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Fire, Water, Earth and Sky. - 92%

hells_unicorn, January 27th, 2011

The line of succession for Scandinavian power metal bands is fairly massive, and it is easy to pass off as generic anything that reasserts the established orthodoxies. For the most part, I tend to reserve the generic label for bands that simply go through the motions and don’t have any actual power to their sound, though distinctive elements tend to be required for this to work. Celesty fits into this succession somewhere between mid 90s Stratovarius meets Sonata Arctica model and the upbeat, happy character of Freedom Call. The formula is a clear convergence of Malmsteen inspired 80s guitar and keyboard madness with a more subtle approach to classical music elements, and the blistering speed metal formula of 80s Helloween, though faster and with a much louder drum presence.

If someone were looking for a genre redefining album, “Reign Of Elements” is probably the last place to look, as it simply revisits familiar territory, although it does it with a lot more intrigue and a tad more aggression than the lion’s share of Finnish bands. The riffing set is a mostly by the numbers hodgepodge of German and British bands from the early to mid 80s, going much closer to an arena sound than even the “Keepers” albums and putting a great deal of emphasis on vocal work and lead breaks. Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen cuts out a wicked shred break on “Revenge” for a one time guest slot, but in all honesty, Juha proves to be slightly more interesting of a soloist as his style isn’t quite as steeped in Timo Tolkki clichés. But the real attraction at this show is Kimmo Perämäki’s versatile mixture of high end wails and gritty power/thrash yells, reminding a tiny bit of Heavenly’s Ben Sotto actually.

As can be safely assumed by the era it is drawn from, this is one of those albums where the emphasis is clearly on speed. It doesn’t get quite as over the top as Dragonforce, and there is a bit more variety to their format, but it is pretty easy to understand how said band of Brits were able to sail into the scene given that albums like this point in that direction. Among the usual suspects of classic cookers with a slight helping of Freedom Call oriented chorus work are “Charge”, the title song “Reign Of Elements”, and “The Sword And The Shield”, mixing in a very familiar mix of notes and chords, over a tried and true blend of fast paced drumming, bass droning, and melodic material out of the vocals and keyboards. There’s not really any new territory explored, yet in spite of being easy to figure out, all of them are very easy to get into and hard to get out of. There’s no far reaching epics, no varying away from the formula apart from the ending token ballad “Kingdom”, which is a familiar staple of Stratovarius, but Celesty’s take on it reminds a bit more of Hammerfall.

If nothing else, this is a great album simply because it maximizes every element at play, though limited and largely familiar to most that have followed Stratovarius and Gamma Ray since the mid 90s. The voiceover narrations are a bit stupid sounding, but hey, we can’t all be Manowar now can we? It definitely challenges many of the lackluster works that started coming out of Finland in 2003, and could even be considered on equal terms with “Visions” when considering past albums with an influence on it. But for those who like to keep things basic and want their power metal easy to sing along to, Celesty’s work is pretty high up, and this particular lineup, which began rearranging immediately after this album, had the more unique and interesting character when compared to later studio work.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 27, 2011.