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You just know, from the moment you hear the beginning of 'Alpha & Omega', that this is not quite going to be the Stratovarius album you were hoping for. That song is slow and epic, big on keyboards and light on riffs, save for that churning low-string chord and lick number with its obvious drumming. The band are heading for a different endpoint than on their 90s albums and one can see from the average album ratings on this website what the general reaction has been to this decision - the fans were not satisfied. There have always been slower songs on Stratovarius albums since the beginning of time, but the balance changed somewhere around the release of 'Infinite', trading in the overt speed and power metal tendencies of the sound for something a lot grander and more ambitious, which the band have only occasionally achieved. The opening song from 'Elements Pt 2' confirms all of the doubts from the previous couple of releases.
However, the second song does something to question those doubts. 'I Walk to My Own Song' is not really fast-paced, perhaps reaching an upbeat medium pace, yet the energy and enthusiasm that can turn anything into a great experience are suddenly present. I have rather a habit of choosing the odd song out on an album and making it my favourite (memories of 'Third Chance' on The Gathering's 'Nighttime Birds' and 'In Death, a Song' on Katatonia's 'Tonight's Decision'), especially when that song exudes joy on an otherwise contemplative or serious album. 'I Walk...' takes off on a pretty simple keyboard melody and is quickly joined by a good-time guitar riff (try walking to it in the morning, it's a treat) that takes the first verse gently and the second at a run, blasts into the band's best chorus of the decade, and packs in a very tasty solo later on. It gives one hope, not just for the album but generally: for me, it gave me patience and perseverance to slowly get my shit together and move to China, which was a very long process from start to finish. 'I'm Still Alive' and 'Know the Difference' are also high on energy and perhaps remind one most strongly that this is a power metal band, though there are too many slow songs that don't become as epic as they try to be (like the opener) or stay too slow and reflective for too long, ending up boring.
Another problem with the album in general is that no one really steps up and takes charge of the direction. 'Season of Faith's Perfection' is a ballad with Jens Johansson doing all the work, including an outro that lasts about a minute too long (it's full-on Nightwish fairytale mode); Timo Kotipelto stretches himself valiantly to make this kind of song listenable, but the band rely on him too often and he doesn't have the easiest voice to listen to on and on for fifty minutes, since I'm not the biggest fan of his slightly odd enunciation and sudden swoops in pitch. The rhythm players get two things wrong that every album needs: tone and content. Admittedly, the bass tone is not so bad as the drum tone, filling some much-needed space on the lurching chug-fest of 'Awaken the Giant', but the drums sound stupid, especially at slower paces - just plain and boring and obvious, like a person who drops their jaw and drools "Urr..." every time they are asked a question. Timo Tolkki does absolutely nothing to make the album stick in your ears beyond those couple of riffs on 'I Walk...' and one each on 'I'm Still Alive' and 'Dreamweaver', which only sound special in relation to the other songs. In my opinion, his riffing is better on the following self-titled album, and that's really saying something. His solos are below the expected quality and quantity and, despite the keyboard performance being far from virtuoso, he is outplayed by Johansson on almost every song.
My advice for this album is very simple: don't get it. The wisest course of action would be to download 'I Walk to My Own Song', pretend it was a single, and ignore the rest. For those who prefer the slower, epic direction that Stratovarius were pursuing at this time, perhaps some of the ballads will agree with you ('Luminous' is very gentle, though not bad). For others, there are only three or four tracks that are much good and they aren't performed with the same flair and attack that the band are capable of. Look elsewhere for good music.
In my other reviews, I described the awful and ordinary first part of "Elements" as an ordinary ham sandwich, while the upcoming self-titled "Stratovarius" and especially the faceless and weak "Polaris" could partially be called shit sandwiches. In other words, between the band's ultimate international breakthrough record "Infinite" and the recently released and quite strong "Elysium", there have been many difficult years for this band and many mixed or even very bad albums. This second part of "Elements" happens to be the best one of this era even though it doesn't has the high standard of previous classics such as "Dreamspace", "Fourth Dimension" or "Visions". That's why I would call it a mixed sandwich.
While the first part of this double album is ordinary power metal where the band copies itself and doesn't develop any atmosphere, this record starts with a surprisingly slow and epic track called "Alpha & Omega". But that doesn't mean that the beginning of this record is actually really good, in fact, it's honestly said rather the opposite. It turns out that the first song is rather mediocre, but at least it presents something new with slight orchestral influences, acoustic guitars and a slow development and is already better than anything from the first part. "I walk to my own song" begins like a promising hard rock track with some modern elements but also turns out to be the rather mediocre single for the usual power metal maniacs. "I'm still alive" is even worse and sounds like a copy of several old songs of the band, especially the influence of "Phoenix" in the verses and "Glory of the world" in the chorus are too present in here. After this song, I was afraid that this album would be as faceless and ordinary as the previous one.
But then, the album slowly gets better and more interesting. The calm acoustic ballad "Season of faith's perfection" has some interesting synthesizer and keyboard vibes reminding me of Edguy's later masterpiece "The piper never dies" and searches its power out of the tranquility. This slow development is quite interesting but this song is still far from being perfect as it reminds a lot of "Mother Gaia" even if some songs of the first part have even stolen more from this song. "Awaken the giant" has an interesting introduction with some very simple drum loops and a catchy riff, but the song doesn't develop much on this and turns out to be quite boring but at least I must admit that this song is once again slower, heavier and more unique than any song from the first part. "Know the difference" is a typical power metal song with interesting keyboard leads and a powerful vocal performance but as I said too typical to really stand out. I still feel very mixed about these three songs that have some interesting or at least promising touches but don't quite explode or grow on me.
Finally, the albums gets a first highlight with the soft and atmospheric "Luminous" that reminds of "Tangerine Dream" and "Mike Oldfield" because of the melodic synthesizers and dreamy guitar works. Just as "Season of faith's perfection", this song takes its power out of the flow of tranquility that adds something new and profound to the band's sound and this song turns out to be more unique and lovely than the first one I mentioned. "Dreamweaver" begins with a highly melodic and catchy guitar riff that Edguy later used for their masterpiece "Sacrifice" but Stratovarius creates even a more atmospheric and original piece of art with this beautiful song that continues on a slow paced and calm note. The final "Liberty" is not the ordinary high speed power metal song that I was afraid to listen to but is another quite calm ballad filled with joy and harmony. The piano notes and Timo Kotipelto's vocal performances remind me a lot of Elton John and this is once again something new from this band that I wasn't expecting. This a very beautiful and appropriate way to close an album.
Finally, this album turns out to convince as soon as it gets calm and peaceful. Especially the second part of the record offers many emotional, atmospheric and really touching songs that raise this offering high above the first part. The negative point is without a doubt the rather mediocre beginning of the record and the fact that the band had many good ideas without being able to catalyze them and create truly unique and new sounds all the time. I would like this band to do an entire album with high quality songs such as "Luminous", "Dreamweaver", "Liberty" and maybe "Season of faith's perfection" without adding any exchangeable and faceless power metal tune in the key of "I walk to my own song". They have done so many tracks of that kind that it just gets annoying from a professional and artistic point of view even if the mainstream power metal fan boys may like a tenth version of "Hunting high and low". That's why this album has some really boring and ordinary but as much stunning and beautiful sides. I often tend to skip the horrible first part of "Elements" and the first songs of this album to discover the best songs of that post "Infinite" and pre "Elysium" era in the second part of this album. This album is definitely worth a try but nothing outstanding and in the end a slightly above average record.
With this album, Stratovarius were at least trying to make a good album. That much is evident by the fact that a lot of this seems to be a rehash of material from Episode in terms of variety and atmosphere, with several songs that sound sort of like the stunted-growth baby brothers of songs on that album, right down to the one song that has the word "season" in it. Elements pt. 2 might not be a crowning achievement in this band's discography, but at least it is a step up from the ridiculous and laughable garbage they had been producing for a few years at the time this album came out, and at least it features only one song that even remotely resembles the horrific torture instruments that were the "ballads" and "epics" on the last two - that being the closer "Liberty," for future reference/possible warning and danger signs.
We kick off with a mid-paced song called "Alpha & Omega," which is not a great song, but at least Koltipelto sounds good belting out the ominous and dark lyrics. I have actually grown to like this song more than most seem to, despite the fact that the rhythm section is rather boring and uninteresting and the chorus drags a bit - it has a certain charm to it. "I'm Still Alive" and "I Walk to My Own Song" are both catchy, happy Stratosunshine-bombs that end up being very solid and enjoyable, sort of the equivalent of the "Find Your Own Voice"/"Learning to Fly" duo off the last album, and then "Season of Faith's Perfection" is a symphonic ballad, and...am I listening to this right? A Stratovarius ballad that actually sounds halfway to being good at conveying an emotion? I never thought I'd see the day; it just seemed too strange! "Awaken the Giant" sounds sort of like Stratovarius covering Black Sabbath, and it doesn't really work. Would Black Sabbath covering Stratovarius sound good? No? Well, you've about got the picture of this song, then. It's very forced sounding, and I can't say it's a very good song. Would have been better as a four minute song rather than a six and a half minute one.
Then we slip off into what I like to call Unmemorable Land. For some reason these songs never truly register with me, even though they sound fine when they're on. Let's listen to them now. "Know the Difference" is a speedy number with some dazzling synth passages, but a chorus that doesn't really stack up to the band's better stuff - still a pretty charming song. "Luminous" is actually a very good song, slow and atmospheric and just gorgeous, with some nicely cold spacey parts to enhance the listening experience. I'm really impressed with this one; where did it come from? "Dreamweaver" isn't amazing, but I guess it's not too bad, stomping and anthemic, but it sort of goes in one ear and out the other. "Liberty" is the last one, and I really fucking hate the way it starts off all epic and grandiose before lapsing into silly, overblown balladry (which I'll freely admit to kind of liking).
The lyrical matter here is a big improvement over the last few, with some decidedly poetic and ambiguous lyrics that seem to center mostly on personal and spiritual matters, connecting to the environment and to the world in general. Some of them, like "I'm Still Alive" and "Liberty" are very uplifting and cheery, with no shame at all in cheering you up like there's no tomorrow, but then "Alpha and Omega" has more mystical lyrics: "I am the dark and light / I am the day and night / I am the mirage / I am the echo / I am the fear and anger / I am the familiar stranger / I am the shadow / I am the star that guides you until the end of time...". Points taken off for this line from "I Walk to My Own Song" though: "I know your name it's called Mr.Mean / One thing i've learned you don't know beans!" Oh Strato, you brilliant metal poets! Yes, yes, I'll just be shuffling over to the side to turn on Virgin Steele now...
The production is typical Tolkki, and it's boring by now, flat and uninspiring with everything kind of gelling together - this would be much better with a production that accentuates the synths or the guitars in a way that gives the music more atmosphere and feeling, like old Stratovarius. But really, I guess this album isn't so bad. Most of it is actually pretty decent and listenable, with a handful of songs being of a moderately high quality. I always found it strange how this album was a return to the Stratovarius of old sandwiched in between two very drastic and mediocre experiments for the band - sort of a solid port in a storm for those tired of Tolkki and his evil reign, if you will. Yeah, that's about the best way to sum this up. A port in a storm. Get this one if you like Power Metal.
Following the rather progressive release “Elements Part 1”, Stratovarius has offered us a follow-up of sorts in this release, which carries the same name and a similar cover art concept. One is reminded of the intended goal of Helloween to release a double CD in “Keeper of the Seven Keys”, but had to release them separately due to record company issues. Whether the reasoning for releasing these two CDs separately was due to similar circumstances or not, the comparison between this Stratovarius offering and the old Helloween classic is inevitable.
Although this album does have a better production and trends a bit closer to the old Stratovarius sound than its predecessor, there are some flaws on here that warrant a less enthusiastic response. This band has always done well by putting musically interesting and up tempo songs at the beginning of the album to break the ice, and here we are given a rather boring slow song in “Alpha and Omega”. This lacks the definitive chorus of “Hunting High and Low”, the triumphant main theme of “Eagleheart”, the high speed glory of “Father Time”, or the musical intrigue of “Destiny” and is merely a space eater.
In addition to the rather slow start, some of the songs on here just suffer from a lack of hooks and fresh ideas. “Season of Faith’s Perfection” is another boring ballad that follows suit from the weak points of the “Infinite” release, even borrowing some melodic material from “Mother Gaia” for the guitar solo, which is the high point of the song. “Luminous” suffers mainly in the lyrical department, but also fails to really grab me as being a memorable song.
On the bright side of things, we have some excellent faster material on here that proves that this band’s principle strength is in the speed metal realm. “I’m Still Alive” carries the same brilliance as “Learning to Fly” did, blazing away at top speed and bringing us a solid chorus to sing along with. “Know the difference” follows a similar model and has some solid vocal work. Both of these songs should be listened to and enjoyed merely for Jorg Michael’s amazing drum work, although there is obviously a lot more to these songs than the beats. “I walk to my own song” is another mid-tempo rocker with a catchy set of themes, comparing heavily with the singles from the last two albums.
Among the better down tempo songs, “Awaken the Giant” has a powerful guitar riff that dominates the chorus and the intro, dwarfing even Jorg’s thunderous drum kit. It almost sounds like a mid-70s Sabbath idea with a 2003 production. “Dreamweaver” has a solid keyboard theme and plenty of strong vocal moments. Sometimes I think I’m listening to a song by Queensryche, or at others a Helloween track, but throughout its duration your ears will stay keen. The closing track “Liberty” is a departure from the last 2 releases and closes on a more down tempo yet triumphant note rather than the usual sappy, pie-in-the-sky lyrical ballad that leaves a poor final impression on the listener.
In conclusion, this album is worthy of fan consumption, but look for it at $10 or less. You’ve got some solid songs on here but you have a good amount of wasted space also. If you liked the first Elements release, you will probably like most of what’s on here, but if you are keen on speed metal with strong choruses and epic wonders, look into picking up a copy of “Destiny”.
Bombastic pomp from Finland, part 2. After a two year creativity break, the Finns around mastermind Timo Tolkki returned with Elements pt. I, probably their most bombastic album to date. Exactly nine months later, the sequel is released, logically titled Elements pt. II. I am not going to lie. Elements I was a small disappointment for me. OK, so the songs were what you could expect from Stratovarius, but somehow it seemed to me as if the Finns had gotten tired, just releasing the same songs over and over to the fans. With Elements pt. II, I have been able to widen my horizons, to see new perspectives, and thus, the whole has become somewhat clearer. Number one has grown in my ears, and I am able to enjoy it more with number two nowadays. But now for part two…
“Alpha & Omega” is opened with the same sound of rolling waves that ended the first Elements album, and develops into a sad hymn, in which Timo Kotipelto very nicely and sadly lets his voice shine. The verses are very beautiful, the chorus somewhat less, but on the whole a very mature opener, kind of unusual for the band. After that comes “I Walk To My Own Song” and this mid tempo song also offers beautiful verses and a chorus that stays in your head. Next comes “I’m Still Alive” and Stratovarius deliver that which I have come to love most about them, namely a terrific speedy song. They have to play this song live so you’ll get the chance to sing along to the great lines “I’m still alive, and ready to feel the wind in my hair. And I know, there are so many things to share.” A short pause now, before the first ballad called “Season of Faith’s Perfection” comes through the speakers. This is a song you will have to listen to several times before you get the beauty of it. Just press the repeat button. “Awaken The Giant”, with distorted vocals and slow, pounding rhythms comes next, and this song could easily be compared to “Soul Of A Vagabond” from the first part. Another speedy anthem follows, called “Know The Difference”, whose chorus probably offers the most mature vocals of the whole album. The song also boasts terrific sing along parts. “Luminous” is an exciting thing. Is this a ballad, or a pop song or what? Grows with every listen, and Koti’s somewhat hesitant vocals only add another dimension to the piece. “Dreamweaver” is a mid tempo song, whose refrain reminds me a lot of “Awaken The Giant”, and the song need several listens to develop properly. Finally comes “Liberty”, and here the Finns (and the German, and the Swede) do everything the right way. The song is a ballad, but even so totally free of kitsch and clichés. Just very very beautiful and a great finish to a varied album. OK, so I would have like it if they played the chorus a little bit faster at the end of the song, but hey, you can’t get everything…
On the whole, “Elements pt. II” is more moody and melancholic than the first part. I have no problem with that. It only shows that the guys from the land of the thousand lakes have become more mature. Timo Tolkki’s lyrics are probably the most beautiful he’s ever written. He writes about things that concern everyone, in such a way that a spark of recognition should be fuelled within everyone. Less “eagle fly free”, also, and more melancholy and contemplation, but also the belief that everything does not have to be fucked up, there is a chance to make amends… Thus he has managed to add another dimension to an already enjoyable album. So sit down on the couch, and listen to the Elements saga, preferably with head phones, and get lost in the many faceted world of existence…
Yeah, I know it took me forever to review this album. It's not my fault. I literally just received it yesterday. Goddamnit, see if I ever buy anything from Amazon again. How can they sit there for almost a year after the album is released and tell me the album is not in stock, yet refuse to pay me back for my order? FUCK them. Well, I finally got it, and it's awesome Stratovarius material, even if some relatively distressing events have occured since Part I.
For all intents and purposes, this is Stratovarius's swansong album, at least at this point. After this album came out, differences between band members (by which I mean Timo Tolkki's gigantic psychological problems) caused Kotipelto and Michael to both leave. For a while they were going to bring in that crazy-ass German chick, but then Timo wised up and realized that Stratovarius is nothing without all five of the guys, so for now it looks like the band is finished. Which is a motherfucking tragedy, to say the least. Oh well, at least Jari Kainuklseflsinfsounfolvnoiesnfoiernofienfoweinf got married to some chick named Heidi.
Anyway, the album. This album is an exact follow-up to Elements Part I. The songs are almost identical in structure, and the production and all that is the same, although it sounds like the mixing is this one is a little worse than the original. Regardless, we have all the standard Strato songs on here, including the slow ballads, the catchy poppish numbers, the epic symphonic masterpieces, and the blistering instrumentals. In this album there is a significantly higher number of epics/ballads, which is very cool in that the whole album has a very grandiose feel to it but also marks a departure from the more traditional route of the band. Still, Stratovarius is all about being unpredictable and different with every song, so you can only repect them for this sort of stuff.
The best song on here is I Walk to My Own Song, which is the Hunting High and Low/Eagleheart-type catchy metal song on the album with a sweet guitar solo from Tolkki and a really fucking cool opening part that reminds me of SOS but still manages to stay original and exciting. Other than that, the songs are pretty standard Stratovarius stuff, which means, of course, that they blow the shit out of most other bands. Know the Difference is a slightly more fast-paced song where Tolkki and Jens show off in the solo parts. The only disappointing song on here is the opening song, Alpha and Omega. I think Timo was going for the effect he had with Destiny, but unfortunately it comes out as a cut-and-dry number with horrible vocal mixing.
Overall, however, this is an incredible album and a heartbreakingly powerful final album from the greatest band to ever grace Heavy Metal. Regardless of the personal differences and fucked up social lives these guys may have had, they took the world for an amazing musical ride that nobody will ever forget, inspiring in the process a legion of Euro-Power bands that were always replicating their sound but could never match it. Whatever beef you may have had with Stratovarius, you can't deny that they had their own style of music that was completely created by them and inspired a whole subgenre of metal. They were pioneers of metal, and they did indeed walk to their own song.
this album right here. Holy shit, I cannot believe Strato could top Elements Pt.1 (which was my top pick of the year until now) but they did.
While Pt.1 was bit more experimental (successful in most parts but not all), Pt.2 is taking the progression of Pt.1 and adding the good ole power metal of Strato from years past (Visions and Episode) and delivering one monster of an album. With Pt.1, Strato had balls and let the metal world know they can progress and take a few chances. With Pt.2, Strato just plain shouts out how they are one of the best (if not the best) power metal band in the world.
I'd also like to mention that this album gets to the point in about 50 minutes. No filler. Just a tight selection of power metal tunes of the highest quality. As for the songs:
Alpha & Omega - Ok, so the album starts out with an epic number but this is not your typical epic. This is moving, haunting, and very powerful. Koti seems to be not be trying as hard and this is a good thing. There is a more of a flow to his singing. The lyrics are more of the inspirational type that you expect from Strato but are more to the point. The music has a pounding riff and a brilliant solo by Timo. Amazing is the best adjective to describe this song.
I Walk To My Own Song - This song is more in the vein of Strato openers like Hunting and Eagleheart. Its up tempo but has more meat to it than those 2 songs. Its crunchy and catchy at the same time which is when Strato is at their best. Great sing along chorus thrown in with another spectacular solo.
I'm Still Alive - Typical power metal title, right? Yeah, but this is done with skill and mastery that most power metal clones don't have. This is what sets Strato above most of the others. Fast but executed perfectly. A headbanger, for sure.
Season of Faith's Perfection - The first ballad on the album but the first half of the song is a bit different than other Strato ballads. Its a different melody for the band and for Koti but it works. Its also a little proggy which is some of the leftover influence of Pt.1. Then the song explodes into a loud chorus which fits into the Strato ballad forumula.
Awaken The Giant - Drums start this song and you just know that your head will be banging shortly..............yup, there is the banger of a riff and now you are banging wildly and enjoying every minute of it. In come some distorted vocals by Koti which is a different but nice touch.
Know The Difference - This song opens up with some great keyboard work by Jen. He really is a master of his instrument and you know why everyone uses him for recordings. The song then turns into another speedy number. Nothing special here but still very well done.
Luminous - This song could have well been on Pt.1. Its a ballad with different tones and sounds and shows Strato expanding as musicians. Some might not like the band's progression but I do. The band tries different arrangements but still stays within their boundaries as a power metal band. Good singing by Koti on this one.
Dreamweaver - Whoa! 2 words to describe this song - kick ass! This sounds like a Rush song with a more metallic twist. Again, top notch songwriting and performance.
Liberty - The album ends with a very uplifting type of pianoy ballad. Again, some won't like this but Strato pulls it off with great execution and leaves feeling really good by the end of this.
All in all, another masterpiece by Strato in the same year! Not as progressive as Pt.1 but more a straight up release by one of the best power metal bands in the universe. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!