Stratovarius // Elysium
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Needs more brute, less fruit
Label: EarMusic/Edel Records
Websites: stratovarius.com | myspace.com/officialstratovarius
Release Dates: EU: 14.01.2011 | US: 01.18.2011

Stratovarius is a name synonymous with European power metal and right up there with Gamma Ray and Helloween. Over the course of their long recording history they’ve created stellar examples of the style and several of their albums reside on my all time power metal playlist (Destiny, Visions, Episodes, Fourth Dimension, Infinite). Along with these past successes, Stratovarius had their share of ups and downs, including their infamous and acrimonious split with founding member/guitarist/chief songwriter Timo Tolkki (Revolution Renaissance). Both before and after this split, Stratovarius released some uneven albums and went through a phase where they indulged in bloated, overly orchestrated symphonic styles and for many long time fans, this was regrettable (Elements Parts I  and II). While 2009’s Polaris seemed to right the ship, Elysium shows considerable backsliding toward these past missteps. While still a decent album with some great moments, it fails to rise anywhere near the level of past triumphs and ultimately bogs down amid ponderous pacing and overwrought orchestration.

Things start off quite well with “Darkest Hours” which, while mid-paced and laid back, sports enough metallic energy to keep things manly enough. Helping drive the song are the always excellent vocals of Timo Koltipelto (AMG thinks Mr. Koltipelto is somewhat less than excellent [AMG thinks that Mr. Koltipelto sounds like a mouse trapped between the door and a wall. - AMG]) and a huge, catchy chorus that hooks into the cranium immediately. Follow ups “Under Flaming Skies,” “Infernal Maze” and later on, “Event Horizon” all speed things up and it’s like the good old days of hyperspeed Strato-power again and these tracks are winners (check out the nifty guitar/keyboard soloing at 2:55 onward in “Infernal Maze”). Then, trouble rears its symphonic head once again and far too many tracks sink into the same slow paced morass that hurt the Elements albums.

Tracks like “Fairness Justified,” “Lifetime in a Moment” and “Move the Mountain” all have decent moments but all tend to drag along and meander about without much energy. That’s a real shame since few people like meander metal. This type song isn’t what Stratovarius is known and loved for. Then there’s the matter of the eighteen minute plus title track. Extra long metal songs are always a gamble and I can count on one hand the truly successful songs that ran for nearly twenty minutes. While the song has a lot of different moods, it suffers from the same laid back, ponderous style discussed above, drags intermittently and is simply too long. To be fair, there are engaging moments too, like the synth and guitar duel at 9:27, the excellent extended soloing at 14:34 and of course, Timo shines [squeeks - AMG] throughout (quiet AMG!). However, the over-sized choral arrangements and all that muckety muck just make it feel too over-blown and meh. Making matters worse, throughout Elysium the keyboards/synths frequently overpower and suplant the guitars.

As I was writing this review and listening and re-listening to Elysium, my iTunes went from the end of this album into their Episodes album since it was next in the queue. Hearing the first moments of that album really highlighted the stark contrast between old and new Stratovarius and sadly, new doesn’t hold a candle to the old. They were so energetic and aggressive back then, so full of piss and vinegar. Now, like a tired old man, they’re mostly just full of piss. I don’t mean to be harsh to a band I’ve loved for so long and I really wanted to give this a 3.5 but I just couldn’t do it. While not on par with their glory days, half of Elysium is quite good, nearly old style Stratovarius. The other half just kinda lay there.

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  • johan

    I agree with what you gave the album, it was better than Polaris, but they still need to kick it up if they want to go back to how they used to be. I don’t think Elements Part 1 is regrettable, I actually think that’s their best album. Most of the songs are absurdly fast and display some extremely good musicianship like on Stratofortress.

  • Steel Druhm

    I should have phrased that better perhaps. I meant the increasing use of the ochestration and “epic” sound began on the Elements albums and I disliked that. However, a lot of Elements Part I is good and some of Part II was decent.

  • Black Fire

    Absolutely disagree with your perception of the album, Elysium is a fresh new vision of what Stratovarius is. From Episode to the Elements, are the same albums rebooting over and over again, with Pôlaris they pushed forward with a new meaning, Elysium is the afirmation of that new road that the band took. And it’s excelent becouse they don’t have the need of repeating themselves anymore just like YOU THINK IS A GOOD STRATOVARIUS ALBUM (repeating the same gold era of the past, is stupid they can’t). So…your review is areally mediocre review

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      Your spelling is about as horrendous as your opinion. ;)

  • Steel Druhm

    Black Fire,

    You are entitled to your opinion of course but the fact remains, this isn’t that great of an album and several tracks are boring and just uninteresting.

    Just be thankful Angry Metal Guy didn’t review it because it really would have got a shellacking.

  • http://seance.blogg.se/ Seance

    I really liked “Polaris” with the Symphony X vibes to bad they didn´t follow that path. I will give Elyusium a listen thought.

  • julian

    I agree with Black fire this new album is different, a new stratovarius vision of their music they can´t repeat the same of the past and the brute that you say they need is in a song like under flaming skies but in a different way not like the old one i think.

  • Nemanja

    Elysium is epic! If you keep on compare old albums and other bands you will never enjoy the art. When will Sonata Artica make album like Silence? NEVER! They had , what 20-25 years, full of energy, ideas, love&hate… But i will enjoy and bless them for every peace of music they make.

  • Steel Druhm

    I’m not expecting them to keep doing albums like Episodes or Visions over again. However, I feel the direction they took here is a little boring and uninspired at times and by times, I mean about half of the songs.

  • kamabic2

    I’m not sure why many negative reviews are being posted for this album.. I admit it’s not a perfect record, but i think it’s a really good one; it’s full of emotions, it’s epic and original..
    you can never get bored of listening to it.. It got a variety of songs; fast and aggressive, slow and soft.
    anyway, that’s just my opinion..

    And ohh, Everyone should please stop comparing old shit to new shit.. Just listen to the music, and appreciate it!

  • Bob Mysterio

    I know there is a tendency in reviews to compare album A to album B or line-up 1 to line-up 2, and that isn’t a review, it’s a comparison. FFS just listen to an album and review it on its own merits. This is a great album by any standard but if you prefer to listen to an older album for whatever reason, don’t bother reviewing new stuff

  • Steel Druhm

    Bob,

    Whether you agree with my opinion or not, I just don’t think album is that great. It has great moments but also some dull ones. And my thinking their older material is better is hardly a reason not to review their new album. That doesn’t even make sense. Just deal with the fact that not everyone is drooling over your favorite band and go enjoy it yourself.

    • Priapus

      You, sir, can suck my cock.

      • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

        Dude, Stratovarius has the dumbest, whiniest, bitchiest little fans in the whole world. Pull your head out of your ass, you fucking child.

      • Steel Druhm

        Yeah, I’m going pass on that. Thanks for the offer though. Enjoy the album.

  • RoosterAmy

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who was really disappointed by this album. I was feeling bad for not liking it. Usually I listen to a new cd in the car for a month or more straight, this one, sadly, I don’t think will finish out the week.

  • Mato

    I loved this album from beginning to end. So yeah I do disagree with you. But don’t worry I respect your opinion. I thought that every track was worth listening to and extremely catchy. I found myself singing to every song the second time I heard this album. The supposed laid back songs you hate never do drag long, their only about 3-5 minutes each. For metal standards that’s very short. The only song I think drags on a bit too long is the last track Elysium. Its a good song but 18 minutes is too long for something that doesn’t amount to much. I’m just gonna say that to me this album was fantastic and definitely their best since Infinite! Power metal awesomeness! I’d give it 4.5/5.

  • http://na Cactus Jack

    I thought the album was great, especially the song Elysium, and I agree with Nemanja…it is EPIC!
    I think the review was only a viewpoint, nothing more. Album = 4/5

  • Midori Fujioka

    You forgot Castaway… and well, I can’t understand how you didn’t like the song itlsef Elysium and the beautifull slow Move the Mountain. Elysium is I think, the best Stratovarius album ever, because it’s not just more of the same.  Where Tolkki’s music has allways done the same formula over and over again, Elysium breaks ground and the band is more solid than ever, specially with Mr. Kupiainen with those beautiful melodic solos, that he can re-play live at 95%  acuracy. But your thoughts… your opinion…

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