"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Stratovarius - "Elysium" (CD)

Stratovarius - "Elysium" CD cover image

"Elysium" track listing:

1. Darkest Hours (4:11)
2. Under flaming Skies (3:51)
3. Infernal Maze (5:33)
4. Fairness Justified (4:20)
5. The Game Never Ends (3:53)
6. Lifetime In A Moment (6:38)
7. Move The Mountain (5:33)
8. Event Horizon (4:23)
9. Elysium (18:07)

Reviewed by on June 4, 2011

"'Elysium' has a few gold nuggets, but overall it misses the mark, and for those who liked the symphonic style of Tolkki, 'Elysium' is a big letdown."

Stratovarius is one of those powerhouse bands that has had their hands in a bit of everything but always seems to be underrated and under-appreciated. Having worked in the past with groups like Gamma Ray, Helloween and the like, they have the resume of a great power metal band. And to a point they are a great band, except for one fatal flaw: their leader Timo Tolkki left them in 2008. What was expected to be the end of Stratovarius became a turning over of rights, and Stratovarius regrouped a year later. However, this change in leadership has also brought a change in the band’s sound, and that has not been a good thing. Their 2011 release "Elysium" has a few gold nuggets, but overall it misses the mark, and for those who liked the symphonic style of Tolkki, "Elysium" is a big letdown.

Two of the first three songs on the album were previously released on their "Darkest Hours" EP. "Darkest Hours" sounds a bit dated, but otherwise it's a pretty good mid-tempo tune that sees them trying to bring back some of Stratovarius’ symphonic sounds. Timo Kotipelto's vocals are pretty good too, but not good enough to make up for the loss of Tolkki.

Next up is "Under Flaming Skies," one of the better tracks on this album. The intro is a bit strange, with goth sounding keyboards mixed with a speed metal tempo, but it levels out into a solid power metal tune reminiscent of Helloween. The breakdown takes on a cinematic feel, but then it's back to typical axe wielding for a power metal extravaganza.

"Fairness Justified" also has a very goth feel, with choral backup vocals and a heavy symphonic sound. The drums are barely discernible, but the bass chugs along and the guitar slides up the fret bar, providing a nice background for Kotipelto’s vocals. It's almost a ballad, and though it's darker than what Stratovarius typically does, it's probably the best piece on the album.

The one slice of familiar Stratovarius territory is "Move The Mountain." This pastoral tune brings back the symphonic sounds fans are accustomed to, and the addition of piano and violin along with pretty female vocals makes it a nice mix of heavy and light. This is a satisfying power ballad that should soothe those who are pining away for the Stratovarius that existed under Tolkki's reign.

Unfortunately the album closer and title track is a big waste of time. At over 18 minutes, it drags on way too long, and the tempo shifts make it apparent this should have been broken down into several tracks. Though I do like instrumental songs and extended breakdowns, they could have easily shortened the instrumental section without losing anything. "Elysium" may go down as the longest song Stratovarius has ever recorded, but sometimes length isn't as important as quality. Still, the last few moments of the guitar work are amazingly good and bring the album to a nice close.

"Elysium" is basically an average album. There are some good moments and not so good moments, and those who are Stratovarius fans from the Timo Tolkki era will probably be disappointed. But if you're new to the band or can look at them like they're a new band, which in effect they are, you can find some tracks that make "Elysium" worth a listen.

Highs: The ballady goth sounds in "Fairness Justified" and "Move The Mountain" are more reminiscent of previous Stratovarius works and help make this a cohesive album.

Lows: The title track is too long and the rough tempo transitions diminish the good it has to offer.

Bottom line: An average release from the reformed power metal band sans Timo Tolkki, but it shows promise of better things to come.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)