.

You can't go wrong with leading off with a tune like "Eagleheart", which has hooks aplenty and some nasty unison lines from Timo Tolkki on guitar and Jens Johansson on keyboards. The band takes on a symphonic and epic Rainbow tone on the pulsing "Soul of a Vagabond", featuring a great vocal performance from Timo Kotipelto. Tolkki once again struts his talents with an effortless yet dazzling solo littered with arpeggios and whammy bar bends, while Johansson lays down some thick orchestrations. The heavy "Fantasia" shows the band is quite adept at doing slower, chunkier pieces that also have lots of mellow atmosphere, while letting Kotipelto really shine with some passionate vocals. I kind of prefer this sound for them, as the rapid fire power metal of "Find Your Own Voice" or "Learning to Fly" has really been done to death by the band in the past, let alone by groups like Helloween, Hammerfall, Gamma Ray, and Blind Guardian. In fact, overall this CD is far mellower than anything that Stratovarius has done before, and certainly more progressive. Take "Papillon" for instance, which features perhaps Koltipelto's best vocal performance ever. Add tons of symphonic keyboards, dark moody textures, and melodic guitar leads, and you have a lengthy track that is just bristling with variety, power, and class. The quick instrumental "Stratofortress" is kind of fun, letting Tolkki and Johansson run rings around each other at the speed of sound (much like he and Yngwie did 15 years ago), while the epic title track is a complex and melodic gem of classic progressive metal. Featuring numerous vocal styles from Koltipelto and killer electric and acoustic guitar work courtesy of Tolkki, it seems that Stratovarius has learned from Symphony X that pacing and variety in a mini-epic (over 12 minutes here) is extremely important to keep the listener hooked. And hooked I was! With huge backing vocals and a superb performance from the whole band, this is a must hear. The last tune, "A Drop in the Ocean", is a gorgeous piece, certainly not metal, with big sweeping melodies and lush arrangements.

In summary, Elements Pt. 1 sees the band moving away from the non-stop power metal assault of previous albums, and adds a more orchestral and progressive edge to the bands sound. This may lead to long-time fans scratching their heads a bit, but I think will bring in many new listeners in the long run. Recommended.

Track Listing
1. Eagleheart 3:50
2. Soul of a vagabond 7:22
3. Find your own voice 5:12
4. Fantasia 9:56
5. Learning to fly 6:22
6. Papillon 7:00
7. Stratofortress 3:25
8. Elements 12:00
9. A drop in the ocean 6:51

Added: December 25th 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Stratovarius Website
Hits: 3999
Language: english

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Stratovarius: Elements Pt. 1
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-12-25 07:43:14
My Score:

*********This is a review of the 2009 reissue/remastered version of Elements Part 1********

Not much has changed since 2003...well, a lot has changed within the Stratovarius camp, but Elements Part 1 is still a very enjoyable slice of melodic & symphonic power metal. For this release, the band started off a very successful two-part odyssey that would see them start to vary up their sound a bit, taking a break from the normal 'speed of light' power metal style to a more melodic, even progressive sound. This would not only start to divide their fanbase, but also begin a rift within the band that would eventually lead to founder Timo Tolkki quitting the group a few years later.

As I mentioned, it's still a pleasure to listen to Elements Part 1 all these years later, and even more so with the improved sound. This remastered edition really helps the listener explore the wonderful keyboard work of Jens Johansson even more than on the original version. His stunning orchestrations and lead lines on songs such as "Soul of a Vagabond", 'Fantasia", and the epic title track are just gorgeous, more vibrant than ever hear, and complemented by the virtuoso guitar work from Tolkki and Timo Koltipelto's soaring vocals, and you have a winning formula.

This reissue contains a few bonus tracks; a French version of the lovely song "Papillon", the futuristic & quite cruncy rocker "Run Away", and the absolutely blistering speed metal song "Your Own Voice". As always, this Metal Mind reissue comes in a stunning digipack, perfectly recreating the original release and with an added essay on the band.

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