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If ever there was an album that was essentially a repository for all of the worst ideas ever conceived within the realm of power metal, but without any charm or quality that the bands who came up with these ideas would bring, you would get something like this. Alternatively, you can think of this GODAWFUL TURD as an unintentional parody of the dregs of power metal, specifically Europower. If you asked me a few months back what power metal was, I would probably end up describing something that sounds very close to this. Yeah, the most generalised, sweeping, off-base and uninformed view of power metal is the best description I can give to this - a pretentious exercise in writing mid-tempo, fluffy, tepid, and vocally oriented music driven by keyboards and triggered double bass.
From the first moments of this album, you know something is wrong. This thing sounds so unbelievably light, fluffy and 'plasticy' that it is revolting, to be honest. It isn't even the production's fault, this lies solely on the construction of the songs. The guitars... where are they? Like, most of this is solely based on fluffy keyboards and orchestrations, not, you know, on the MOTHERFUCKING 6 STRING RIFF MAKER! The odd riff or two makes an appearance in the intros to the songs, and to be honest the guitar tone is quite good, in fact. The few riffs here sound decent, but the problem is that they make up about a quarter of this album. The rest is comprised of nothing but drums which stick to one timekeeping beat, bass which has more time in the spotlight than the rhythm guitars and does nothing cool anyway, the sheer amount of masturbatory, dressy leads and the cheesy, fake as fuck keyboards. The double bass of the former, as well as the incessant lead wankery and the loud, pompous keyboards attempt to cover up and dress up the songs as something epic, powerful and grandiose, but they are in fact hollow, tepid, vapid, and SHIT.
And good god... FUCK THE VOCALIST! This Tim dude's voice here sounds fucking terrible. They fail as power metal vocals, because they have, well, NO POWER. They are thin, reedy, and sound very uneasy. You can hear his voice wobble a fair bit, as though he is singing a register above his natural range. And listen to the pre-chorus of something like 'Eagleheart'... that right there is off-key, no way around it. In addition, he lacks any real range, and has to rely on vocal layering (i.e: when his voice is made artificially louder and is less exposed) to make his voice sound like someone who actually has balls... IT DOESN'T FUCKING WORK! Seriously, this guy sounds more ball-less than a eunuch choir boy... just listen to that exposed part in 'Soul of a Vagabond'. Dude, just kill yourself, that bullshit is about as whiny as it comes in power metal.
Oh, and the songwriting sucks balls. These songs don't really move as such, rather they kind of plod along in circles, cycling through the whole verse-chorus cycle thing over and over. These songs don't really start or finish either, with the ending usually being a fucking fade-out, and often songs start on the same note that they end on. There are no real points of tension or climax in the longer songs, no energy ever flows through these compositions, and they are so boring that I would rather watch my own hair grow. The 'riffs' (read, solos and chord progressions) generally follow vocal melodies and vice versa, and nothing of note ever really happens elsewhere. Some solos on here aren't that bad, but they are trying to dress something that doesn't exist (that being the main body of any metal song, THE MOTHERFUCKING RIFFS.), so it all falls to the floor as soon as they try to dress it all up.
As for all the aesthetic shit that isn't just clearly 'taking boredom and attaching streamers to it' (thanks Gutterscream), the production is solid. The problem there is that everything is very crisp and clear, so all of this album's individual layers can be picked apart very easily. And the MOTHERFUCKING VOCALS ARE TOO FUCKING LOUD. I don't want to hear them, but their loudness was probably just another attempt at masking the sheer fluffiness of what little rhythm section there is. The cover art is fucking hideous too. The shitty '90s looking logo and title are slapped on sloppily, and that statue looks fucking terrible. And the lyrics really drizzle the mouldy cheese on this pile of compost, being utterly boring and shit cliché power metal lyrics, with added whine and testosterone deficiency thanks to those goddamn bloody vocals!
This is boring, vapid and pretentious shite. It is so overblown (that fucking title track takes the cake) that it is unbelievable. This is barely metal, to be honest. It is more a saccharine and 'jovial' style of synth-laden rock, and it still fails at that. All the elements at play here are either utterly banal (the double bass, soloing) or just ABSOLUTELY FUCKING TERRIBLE (vocals, songwriting). This is a monumental failure, a blatant nothing that has been spray painted with rainbows and unicorns and fluffy clouds, a VACUOUS PILE OF SHIT.
Elements Pt. 1 is definitely a subjective and controversial album. Tolkki loved it, Kotipelto hated it. Many say it's underrated and deserves more mentioning, many others say it's a mark in the decline of the Tolkki era.
The rating of this review should be able to tell you which side I'm on.
Elements Pt. 1 is the perfection of the ideas in its predecessor Infinite. The structure of the album is very similar, but there's a lot more variation in this album than there was in the previous one. You have songs as short as three minutes, you have songs as long as 10-12. From heavy to light, from ecstatic to... mildly happy? This was actually a very positive album; there isn't too much darkness in any of the songs. Compared to the night-aura of the Episode-Destiny era, maybe this is where the problems emerge.
Next up is structure. There's a lot of dichotomy in this album and linked with the second Elements album. The two elements portrayed here are fire and water - both are dynamic and flowing, giving the album a generally more progressive and moving sound than Elements, Pt. 2. This can be broken up even more or more, but that gets semantical as you go along.
The "fiery" tracks here are "Eagleheart", "Find Your Own Voice", "Learning to Fly" and "Stratofortress". Each one is fast, aggressive, proud and contains soaring vocals (except for Stratofotress, the instrumental, but the other elements are all in this song). "Find Your Own Voice" and "Learning to Fly" are the two fastest songs in both Elements albums and have the highest vocals Timo Kotipelto has ever done for this band. At times it can get a bit strained, but this is backed by Tolkki's shredding and Jens's keyboards which feature prominently.
"Eagleheart" and "Stratofortress" are slightly slower and shorter than the other two, and both are very streamlined songs. Eagleheart, although a catchy opener without the progressiveness seen in most of the other songs, does define how happy this album sounds overall. "Stratofortress" really exemplifies Jorg's drumming and brings back the Bach-rock feel of Black Diamond, but much more streamlined and succinct than that single. It's also a good prelude to the title track.
The "water" tracks are "Soul of a Vagabond", "Fantasia", "Papillon" and "A Drop in the Ocean". These are mid-to-slow tempo songs, much more flowing and progressive, and generally the songs people think about when they have this album in mind (also the title track but we'll get to that later). Each of the four gets progressively lighter and happier, from the darkest track on the album, which sounds a lot like a song from the Destiny-Visions era when you strip the orchestration and chorals, to "A Drop in the Ocean", a philosophical ballad with a calm chorus and some crashing waves.
The highlight of the water tracks have to be "Fantasia", a 10-minute progressive epic that mirrors John Lennon's Imagine word-for-word, and ends in a sing-along chorus that jars you into "Learning to Fly". "Papillon" isn't as great, but is still a very solid, pensive song with a dramatic build-up.
Uniting the fire and water is "Elements". This is the longest Stratovarius song of the Tolkki era and has virtually everything - driving guitar parts, shredding, two choruses, orchestral instruments, Kotipelto making sounds unimaginable (in the good way), and even a quiet hidden trumpet solo underneath a motif taken from Mother Gaia. It's very nebulous, yet the last 10 minutes of its length is very driving and anticipating, making the whole listening experience a huge adventure.
The album cover pretty much explains all there is. Fire, water, sunshine, Tolkki, and Infinite. If you liked Infinite, definitely buy this album. If you liked Polaris or Elysium, definitely buy this album. If you like Episode thru Destiny but not Infinite or the first two albums with Matias, tread carefully when you listen to this album. Find your own voice.
This is definitely a progressive metal album, there is no denying that, but after the last few straight up power metal albums, do you really want that again? I personally love the change in style in this album. In fact, my favorite era of the Tolkki Stratovarius is Infinite - Elememts (pts 1&2). They really stepped up the songwriting in this album as well and I love the progressive side of Stratovarius. This album definitely slowed things down and added a lot of progressive and neo-classical elements to it, but I think that really works in the band's favor. I certainly wasn't looking for just another derivative metal album. I think that the Episode-thru-Destiny-era was decent, but a bit boring and repetitive. Infinite is what got me into Stratovarius and I absolutely love that album. What I'm trying to say is that change is not a bad thing. In fact, it is necessary and is key to the maturation of a good band and when the change is good, it can lead to many, many more years of a band, especially a dynasty band like this and I think that this album definitely shows that Stratovarius will be going strong for many more years to come.
The highlights of this album are Soul of a Vagabond, Fantasia, Learning to Fly, and Elements. Each one of these combines metal and neo-classical elements as well as progressive elements that make it a truly unique album and really shows that Stratovarius is one of the best symphonic power metal bands ever and shows why they are a dynasty. I am especially fond of Fantasia because it is many things. First, it's a slow but epic symphonic song, then it changes into a real metal piece with some good riffing and sixteenth note drum beats that we are all so fond of. I also like its length, which is long enough without being too long. Learning to fly is a great catchy, straight-up metal song becoming a pretty good classic like We Hold the Key, Father Time, and Hunting High and Low. Soul of a Vagabond is a slow epic song that has some good riffing and a good chorus; overall a very good song. Elements is at this point the longest song Stratovarius has ever written and it is truly an epic, starting off slow and moving through changes between fast and slow, but still managing to stay epic with some really, really good soloing throughout. Also the length is just fine; it's not too long at all. I really enjoy the style of this album. I love symphonic power metal and that is exactly what this album is, managing to combine symphonic elements with metal really, really well and this is definitely a worthy addition to the Stratovarius discography.
All in all, this is a really good album. What people dislike about it is that it is a large departure from the Stratovarius norm, but I say again, change is not a bad thing. Bands need to change and evolve and mature if they are going to survive. I don't really understand the change complaint. Did you want to hear Destiny again? I didn't. That was a good album, but it's time for Stratovarius to move on and do some experimentation and more symphonic stuff and this definitely was a successful experiment.
This is really, genuinely horrible. The production is solid enough and the guitarist does some cool solos, but mostly this album hangs around "bad bedroom black metal" level, which is one below Nightwish level. This album wishes it could sound as, er, good as your average deathcore band. Authentically bad music that unfortunately has neither the laughs of your average BBM... and at least Nightwish tend towards shorter songs. Again, the guitar solos aside- Soul of a Vagabond, Papillion both have some decently fiery lead work- this is bad music. It's worse than pretty much any pop artist you care to name- at least that stuff has catchy song writing and (generally) a far superior vocalist. I would rather listen to Kei$ha, I'd put on Beiber over this.
Am I trolling? Nope, it really is that bad. Pick all the most egregrious cliches from euro power, make them 10x worse and.. you're still not even close. The powerless vocals that really struggle in the higher registers (at their worst in the ironically titled 'Find Your Own Voice'), those trademark Euro "chord progression" riffs, the triggered-to-the-shithouse drums, the synths, the synths, the synths, the synths. Oh, and all the lyrics are really, really bad- best example is the hideous Lennon-esque monstrosity that's Fantasia, though any song will do fine.
It sounds bad but the combined mix of the profoundly dickless guitars, weak ass vocals and horrible keyboard rape is a good deal worse that the sum of its' parts. Fantasia as previously mentioned is a good enough example of why this album is so truly horrendous; the cheesy synths struggling and ultimately failing to provide the epic atmosphere they desperately try to provide, the complete lack of interesting guitar lines (YES EURO CHORD PROGRESSIONSSS), the unspeakable vocals that try and fall - really badly- at carrying the song. You've got the stalinist atrocity bad polka/paganini-core (just made that up!)/"cough cough we're influenced by classical things" abomination that's Stratofortress, one of the most pointless, offensive and cliched things you've ever heard.
You could go on and on; a 4 year old with down's would find the title track stupid and overwrought to the point where it's well beyond a parody; Eagleheart manages to be both instantly forgettable and really irritating; who thought it'd be a good idea to repeat the vocal melody with the guitar (who thought that vocal melody would be a good idea????)? As you progress through the album, questions mount. Does anyone listen to this unironically? How'd they find a producer who'd be willing to record this? Is this actually a pisstake on euro-power/flower metal in general? Why would a loving god bestow such a horror upon us?
This is the fourth time I've listened to this all the way through and it's just getting worse and worse. There's maybe 3 ok-ish guitar solos in the whole thing so I won't give it a zero, but a 1% seems generous? There is no reason for anyone to ever listen to this album, let alone buy it. Unquestionably the worst "professional" release I've ever heard.
I always thought that the pointless and fluffy "Polaris" filled with boring ballads and ordinary high speed power metal fillers was the worst offering of this interesting but quite inconsistent band but the "Elements" albums were one of the rare albums that I didn't yet know at that time. I really expected a lot from this promising album title and concept and expected some epic and original songs with a gripping atmosphere. If you guys are looking for that, skip this album and go straight forward to "Elements Part II" which is not a milestone but by far greater than this offering. A friend of mine said about this first part that the album wasn't even a shit sandwich because it would not be ordinary enough to describe this pointless album that he finally compared to a worn out ham sandwich. I want to add that many metal fans have some prejudices towards the power metal genre and say that it's music for happy hippies and sounds gay. I would never agree with this, but if they say this after listening to this album, I can completely understand their point.
Let's start with the positive things first. The bonus track "Run away" has some nice progressive elements and should have made it on the album. The Japanese bonus track "Into deep blue" is simply the greatest track of the entire recording session. It is atmospheric and even eerie, it is slow and soft, mysterious and yet powerful. On the regular album, the epic "Soul of a vagabond" is quite decent even if it sounds somewhat like "Infinity". Some parts of "Fantasia" are interesting and presents us bombastic symphonic metal but it is far too long and has a few boring kitsch passages but it is at least quite progressive.
The rest of the album is an album full of clichés. It is not just highly commercial, but absolutely boring. "Eagleheart", "Find your own voice" and "Learning to fly" are the prototypes of an ordinary power metal song for the masses without any emotions. We have already heard something like that in way better versions from the same band before. The songs could also be entitled "Hunting high and low Part II", "Glory of the world II" and "Phoenix II". "Papillon" is probably the worst vocal performance I have ever heard by Timo Koltipelto. He sings way to artificially emotional like if he was an exaggerated actor of a bad theatre play and even misses a few notes. Maybe Tolkki would have been able to add the special something to the song but as he doesn't sing it, the song is just annoying. The children's voice in the beginning and ending of the song is also hugely annoying. "Stratofortress" is not even a castle made of sand and tries to honour the band's previous instrumentals but turns out to be their worst one and a song with boring power metal riff shredding. On this song, I realize that it wasn't only Kotipelto with his ordinary and annoying voice on this record that made this album fail, but especially the musicians and here I must mention Timo Tolkki. This guy created consistent and atmospheric masterpieces like "Twilight time", "Dreamspace", "Fourth dimension" or "Visions" and I ask myself what happened to this maniac here. Was it the pressure to release an album similar to the successful "Infinite"? Was it the tensions within the band members? I don't know what it was, but this album marked the beginning of a very dark era for Stratovarius and the only got out of this dilemma with the recent record "Elysium".
The band copies itself in the epic songs that sound like rip offs from "Mother Gaia", "Infinity" or "Phoenix" from the previous record. The lack of ideas and originality is horrible, especially in the so anticipated title track "Elements". Maybe the guys misunderstood their own approach and took several "elements" from their previous albums to put them randomly together. The topic of the four elements could have been something really interesting to develop on but the band missed their chances completely. The album finishes with a fart in the ocean that could have been entitled "Celestial Dream II" but never gets close to the class of the original and is just embarrassing kitsch.
Maybe it's because of the ordinary quality of these songs that the band finally split and needed to do something completely different, inconsistent and crazy with the self titled "Stratovarius" but this record was at least surprising while the first part of "Elements" is just boring. There is not one single outstanding song on this record, everything rushes past you and everything sounds too familiar. The aspiration of a musician should always be to progress and that's why I even put some experiments gone wrong above this album like "Polaris" for example. There are some hints here and there, a few seconds with brilliant and smooth melodies in the few songs I have mentioned in the beginning but it isn't enough to keep the album away from being a failure. As I won't count the bonus tracks for my review as they are just additional gimmicks, the rating goes quite heavily down on here even if I try to be objective.
I...don't even know where to start with this one. Stratovarius have always been a sort of inconsistent band, barring the fantastic Episode, with at least a few songs on their albums that don't quite measure up to the level of quality you expect from them, but I actually think this album is very consistent for them; quite a surprise! And by that I mean, it is consistently silly, consistently flowery and consistently limp-dicked throughout its entire palette of stilted idiocy and broken dreams. Yes, Elements pt. 1 is an improvement over the bland poof-metal of Infinite, but to call it a good album is a big stretch, as this is just barely even passable at all.
And really, the only reason this is passable is because, despite the ball-less production and the tendency to rely more on keyboards than guitars, there are some pretty good songs on here. Opener "Eagleheart," for example, is very charming and catchy in its radio-friendly volleying, and "Find Your Own Voice" and "Learning to Fly" are top-notch Stratovarius songs in their own rights, with meticulous choruses and ridiculous falsettos backed by sparkling, pristine melodies and speedy double bass drums. And "Soul of a Vagabond," for all its pretentiousness, is a good song, too, despite layering on the orchestral stuff a bit heavily.
So, what exactly brings the score down so much, you ask? The rest of the songs. Yes, I'm done being fair to this album, there is just too much here that is not good at all. This album's basic modus operandi is to take decent Power Metal songs and take out the rhythm guitar almost completely, drowning it in a wishy-washy mess of synths and half-assed balladry. I guess "Stratofortress" is fun simply for the sheer speed and insanity of it all, but the band has done better instrumentals, and this one falls a bit flat texturally in comparison, feeling more streamlined and poppy than "Stratosphere," for example. The album really drops off with songs like "Fantasia" - who the fuck thought this was a good idea? It sounds like the soundtrack to a Disney movie, except for the fact that soundtracks to Disney movies have much more direction, intelligence and even testosterone then this musical jerk-off session could dream of in a thousand years. It's just full of bad ideas all around, from the random fast intro bit and middle section to the super-long, dragging chorus and the weak verses. And, I'm sorry, guys, I like happy, uplifting metal as much as the next guy, but...do we really have to hear lyrics like "One day when love conquers all / Mankind will prevail"?
...There are certain...limits a band must take into account when trying to make credible music, and this song over-steps all of them. I guess the lyrics could be worse, but really, how much worse? I'm all for a Power Metal song commanding me to stand up and shout, or to fly with the eagles, but when you start preaching the glory of love and heart to the world like a delirious flower child on meth, that's where you lose me.
And a lot of the lyrics are pretty fucking stupid here. Like on the title track: "Elements - Elements / That's what I'm made of." Uh, guys, I'm not sure you paid attention in your Biology classes. But whatever, that is at least a little bit excusable, seeing that these guys are Finnish and aren't exactly writing high-class poetry here anyway. I just don't like the silly, redundant "we must cleanse the world from evil and war and pain by LOVING EVERYONE!!!" ranting that most of these songs seem to transpire into when they're not talking about the hearts of eagles or learning to flap your invisible wings before you take the leap off the Sears tower. It's boring, it's stupid, and it certainly isn't what I want to hear in my goddamn Heavy Metal music.
Which is pretty much what sums up the rest of this album. The title track has some good moments and epic build-ups, which are all ruined by Koltipelto squealing so high that he might as well not have sung at all, and just put in a fucking dog whistle for the chorus instead. The song starts off alright, but by twelve minutes of it, you just want to turn it off; it doesn't really go anywhere. "Papillon" blows, completely bloated and self-indulgent, with no redeeming qualities at all (and a really bad chorus, too), and "A Drop in the Ocean" is another weak Stratoballad, and although it isn't terrible, it certainly isn't a very inspiring or strong way to end the album. This one ends on a whimper.
What is wrong with this album? It's just too poncey, too blatantly over-wrought with poorly written emotional hooks and too flighty, with too little of anything I like in metal to be recommended at all. This album is just ridiculous, giving into every single claim about Power Metal being light-weight, fluttery, silly crap there ever was, and a few good songs doesn't change that. Don't support this, don't buy it and don't listen to it. God, what a fuckload.
Stratovarius let me down with the release of their previous LP “Infinite”, which lacked the polish and energy that had been present before. Although it contained some interesting and progressive ideas, it didn’t come together as a cohesive whole. “Elements Pt. 1” does a bit to fix this problem, although it has still not made up for the deficit in the riff department, nor the de-emphasis upon the guitar that began on the previous album when they first added the orchestra.
We do have some songs on here that still remind of the good old Stratovarius that was present on “Episode” and “Destiny”. The album opener “Eagleheart” is catchy and has a good mid-tempo flow to it, reminding a bit of “Hunting High and Low”. “Learning to Fly” is an even catchier fast track that is reminiscent of such blazing classics as “Father time” and “No turning back”. “Stratofortress” is one hell of a fast instrumental, walking the line between being a Painkiller tribute and being a Mozart/Haydn homage. “Soul of a Vagabond” has a good deal of orchestral stuff in it, but also has a solid main riff and a nice bass groove that reminds of Dio’s “Holy Diver”.
On the more progressive end of the album we get a few solid works that go a bit long, but manage to stay interesting throughout. “Fantasia” is loaded with keyboard work, as well as plenty of orchestra presence. Not a whole lot of riffs in the first half of the song, but after the first 4 minutes this song goes all out and showcases the metal edge that Stratovarius has yet to lose. Although not the most technically intricate of guitar solos, the lead section towards the end of the instrumental section is highly memorable, in fact it can be qualified as a lighter moment during live shows. “Find your own voice” is more of a traditional fast song, but with a very Neo-Romantic sounding Organ and Choir intro. Bassist Jari Kainulainen actually out riffs Timo Tolkki on this one, although they both have a hard time keeping up with Jens Johannsen’s rapid scale runs during the chorus. The title track is probably the most orchestra and chorus driven of the lot, and although there is a strong deficit in the guitar department again, the themes found in the dominant sections are strong enough to keep you listening.
Some of the more progressive tracks on here, however, get a bit too reliant on extra musicians and we temporarily lose track of the fact that this is a metal album. “Papillion” is intended as an epic song, but almost sounds like a full ballad due to the overlong vocal and keyboard intro. “A Drop in the Ocean” is a pure “Celestial Dream” clone and is my lone pick for a throw-away track. We have some halfway decent acoustic guitar work, but it all doesn’t go anywhere, speaking nothing for the fact that the lyrics grate on my nerves.
In conclusion, this is not the Stratovarius that I had come to love back in the late 1990s, but this album is a good listen. If you like power prog. and don’t mind a long listen; this album is sure to please you. However, if you like your Power Metal straight forward, without all the structural anomalies associated with the progressive style, I would stick to the pre-Infinite material. I enjoy the album myself, but it is not without its flaws.
Before I start I would like to preface this review by saying that I am a fan of Stratovarius’ previous work, even though I’m not a huge fan of the vocals. I just try to take each album as it comes and as a separate entity. If you are one of those die hard fans who thinks everything they release is going to be unbeatable then you may as well not read the rest of this review.
Stratovarius – Elements Part 1 starts off decently with Eagleheart, but I find that this song sounds way to close to another song in their catalog, “Hunting High and Low.” Now I’m not saying it’s the same song, but the similarities are obnoxiously close. After the first track though I feel the album goes completely downhill. Stratovarius obviously had grand plans for this album and I’m afraid they failed to capture the epic feeling they were obviously going for. In the end this album just comes across as pretentious wankery.
“Soul of a Vagabond” is just way too keyboard oriented. Light keyboards are cool and can fill in some of that atmosphere or they can portray something a guitar cannot, but there is no reason to just have them overpower everything throughout the song, minus the chorus which just really has a generic main riff. I will admit that the solo at about 5 minutes is cool and well written (it kind of has a Santana feel to it), but that is something that Stratovarius can always do. It’s about the only thing on this album that can almost keep my interest. I’m not going to go through every song on the album, but the first half just has some things that really stand out to me.
On “Find Your Own Voice” the drum sound really starts to sound fake. It really annoys me when it just sounds triggered. The snare has no snare. At least Jorg Michael mixes things up to keep it interesting. I just wish he had a better tone. Also on this track Timo Kotipelto really pushes his range, and I think he pushes it too far. There are times when the music would call for him to hit higher notes, but he just can’t do it. Some would say, “Well, at least the music isn’t predictable,” but I’ll tell you that it just sounds stupid. Now the song “Fantasia” is just plain stupid. Why the hell is this one song? Maybe actually having the lyrics instead of just a slipcase promo would help, but it’s just obnoxious. It’s fine if you want to mix up your music and have tempo changes and such, but do it smoothly and with some transition (i.e. Opeth). This song is clearly two separate songs and putting them together within this song just sounds stupid. More pretentious use of keyboards overpowering guitar work. Now I’m not one that will go off about keyboards being “gay,” but if you are just going to use them to overpower the guitar why do you try to be a metal band?
As I said I’m not going to break down every track. Really the second half of the album is a repeat of the first half. Too much keyboards, too little guitar, a bad drum tone, pointless chorus lines that just act as filler, pretentiously long songs that go nowhere, and an occasional imaginative solo. I will say that the fact that they threw “Stratofotress” on here as an instrumental that more or less features the keyboards annoys me to no end. Stratovarius is a good band, but if you want a good listen go for Visions or Infinity. The grandiose Elements Part 1 should be chalked up as a failure for the band.
After break from recording and touring Stratovarius are back with their 9th full lenght studio album entitled "Elements Part 1", a follow-up to their succesful album "Infinite". With this one the band have added more orchestration and bombastic elements like huge choirs yet keeping their trademark sound. Musically, the songs are a bit more complex and have a more epic feel (most of the songs have more than 6 minutes playing time). Opener "Eagleheart" is a typical Stratovarius song in the vein of "Hunting High And Low". Very simple and "commercial" with a catchy chorus. Next is the long mid-tempo "Soul Of A Vagabond", probably one of the heavier songs on the CD. Very powerful guitars. The next track, "Find Your Own Voice", is one of the faster songs with extremely high pitched vocals from Kotipelto (a bit too much for my taste). Great and exciting guitar/keyboard duels. With "Fantasia" they've written a song of almost 10 minutes in length, inspired by the movie of the same name. It starts out with the sounds of a musical box before guitar and drums enter. It's very varied and features a lot of different parts. Next is the straight forward fast assault of "Learning To Fly", another typical Stratovarius song in the vein of "Father Time". A favourite of mine. Child vocals open the ballad "Papillion", full of emotion and power with a huge chorus. There is some beautiful soloing by Tolkki. Timo's passionate vocals round out it perfectly. The band have also included an amazing instrumental track, called "Stratofortress", those high speed guitar/keyboard duels will smoke the speakers, really impressive! The long epic song "Elements" is the masterpiece, the orchestral arrangements and choirs are absolutely fantastic. The last track on the CD is an orchestrated acoustic ballad called "A Drop In The Ocean" on which Kotipelto's vocals work very well, beautiful as always. Although "Elements Part I" isn't their best album, the band is doing well and is still putting out top-quality melodic power metal that makes the album worth buying.
This could have been good, but even with the current controversy surrounding the band, I wanted to give this a fair chance. My personal opinions of Timo Tolkki put firmly aside, I dived in. I already have the "Intermission" album and know I played it a lot when it first came out. I liked it, I still think it's quite good, even though it's only made up of unreleased tracks mainly. I wanted to go onto something else to solidify my opinion of the band. I checked out Elements Pt. 1, mistake? Probably, though I'll keep trying with the band. A couple of unsatisfying listens and this hasn't started to flower (no pun intended *cough*) and I can't say I'm really see much that's going to grab me in it. This isn't a terrible record, it has its moments and redeeming values, but a few elements (no pun either!) served to really turn this around and left my mind just wandering during the middle. The cheery, cheesy Eagleheart isn't bad really, it just doesn't go as far as it could and it's bordering on too cheesy for my tastes.
Things could really go well on the opening of "Soul Of A Vagabond", with a kind of cool symphonic opening, but it really starts to suffer from the album's main problem. Timo Tolkki said the album was going to reach new heights for their orchestral/symphonic dabblings, it was, but it severly left behind the other elements. It seems like Timo was burned out for creativity on the Metal front and decided to go further the other way without realising that all the parts need to be in place for it to work. He really seems to have churned out some sorry and rushed guitar work here. And don't get me started on the lyrics, practically self parody most of the way through...
"Find Your Own Voice" could have been the same kind of thing but in the middle Tolkki's brief lead is overtaken by one of the saviours of the album: Jens Johansson! His lengthy keyboard solos really spice this song up and make it kind of worth it. He also comes to the rescue on several other occassions in the rest of the album. "Fantasia" for example is good on the keyboard side, and Tolkki gets his act together pushing on a bit more energy here, it's overlong really for what goes into it, like the rest of the longer songs on here, but it acquits itself. "Learning To Live", doesn't really have any of the sudden saviour moments here, it's quite dull really. "Papillon" is another quite skippable one, it tries to build the atmosphere on the subject of its lyrics but does it without putting half the effort it should have in, it just doesn't hold the attention. Jens saves the day again with "Stratofortress" one of the more interesting tracks! I like how he puts a lot of different styles into this - the guitars take a back seat for now, probably a good thing.
Like "Fantasia", "Elements" has cool symphonic/choir parts but is over long in that it's not built up enough for its length. The guitar just falls into the hazy background of the mind in this one, I can't remember it much, even now. The last track, I can't remember at all, just that it's a ballad without enough power or feeling to move me and has rolling wave sound effects for ages after the instruements die down... a waste of space. Timo Kotipelto is either love him or hate him, I'm not so big on him, he kind of works right but has trouble with the high notes, sometimes trying to be Michael Kiske and failing and other times kind of off key. It is irritating, but apart from that the rest of the instrumentation is fine, drums, bass all in order and keyboards leading the pack. It's just Tolkki's playing and songwriting that really held the rest of them back.
The album as a whole really could have balanced the Metal elements and the symphonic elements better instead of concentrating on one, just concentrating on one and leaving the other to being thrown together and just not considered as much as it should have been. Very one dimensional. It may grow on me after another listen but my hopes aren't high. I just hope their back catalogue is better.
Here's a tip: It's not.
This is total and utter pig feces. Let me start off by saying, "Where are the riffs? WHERE ARE THE RIFFS?!" The only guitar sound we get here is Timo Tolkki's aimless soloing, where he does solos just to prove he can. And the thing is, we already are given that from the keyboards! How much aimless improvisation can one band have?! Oh, and Timo Kotipelto (also, how many guys named Timo can one band have?) sounds like he just took a big shot of liquid valium. He's sounds like a fucking fairy, with his happy soaring vocals that every other power metal band in the world creams over.
Even the atmosphere is crap. It is WAY too damn happy for a metal band. And I've heard Nightwish. This sounds like something a gay psychologist would play in his office.
Eagleheart. The album just started and already we are sucking on all cylinders. Actually, this isn't metal at all. This is some sort of pop/rock hybrid that adds even more to this already overflowing septic tank of an album. Overexaggerated wanking guitars over happy keyboards and The Ritalin Man, Timo Kotipelto, shouting about God knows what. Probably about a hot beef injection by Tolkki.
Soul Of A Vagabond. Now this sucks more than usual. There is barely any guitars in the main verses, leaving just Kotipelto to fuck around randomly trying to sound as fruity as possible. Then some inspirational chorus, that I think is about staying strong and believing in your womanhood, and back to that no-substance main verse! Fun fun fun fun! That's all their is.
The rest of the album is exactly like that, with varying degrees of wanking on their various instruments. And, also, simple drums that even a six-year-old could play. Dammit, I can't listen to this shit anymore. This is worse than Elvenking. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid it like the plague.
Stratovarius is back, and they're as fucking incredible as ever. The classic lineup is there and their skills are sharp and ready. Instead of descending into mediocrity, and many dynasty bands have done, stratovarius uses their break to relax and come up with some original material, which they use to release in this classic album.
Yes, yes, I know that everybody's bitching about Eagleheart being Rock 'n' Roll/Pop instead of metal, but everybody's a fucking idiot. The song is no more un-metal than the classic Stratovarius songs Hunting High & Low or Playing with Fire. Jesus, just because something has a catchy melody, it must be pop? Give me a break. Anyway, all the band members have their strong sounds that have made them such a huge part of the Power metal world, and the new album has a great variety of songs to take advantage of it.
Right, classics. Obviously, this album just came out this year, so it's impossible to know exactly what will stick, but I, being a Stratovarius expert and Ph.D.-certified fanboy, can certainly make an educated guess. Following the trend of most of the successful Stratovarius albums, there appear to be five songs poised to become new Stratovarius classics: Eagleheart, which, despite everybody's bitching, is still a very catchy Stratovarius song; Soul of a Vagabond, which is a very intense quasi-prog epic worthy of classic status; Papillon, which is a) a beautiful ballad and b) French, so how could you possibly go wrong?; Stratofortress, the third in a series of instrumentals which could be subtitled "Timo Tolkki Plays Guitar A Lot Fucking Better Than You Do"; and Elements, which may be a bit too long to be played in concerts but still is a symphonic power song that kicks a whole lot of ass.
So this is it until Elements, Part II comes out in October. In the meantime, I strongly encourage all Stratovarius fans to send e-mails, letters and anonymous phone calls bothering them until they release another live album, preferably something in the neighborhood of Iced Earth's Alive in Athens. *sigh*
Oh yeah, and buy this album.
Infinite is my least favourite Stratovarius album. I wasn't pleased with the happiness of that album, Stratovarius isn't any sadgothboy music but it's not happy happy Helloween either.
So it wasn't really an impossible job for Stratoboys to top Infinite. Suprisingly Elements pt.1 tops Infinite and even suprises me a little bit.
As for the song-material; There are again these basic Stratovarius songs on the album. Fast, melodic, catchy chorus, highspeed solos, quite boring after the first listen. Eagleheart is the the obvious single song and awfully similar to S.O.S from Destiny and Hunting High and Low from Infinite. Find Your Own Voice and Learning to Fly are faster than Eagleheart and remind me of the earlier fast Stratovarius songs (suprise!). There is an instrumental song on the album, which is nothing special. If you have heard the Stratovarius instrumentals from the older albums you will know what to get. Last song A Drop In the Ocean is the ballad of the album (every power metal album must have one). All the tracks I mentioned are quite basic Stratovarius stuff. Fine in the right mood but basicly quite boring.
Leaves us four tracks which would alone make a fine album (runtime would be only 36:06 though ;) ). Soul of a Vagabond reminds me of Metallica's S/M, but in a good way. The orchestrations sound pasted just like the ones on that Metallica album, but it works fine here. Fantasia is a good more progressive Stratovarius song having all kinds of parts from fast to mid-tempo and slow. Papillon is kind of a half-ballad, it's one of the better songs on the album but not too special compared to for example Seasons of Change from Episode. The title track Elements is a good epic with choirs not too common for Stratovarius. Rhapsody would perhaps do this kind of song (with might and magic-lyrics though ;) ). Very pompous. Elements is along with Soul of a Vagabond the best song on the album and are close to the quality Stratovarius songs used to have in the past.
The sounds are clean like they should be on this kind of power metal albums and band plays fine as always. I have to give an honourable mention to Jari Kainulainen's bass-playing and the orchestrations. Timo Kotipelto gets more annoying with every Stratovarius album in my opinion. Perhaps he sings too high, this music would work just well with lower vocals. And that accent...
Elements pt.1 kinda gives the quality of Strato-albums a little lift but for a Strato-newbie I would recommend Visions or Episode. Diehard fans already know what they get. A decent power metal album from one of the bigger names in the genre.