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Review: Stratovarius - Elysium

Label: Armoury Records
Year released: 2011
Duration: 56:35
Tracks: 9
Genre: Power Metal

Rating: 3.25/5

Review online: January 28, 2011
Reviewed by: Adam Kohrman
Readers Rating

Rated 3.73/5 (74.69%) (49 Votes)

It takes a special kind of metal fan to like Stratovarius. Let’s just face it – this band is immeasurably happy, which many fans immediately associate with cheese. First of all, you can’t be afraid to love positive themes in your metal, backed by some of the most flowery and singsongy choruses this side of mainstream pop music. You won’t find any badassery here, no. You’ll find non-threatening, sensitive guys who play upbeat power metal that is very easy to dismiss as silly or overly fantastic. Truthfully, any right-minded fan has to admit that Stratovarius is at least occasionally guilty of such accusations, but there’s real substance here too. Such a dismissal is an oversimplification.

This is Kotipelto and company’s second outing without Timo Tolkki’s overbearing and constraining presence, and it shows. This isn’t as good as the breath of fresh air that was Polaris, but it still retains the energy that the band has right now. Most of these songs are infectious and driving, with lightning fast keyboard solos courtesy of the one and only Jens Johansson, which occasionally have little to add, but remain a Stratovarius mainstay. Behind the kit is the tireless Jorg Michael, providing his trademark style to yet another album.

While many songs on Elysium are extremely catchy and even danceable, some of them seem are contrived and thrown together. The chorus of songs like "Fairness Justified" are patched up and use unnecessary vocal effects. Then comes the epic eighteen minute title track, which is another case of a band feeling forced to write an epic when it isn’t naturally inspired. This is always a recipe for disaster, and "Elysium" is no exception. This shapeless, formless, haphazardly written song cannot be ignored. It takes the album down quite a few notches when you just want the last song to end, and there’s fifteen minutes left of it.

It’s great to see Stratovarius still alive after their mainman had his well-publicized nervous breakdown. While I hope that Tolkki is doing well emotionally, I must say that he did not belong in the band anymore. They’re back and in full swing, and while this is far from a perfect album, Stratovarius feels reborn.

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