Stratovarius
Elysium

Stratovarius is iconic within the power metal scene. Having released their first album, Fright Night, 22 years ago, they have been a near-constant presence releasing 13 studio albums, a live album and no less than five (5) compliations in that time. Founding guitarist Timo Tolkki left in 2008 after a good amount of dramatic press. He was replaced by Matias Kupiainen (also, longtime bassist Jari Kainulainen was replaced by Lauri Porra) and the band has now released its second album with the revamped lineup―with vocalist Timo Kotipelto, keyboardist Jens Johansson and drummer Jorg Michael still filling rest of the spots―called Elysium.

While not sounding exactly like they did on Episode or Destiny, Stratovarius sticks to the tried and true power metal formula they’ve been championing for all these many years. While Kupiainen has a different feel and delivery than that of Tolkki, the music retains the melodic, epic nature the band is known for. If anything, they’ve foregone some of the more fast-paced moments in favor of a little more groove and more mid-paced, headbanging tempos. Johansson’s keyboards carry a good portion of the melodic weight and Kotipelto further cements his reputation as one of the premier vocalists in the scene ― despite the fact that the higher he climbs, the more grating he tends to be come…but that’s just a taste thing. Regardless of the talent on board, its the songs that matter and, ultimately, Elysium delivers.

Opening track “Darkest Hours” is a driving, energetic number with a strong chorus and nice keyboard layering. The lyrics get a little predictable (“I’ve left the past behind, I’m reaching for the light”) but they work in the context of what they’re doing. “Fairness Justified” starts off somber and airy before adding the obligatory “heavy power ballad” layers, complete with an epic chorus. Classic Stratovarius comes roaring back to life on “Event Horizon” which is chock full of neo-classical speed and shredding. This one has tons of double-kick drumming and a soaring chorus. Johansson and Kupiainen also have some cool interplay. “The Game Never Ends” is another strong, driving number with more incredibly nimble playing from Kupiainen. Of course, any self-respecting power metal band has to deliver the 18-minute epic at some point of their careers, and here, Stratovarius does so with the closing title track. Deftly blending many differing elements of the Strato-sound, it’s grandiose and diverse, loaded down with more good melodies and impressive playing but it gets a little exhausting toward the end.

This was the first Stratovarius I had heard front to back since 1998’s Destiny and while I am still not totally sold on Kotipelto’s voice, I was reminded of what a formidable unit this band is. I don’t see any reasons why any Strato-fan wouldn’t eat it up.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Shawn Pelata
February 15th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Gabaghoul

    One of the power metal bands I generally enjoy, will check this out.


  2. Commented by: Apollyon

    I’m surprised by your confession, Gaba.


  3. Commented by: stiffy

    He’s out of the closet


  4. Commented by: emperorjvl

    Every album after Destiny has made me turn it off and put on Destiny instead.


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