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Off the beaten track - 95%

ijy10152, February 25th, 2012

We all know of Stratovarius's troubled history, Timo Tolkki the infamous ex song writer and guitarist of Stratovarius was busy leading Stratovarius down a slippery slope. Infinite was good and raised many eyebrows. Elements was not nearly as good and raised even more eyebrows. While part 1 was pretty good, part 2 was much worse and their next album after that, Stratovarius, was just so awful with only 2 good songs on it. Polaris was their first album after Tolkki left and was one of their strongest to date, rivaling some of their best albums such as Destiny, Infinite and Episode. This album, Elyisium, blows them all away like dead leaves in the wind. In this album, Stratovarius has taken the sounds from Polaris and improved them, while also going off in some completely new directions that I fully approve of.

The album starts off exceptionally strong with three bombastic and fun metal songs (Darkest Hours, Under Flaming Skies and Infernal Maze) containing some really fantastic musicianship and doing a good job of hooking anyone listening to this for the first time. Then it slows things down a bit with Fairness Justified, which while not my favorite song on this album, is a good song nonetheless and kind of gives the listener a break before moving on. In my opinion, The Game Never Ends deserves special mention because this song is probably the best straight up metal song ever produced by Stratovarius. It's fast, fun, has excellent vocals and really, really good guitar and keyboard work. The crown jewel of course is the solo starting around 2:04, this solo is.... mind blowing, it is the fastest and most intense metal solo I have ever heard (and I have heard a lot of good ones).

The rest of this album passes with some varied and very interesting songs leading up to the amazing, fantastic title track of this album, Elysium. This 18 minute behemoth is in my opinion the embodiment of good songwriting and symphonic power metal. It incorporates elements of Stratovarius heard in the other songs on this album while including some new material and new directions that make me really excited to hear what they come up with next. Movement 1 is a moderately slow anthemic piece with some very technical guitar and keyboard playing, and in my opinion the best vocals ever performed by Timo Kotipelto. The second movement goes back to the Darkest Hours/ Infernal Maze style of '90s-ish metal, but making it a little more modern and including a very catchy chorus, and as a singer myself this part has some of the most difficult vocals I have heard in Stratovarius music. The third movement is even slower than the first one and really incorporates more of this new Stratovarius that I really, really like. With sweeping vocals that arouse feelings of sadness and uplifting hope at the same time really make an impact and an incredible ending to this phenomenal album.

I love this album and I really hope that Stratovarius continues to build upon this new direction they seem to be moving in and make the next album even better! If that's even possible.