For Fans Of
What do you get when one of the finest proponents of European melodic power metal loses their main song writer: Elysium. And it sounds more like Stratovarius than one might expect given the circumstances. But you already know that, right? Stratovarius proved they are still a force to be reckoned with on their 2009 release, Polaris, featuring new guitarist Matias Kupiainen. Kupiainen has the chops to keep up, and the band’s new collaborative writing process has produced some gems. Elysium more or less continues where Polaris left off, with perhaps a stronger focus on the guitar work, compared to Polaris‘ keyboard driven sound.
The album opens with lead single Darkest Hours, a riff driven, up-tempo hard rock song, with a big chorus courtesy of Mr. Timo Kotipelto. The song sets the mood for the album, with razor sharp riffs, driving, melodic bass playing and a thundering drum performance from drummer extraordinaire Jörg Michael (see my recent interview with Jörg here.) I challenge any rhythmically minded person to listen to the chorus in Darkest Hours and resist air-drumming along to the massive fills.
Under Flaming Skies is the second track, and again Stratovarius treats us to a riff-fest of a hard rocker. Expect a melodic, harmonised guitar solo in the mid-section, which sounds more like Iron Maiden than Yngwie Malmsteen. Infernal Maze brings a change of pace with an extended a cappella intro, before later in the track launching into a high-tempo guitar and keyboard duel that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dream Theater album, with guitarist Kupiainen wearing his progressive influences proudly on his sleeve.
Fairness Justified is up next, slowing down the tempo and bring some Elements era epic orchestration to the album. The second half of the album struggles to keep up with the frantic pace set in the first half, and is mostly comprised of tracks seemingly designed to let vocalist Timo Kotipelto shine. The penultimate track Event Horizon sounds very much like old school Stratovarius, with a no holds barred power metal assault on the cards. The real magic pops up in the album closer, the 18-minute epic Elysium. The Kupiainen penned song manages to be riveting despite its length, and features some astounding solos and well written changes that lead to a final uplifting vocal refrain.
Finnish power metal pioneers Stratovarius are back with their second album after their haitus and near break-up in 2008. It is a solid release, with everything you’ve come to expect from Stratovarius: crystal clear production, technical wizardry and hugely catchy melodies and hooks galore. It’s an album that sits somewhere between the Elements era of lush ochestration, and the era of lightspeed power metal that Stratovarius helped pioneer in the mid-90s. The album is a tightly put together work that synergises the band’s best elements, although it struggles to top the heights that Stratovarius scaled with their highly regarded back-catogue.
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