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Stratovarius > Elements Pt. 1 > Reviews
Stratovarius - Elements Pt. 1

Highest of Mountains, Still He Climbs - 60%

Twisted_Psychology, December 28th, 2021

Respectively releasing in January and October of 2003, Elements Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 have a rather strange place in Stratovarius’s long-running trajectory. They aimed to push the band’s signature power metal style to even further extents with more ambitious song structures and grandiose symphonics than before. However, the results are a very noticeable step down from the string of classic albums that had come to define them, and the lofty presentation does little to hide the onset fatigue that would cause their classic lineup to implode a couple years later. And as a teenager in the mid-2000s who purchased Pt. 1 as a blind buy with no proper context of what they were going through, this wasn’t exactly the strongest first impression…

For what it’s worth, at least the album starts off with its two strongest numbers. Like “Hunting High and Low” before it, “Eagleheart” is the quintessential burst of loveable power metal cheese that kicks things off with a bang. The opening guitar melody wastes no time with its infectious optimism and the relentlessly cheerful vocal lines are supported by the sort of energetic structure that gets more saccharine as it goes along in the best way possible. “Soul of a Vagabond” follows it up with effective contrast, applying its swells and choirs to a mid-tempo stomp and eastern melodies in classic Rainbow/Malmsteen tradition complete with another effective refrain.

From there, the subsequent songs aren’t quite as effective. “Find Your Own Voice” shows some promise with more intense chugging and double bass but the vocals’ insistence on going as high as they possibly can ends up coming at the expense of an actual hook, most egregiously during the abrasive chorus. “Learning To Fly” and “Stratofortress” offer more serviceable speed runs but end up being middle of the road, overshadowed by both the album’s best and worst tracks.

Speaking of which, the saccharine quality that makes “Eagleheart” such a fun opener ultimately comes back to bite the band in the ass when it comes to the album’s most symphonic tracks. I always end up zoning out during “Fantasia” as the near ten minutes of syrupy swells and occasional chugs just come off as directionless, and the twelve-minute title track doesn’t fare better in terms of memorability despite its heavier makeup and dramatic choirs. Elsewhere, “Papillon” ends up on the awkward side of Disney metal as its sweeping buildup doesn’t offer much in terms of depth or catharsis and “A Drop in the Ocean” ends the album on a soft whimper.

I don’t hate Elements, Pt. 1 as much as high school me did on that disappointing first listen, but it remains a disjointed, overstuffed effort. The shift likely made sense at the time, promising a theatrical step forward from the solid but perhaps formulaic albums like Destiny and Infinite. But with those extra bells and whistles not bolstered by more manageable structures, the pacing drags to the point of exhaustion despite the overall runtime not being that much longer than the albums before it. I can imagine diehard Stratovarius fans still finding a lot to enjoy here but unless you can handle some extra lactose, there’s not much that warrants revisiting beyond the first couple songs. Thankfully Pt. 2 is considerably more palatable.

“Soul of a Vagabond”

Withstanding the Elements - 90%

TheHumanChair, August 5th, 2021

First thing is first. The hate I see for this record absolutely baffles me. I genuinely do not understand it. Did huge swaths of people who hate power metal suddenly decide that THIS was the album they all had to group together and destroy? It's extremely unfair because just looking at this album as an outsider, it'd be easy to think this was one of the worst things Stratovarius ever did. In reality, "Elements, Pt. 1" (which will hence forth be referred to as "Elements 1" in this review) is one of the best albums Stratovarius ever released. By far, it's the greatest album they released since they made it big. I hear "Oh its so cheesy" constantly in regards to this album. Have you listened to a SINGLE other power metal record in your life? Sure, not every single power metal album ever recorded is cheesy, but the vast majority of them have some level of cheese. It's not like "Elements 1" is worse in that regard than hundreds if not thousands of other power metal releases that don't/didn't get NEAR the levels of hate this one got.

Time for my big gripe, though. Double albums shouldn't exist. At all. No, this is not directed at "Elements" or Stratovarius exclusively, and I'm sure this sentiment will pop up again in later reviews of mine. There has never been a double album that has been worth being a double album. None. Yes, I've heard whatever double album you're currently thinking about that you enjoy. Yes, even the non-metal ones you're thinking of, too. No, I do not think they're worth being a double album. Every double album in history has fat that needs to be trimmed. They all have a series of garbage tracks that could have been cut to make the album a single album. "Elements" tries to be sly in making itself a double album that is separated into two releases. One at the start of the year, and one towards the end. The flaws still show. "Elements 1" without a doubt got the better end of the deal, though.

What can I say about "Eagleheart" that hasn't been said by anyone who has even remotely enjoyed power metal? "Eagleheart" is a classic for very good reason. Everything is just perfect about it. The riffs, the synchronized keyboard work, the punchy bass lines, Kotipelto's soaring and beautiful melodies, and of course, the out of this world chorus. Catchy is an understatement when it comes to "Eagleheart." I'd like to think this song was Tolkki's answer to "Hunting High and Low." It's well documented that Kotipelto wrote the majority of the later, so it's my head-canon to think Tolkki saw how popular that song was and went "Oh yeah? I can top that." And top it he did. If someone asked me to sum up power metal in just one track, that track might very well be "Eagleheart." Kotipelto, however, needs to get his due praise in the form of "Find Your Own Voice." Not only is the track one of the fastest the band has ever made, but it is hands down the greatest vocal performance Kotipelto has ever displayed. He hits high notes on the track that he has never hit before or since. Once again, it's my own personal head-canon that this song was a challenge to Kotipelto. "How high can he go?" This was the answer. He is earth-shattering here. Of course, the song also has a fantastic solo, and Jens really accents Kotipelto's notes with his keys during the chorus. "Find Your Own Voice" is just a showcase for the band.

But when it comes to showcasing the band itself, the undisputed champion is the instrumental "Stratofortress." It's easily my favorite instrumental ever written. Strato has amazing instrumentals, but none compete with "Stratofortress." The speed along with the perfect timing by EVERYONE playing is near inhuman. Tolkki and Jens are in perfect harmony playing some extremely complicated neo-classical parts and never miss a beat. Jari and Jorg are also laying down a complimentary and equally complicated rhythm section. There is no better definition of mastery in terms of playing an instrument than what is displayed on "Stratofortress." It isn't all about the speed on this record, though. "Soul of a Vagabond" is a slower tempo track that Tolkki's riffs absolutely kill it on. The song's core riff is just crushing, and the orchestration that builds up behind him make the song a spectacle. Honestly, the song's intro before the vocals kick in is worth its weight alone. I actually think the majority of the track after the intro doesn't quite live up to the opening. For the verses, it's Jari's phenomenal bass groove that makes the track. For the chorus, the backing choir and orchestration behind Kotipelto give it a really cool feel. Almost like a jury in the speaker's head is casting judgment down on them. While the intro is the best part of the track, the rest of it is still very good.

"Elements 1" is not without metal beauty, either, though. Both "Fantasia" and "Papillion" are heavy and beautiful tracks to get lost into. "Fantasia" is one of my all time favorite Strato epics. The whole song from start to finish has such a mystical feeling. The strings backing the band make it so magical. Much like you'd expect from the song's theming, "Fantasia" really feels nostalgic in the best of ways. It brings out a sense of child-like wonder. It always makes me recall being a kid when the world was filled with magic and beauty. It still has the fast, crushing riffs and catchy keyboard work that you'd expect from Strato, but its the song's mood and emotional feeling it brings out of the listener that make it special. The small instrumental section around the four minute mark hits me hardest. It's so incredibly filled with calm beauty. "Papillion" starts out with some outstanding child vocals that give the song a mysterious and bittersweet feeling. Kotipelto seamlessly replacing the child vocals once again is perfectly fitting for the mood of the song. "Papillion" is another textbook lesson in mood setting. From the start to the end, it keeps building instrumentally. Each new section adds something heavier and more epic. Jorg's china cymbal use is also deliciously tasteful. The song is a journey that ebbs and flows like a good novel. Kotipelto also slam dunks the chorus, too.

While "Elements 1" doesn't have any truly bad or forgettable tracks, there are some that overstay their welcome. Strato always seems to elongate a song or two too much throughout their whole discography, but nowhere is it more noticeable than on "Elements 1." The title track would be right up there with great songs on this record if it were half the length. It has a cool intro, and Tolkki's riff on the song is a fiery and catchy one. The song is just too repetitive for me, though. So many of the parts on the track go on way to long. I find myself getting bored with a lot of the sections of the song and asking when it's going to transition. And then a lot of those parts are essentially revisited, too, which makes it feel quite stale. Good song, but too long. "A Drop in the Ocean" is the real stinker, though. It's your standard ballad. If you've heard one like it, you've heard this song. Nothing bad about it besides the fact that it goes on for seven minutes. Two of those seven being an insanely slow fade out with ocean sounds. Half of the 'song' song could have been cut, and half of the outro should have been cut to make this a four minute track. I'd have no complaints with it then.

"Elements 1" is an exceptional album in the Stratovarius catalog. It is one that you can't go wrong with. It has bits of everything you could ask for in a power metal record, and does every element well (pun very much intended.) I implore anyone that reads this not to let the criminally low ratings this album received stop you from giving it a shot. Not only is it a phenomenal record, but it's also, in my opinion, truly the last great album of the band's entire career up to time of writing. Now, if only the album's sequel could have been as good as this one, I'd have had to change my views on double albums.

Excrement, pt.1 - 23%

gasmask_colostomy, April 26th, 2018

If you don’t like power metal, you’re not going to like this. That’s the first thing to know if you’re wondering about the really quite terrible scores littered around under my own and this can certainly explain away some of the negativity for the album. The total power metal cliché attack of this release also makes me reconsider the reason why Stratovarius was such a gruff and unfloral album – it was probably a reaction to this one and its similarly ball-less follow-up, Elements pt.2. For my review of part 2, I said that there was only one thing worth listening to, which was ‘I Walk to My Own Song’ and really it is one of the band’s better mid-paced numbers. Here, however, I’m not quite sure which song I should be recommending to take away from the album. Unfortunately, they are all quite bad and sharing context only makes it worse.

When I say that you’ve got to like power metal to like this, I mean that you’ve got to own every Rhapsody of Fire release and you probably think that Helloween are sometimes a bit too serious. If you liked any of Nightwish’s post-Tarja albums, you’re also in with a shout of enjoying Elements. As far as this review goes, I’m none of the above, though I don’t object to Dark Passion Play, since there are lots of great musical ideas scattered around in a capacious running time and the singing is not too bad, if a bit poppy. The singing on this album is actually very poppy at times, such as during ‘Fantasia’, when Timo Kotipelto is caught narrating a children’s story with sickeningly hopeful lyrics like these:

Resides deep in your heart
Leave your worries far behind
Let the freedom ring the bell
Let us all unite
Borders made of hate are gone
Nations singing the song of peace
In Fantasia

To be fair, ‘Fantasia’ is based on The Neverending Story, but that’s a pretty muddled book anyway, even without the saturation of sugar into the hopeful themes – making it into a 10 minute song was never going to be a good idea.

That last comment is another clear indication of why Stratovarius were remorselessly fucked by the reception to Elements, since they went fully into the “epic song” idea and came out of it with three retarded pieces (as opposed to two on the preceding Infinite). ‘Fantasia’ is the lightest object that has ever been called ballast; quite how a song with only two verses and the chorus repeated three times can be that long without being funeral doom is beyond me. And, in fact, putting a 10 minute funeral doom song into the middle of Elements pt.1 would have made about as much sense as the frankly piss-poor structuring and flow of ideas shown on the epics. I’m including ‘Papillon’ as one of the epics even though it’s a seven minute power ballad, firstly due to the fact that all those crashing chords and high vocals are clearly supposed to be epic, but secondly because it lasts about as long as the last ice age though isn’t nearly as cool. Concerning the title track, it’s just a travesty because someone was clearly keen to use orchestral elements and choirs, but getting them to all sing “Elements………………………wind…………………fire…………………………water………………………earth” when nothing else is happening and then just keep going into five or six refrains at the end was an awful squandering of all those extra paychecks.

Usually, Stratovarius have some decent faster songs, though I’m afraid I don’t have good news on that score either. The only pieces under five minutes are ‘Stratofortress’ and ‘Eagleheart’, which is a surprisingly plain single on which Kotipelto pretty obviously goes out of tune in the pre-chorus (see Napalm_Satan’s review for the version with added invective). The former is not too bad, but the Finns had already milked that particular cow on songs like ‘Stratovarius’ and ‘Stratosphere’, from which we can notice a theme developing. Normally, I’d be very happy about the riffing and soloing of ‘Find Your Own Voice’, except that today I listened to Destiny and found that it’s a less convincing copy of ‘The Rebel’, while ‘Learning to Fly’ is overlong and thus doesn’t hit like it should. Crucially, even the ballads are disappointing and that’s an area where Stratovarius have often excelled. Most of them here are too overdone, larded up with symphonic fluff that just makes it all the more painful that Kotipelto isn’t reaching the heights the music demands.

All this means that fans of power metal might feel a little wan by the time they reach the final song of the release (the passable ballad ‘A Drop in the Ocean’), since they haven’t been given much metal, but more of a symphonic experience like the closing music of a film with thousands of extras to list in the credits. None of the musicians make much of a name for themselves, with Timo Tolkki doing nothing of note on rhythm guitar (at least, nothing he hadn’t done better before) and only adding a few interesting leads to the disorganized ‘Elements’. Stratovarius really crumbled very quickly after releasing Destiny and didn’t begin an upward trend until nearly a decade later. One may want to give kudos to the five-piece for throwing everything at Elements pt.1, but I would have preferred them to stick to the simpler and more exciting formula that made Infinite a pretty good listen. This is power metal that even power metal fans might not be able to stomach.

Very original and very underrated - 75%

ijy10152, April 22nd, 2012

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.

the worst thing ever released on a major (?) label - 1%

caspian, August 31st, 2011

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.

An ordinary and bad copy of Infinity - 29%

kluseba, February 24th, 2011

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.

A gallon of rainbows with a side of fluffy clouds. - 56%

Empyreal, May 14th, 2009

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, 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.

Better than the last one. - 71%

hells_unicorn, January 24th, 2007

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.

Rip Off Yourself and Prosper - 60%

Perpetual_Winter, April 2nd, 2005

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 lame, 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.

They still sound pretty good - 85%

Procyon, March 10th, 2004

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.

Some good moments but just scrapes itself along - 65%

Wez, March 8th, 2004

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.

They're back and as amazing as always! - 95%

OSheaman, July 16th, 2003

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.

Little bit of progression - 68%

ThePKH, February 26th, 2003

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.