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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.