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Stratovarius: Elysium

Album Notes

Released in 2011, Elysium was the second Stratovarius album released after the Finnish band's acrimonious split with founding guitarist Timo Tolkki (their driving force for ten-plus albums and twice that many years), and the fact that it promptly grabbed the number one spot on Finland's music charts pretty much answered all questions about the band's future viability. Familiarity is the key to this, of course, since Elysium`s songs unsurprisingly dared not mess with the band's dramatic brand of technical, yet always accessible, power metal; so once the initial show of core fan support subsided (support that was perhaps intensified by the sobering news of drummer Jörg Michael's cancer diagnosis), there was no overlooking the creative stagnation at hand. Yes, Stratovarius' new material was, as always, impeccably arranged, recorded, and performed, and the individual songs spared no attention to checking off all the power metal essentials, whether exploding into controlled speed metal runs ("Infernal Maze," "Event Horizon") before wiping a tear during select power ballads ("Fairness Justified," "Move the Mountain") or flirting with commercially oriented simplicity one moment ("Darkest Hours," "Under Flaming Skies") and then indulging in prog-symphonic showboating the next ("The Game Never Ends," "Lifetime in a Moment," the title track) to satisfy their guitar institute-attending contingent. And with longtime frontman Timo Kotipelto's soaring vocals still virtually indistinguishable from those of every other singer in power metal (not to mention the Rob Halfords and Geoff Tates before them), what hope was there for Stratovarius to break new ground, harvest new supporters, etc.? Perhaps the point is moot in the hopelessly frozen-in-time and largely self-sufficient world of power metal, but one can still hope for change, right? Not here, anyway, which means that Stratovarius' biggest and blindest supporters will surely be absolutely satisfied, at least. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia



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