Stratovarius - Elysium
Armoury Records
Melodic Power Metal
9 songs (56:35)
Release year: 2011
Reviewed by Kyle
Major event

The first song on Stratovarius’ new album, entitled Darkest Hours, set my expectations quite low for Elysium when I first heard it. Not because it's not a good song – truthfully, it’s one of the best on the album – but because it sounded like a Cain’s Offering track that ended up on the wrong album. Prominent keyboards, fruity vocals – one simply can’t deny that the song fits Timo Kotipelto’s other band to a T. When I listen to a Stratovarius album, I want, well, a Stratovarius album. Thankfully, my fears were quickly destroyed after listening to the rest of Elysium; Cain’s Offering-isms stay away for the rest of the album, and what’s left is a great Stratovarius album. While I personally preferred the breath of fresh air that was Polaris, I must admit that Elysium is nearly the best straightforward Strato album that one could hope for.

Much like on Infinite (one of my favorite Stratovarius releases), two fast-paced songs come right after the mid-paced opener: Under Flaming Skies and Infernal Maze. While I still maintain my belief that most fast Stratovarius songs sound alike, both of these songs are well-written, with memorable choruses and catchy lead guitar work. For power metal veterans, however, these tracks may not satisfy one’s itch for complex riffs; for the best riffs on the album, look no further than Event Horizon, another fast song that features some truly incredible guitar work. Rapid-fire riffs effortlessly roll into undeniably impressive lead guitar runs, and the dueling guitar-keyboard solo recalls memories of the band’s instrumentals that feature the suffix “Strato” in their titles (Stratovarius, Stratofortress, etc.).

Like all Stratovarius albums, Elysium is not an all-around fast record, featuring more ballads than most power metal bands would dare attempt. Strato’s ballads have rarely impressed me, but the choruses of both Fairness Justified and Lifetime in a Moment managed to stick in my head after a few listens. Move the Mountain is easily the softest song on Elysium, and also my least favorite; it reminds me a bit too much of an 80’s power ballad, venturing into territories of simplistic songwriting and acoustic chord-strumming overkill. Ultimately, it’s a boring song that I skipped over nearly every time I listened to the album. Fortunately, the excellent song The Game Never Ends, a mid-paced number reminiscent of Hunting High and Low, tips the heavy song-soft song scale to a perfect level that keeps Elysium from growing tiresome.

Though Elysium is filled with good songs, one track manages to truly propel it from being a good album to being a great one: Elysium. The album’s title track clocks in at a massive eighteen minutes in length, and features several styles of power metal: slow-paced chugging, mid-paced rocking, and fast-paced double bass driving, with a big, dramatic ending to tie it all together. Every section of the song blends together wonderfully; while many long songs like this come across as a random mix of cool ideas, Elysium is a well written and expertly constructed masterpiece. Add in some of the best melodies and most memorable moments of the entire album, and you have one of the top five best songs Stratovarius has ever written.

Even with the fantastic title track present to close out the album in perfect fashion, in the end Elysium gives off a bit of an “It’s just another Stratovarius album" vibe. However, the fact that many of the songs here are just as good as those you’d find on Episode or Destiny is truly amazing, considering the amount of rough patches and controversies the band has run into since those albums were released. Polaris may have proven that Stratovarius is still capable of producing great records, but Elysium cements that fact. It may be a bit straightforward for some (and as I said previously, I do miss the mid-paced experimentation of Polaris), but Elysium ultimately belongs in any Strato fan’s collection.

Killing Songs :
Darkest Hours, The Game Never Ends, Event Horizon, Elysium
Kyle quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Stratovarius that we have reviewed:
Stratovarius - Dreamspace reviewed by Ben and quoted 80 / 100
Stratovarius - Nemesis reviewed by Chris and quoted 97 / 100
Stratovarius - Polaris reviewed by Marty and quoted 85 / 100
Stratovarius - Stratovarius reviewed by Jeff and quoted 75 / 100
Stratovarius - Fright Night reviewed by Brent and quoted 80 / 100
To see all 14 reviews click here
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