Stratovarius finished the Polaris world tour just in August and now they are already presenting their new album. It's the second album in the post-Tolkki era and the fans will be curious what Elysium has to offer. And even before the album will be in stores the band will hit the road again. This time they'll do a co-headliner tour with Helloween.
After a rehearsal with touring drummer Alex Landenburg who replaces Jörg Michael temporarily - as long as Jörg can't tour due to cancer treatment -, the band and some of the journalists headed to Dortmund for a pre-listening party. I wasn't the only one who couldn't make it to the rehearsals in Castrop-Rauxel and so we were waiting for the band to arrive.
As soon as everybody was there we got the chance to listen to the whole album and to talk to the guys afterwards.
The opener is Darkest Hours which is also the first single and by now already in stores (release date: Nov. 24th 2010). The tune has a dark edge and is a riff-based, keyboard-laden rocker with a catchy hook. If you want to know more about the single, check the review for Darkest Hours.
The next track - Under Flaming Skies - has a fast opening, the up-tempo tune offers tempi-changes and Jens Johansson's keyboards give it a symphonic edge. But it's the double leads which are memorable, a counterpart to Timo Kotipelto's vocals.
Timo Kotipelto's vocals lead you into Infernal Maze, at the balladesque opening he's accompanied by sacral keyboard sounds. Then they stop dead, just to head into a fast epic tune with fast double-bass drumming and neo-classical guitars. Kotipelto's vocals have an aggressive edge, at least at some passages.
Vocals and the strings are leading you into Fairness Justified, a power ballad. It's a slightly melancholy mid-paced track with a big, bombastic chorus. At this mid-tempo tune Timo Kotipelto has more space and adds some expressive vocal lines while the guitar solo is quite atmospheric.
Then they speed off for The Game Never Ends, double-bass drums force them ahead. The tune was written by keyboarder Jens Johansson and so you can expect an extraordinary keyboard solo. Aggressive riffing and a soaring vocal line make this a typical Stratovarius song with a sing-along-chorus.
A sacral intro leads you into Lifetime In A Moment. You hear the wind blow and it's like you are at an old monastery... Then the guitars set in and the song becomes a stomping rocker with a heavy groove. The pumping bass is like the songs life line. Spheric keyboards and rock riffing lead you into a hymnic refrain, but the song isn't overly catchy. Towards the end it gets a bit repetitive...
A keyboard intro leads you into another balladesque tune. Move The Mountain is based in Matias Kupiainen's acoustic guitar and Kotipelto's vocals. Later the band joins in and makes this a power ballad. Towards the end it gets even more powerful.
Time to speed up again! A warning message, voices... The fast double-bass drumming forces them ahead, heavy riffs and a spinet-sounding keyboard part make Event Horizon stick out. Even the chorus is pretty fast and so not as catchy as others. After the break they ease off a bit, but then speed off one more time. After a neo-classical keyboard passage the song ends with a siren, another warning and a countdown. This might sound a bit strange, but it's well done.
The title track Elysium is also the closer and it's an 18+ minute long opus. A mid-tempo opening with a semi-acoustic guitar passage and vocals, then the band joins in and the vocals are melancholy. They pick up speed and take you onto a journey with progressive elements, complex passages, twists and turns - like a sound track for a short film. After exploring different soundscapes they return to the opening theme to lead you out of Elysium.
Stratovarius stay on the chosen path and continue what they started with Polaris. The album offers balladesque stuff, mid-paced tunes and up-tempo tracks and presents a tight band who knows their strong points and classy solos. If you dig Polaris, then Elysium won't disappoint you. And if in the past Stratovarius didn't offer enough variety for you, then you should give this album a try. Same same, but different. You'll find typical Stratovarius tunes - and more. Well done.