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Ordinary first half and stunning second half - 79%

kluseba, February 3rd, 2011

After the very weak and annoying "Polaris" I expected the worst and wasn't sure if the band would be able to carry on writing amazing albums without the mastermind Timo Tolkki. Obviously, they can as this new album beats the previous disaster piece by far. The keyboards have gone to the background and the guitar celebrates a furious revival by playing some very strong solos. Even the bass is audible and the drums quite which one couldn't quite say about the last album. The songs are truly diversified, especially in the second half of the record.

Let's be honest. The first five songs are rather standard power metal. Those songs are enjoyable to listen to but wouldn't carry a whole record. The dramatic and melancholic "Infernal maze" is the best songs out of the first five ones while I ask myself why the band puts inoffensive average power metal tracks like "Under flaming skies" or "The game never ends" on this record. "Darkest hours" sounds somewhat like "Deep unknown" or "Millenium" and though it is catchy the band has already been there and should not try to copy itself too much after all the things that happened with the line-up.

The band is though really strong as soon as they create epic and progressive masterpieces and I think that this has always been their stronger side. "Lifetime in a moment" surprises with an atmospheric introduction and a very epic chorus. "Move the mountain" is a rather calm progressive song that creates a magic atmosphere that grows more and more on me. "Event horizon" surprises with interesting sound effects and an original intro and outro and is still one of the heaviest tracks on the record. This kind of strange balance works very well and rates this song up to one of the very best on this record alongside with "Lifetime in a moment" and finally the title track "Elysium". Instead of doing minute long intros like many other so called progressive bands would do, the band kicks off with a catchy riff and leads us from one great melody to the other and the eighteen minutes pass quite fast and are surprisingly entertaining. This song is not that epic and pathetic as one might expect, it simply rocks and keeps the tension high without minute long solos and I liked the track from the beginning to the end the first time I listened to it. And I am sure that the song and even the album itself will still grow on me in the future.

All in all, this is an unexpected comeback of the power metal legends and I feel happy about it as the other leaders of the genre like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Edguy and so on delivered rather disappointing and weak records in the past two or three years and I felt somewhat a downward spiral of the European power metal scene that ceased to innovate and surprise me. And though the first five tracks rate this album a little bit down, the four final songs are worth the wait and sound fresh and progressive at the same time. Maybe the band could do a whole album like this the next time and forget about the potential singles, especially about putting four or five of them on a record that will surely never be put out in the end.

Nevertheless, one can say that Stratovarius are back in force for a new decade!