Review Summary: Elements, Pt.1 is everything good about Stratovarius in a 61 minute package. Taking their grandiose and melodic style of power metal to the next level, it is no surprise that this is one of their best works yet.
Stratovarius is a very hit-or-miss power metal band. After creating their signature style on albums like Visions
, they have blazed into the power metal business with much success during the mid-1990s. Some loved the band for their more melodic brand of power metal, pushing the very boundaries of how grandiose and outrageous the genre can get. Others hated the band because of their clichéd nature, and how their material sometimes lacks any diversity. For both groups associated with Stratovarius, they should know that Elements, Pt. 1
is everything that made those mid-90s albums so great, but to the next level. Containing many longer songs, a higher presence of grandiose and melodic writing than some of their previous releases, and some of the most ridiculous choruses and solos the band has ever performed, this might be the epitome of their career.
The first element that stands out on this release is the much longer song length. Though the band has never shied away from longer songs, this release has only two songs below four minutes in length, and four at, or greater than, seven minutes in duration. As a result, fans of songs like “Visions (Southern Cross)” or “Infinity” will likely be joyous for this release. “Soul of a Vagabond,” “Elements” and “Fantasia” exemplify the creativity the band has had over the years, and are some of the greatest epics they have ever penned. Other songs have also been blessed with longer lengths, such as the fast-paced “Learning to Fly.” The song itself has a fairly simple structure, but its six minute length, and fantastic writing, allows it to stand out as one of the finest tracks the band has ever made.
Though the longer lengths have benefitted the majority of this album, Stratovarius still continues making a collection of shorter, and faster, power metal songs. “Find Your Own Voice” is just one example of Stratovarius playing at their most comfortable, even if the song is a bit shorter. This song continues in the normal style of power metal, featuring fast riffs and solos, double bass drumming, and grandiose choruses that are created entirely to sing along to. Though the style may be very simple, the songs in this style add a bit of variety in between the numerous longer epics of the album, fulfilling any fan’s hunger for Stratovarius’s older material. As a result, the combination of complex and simple writing allows the band to branch out with their sound; making this album one of their most unique releases.
As for the individual performances on Elements, Pt. 1
, the members of Stratovarius have improved dramatically over the years. Each member is a virtuoso at their individual instrument; having stronger performances than many of their power metal contemporaries. Very few musicians can sing like Timo Kotipelto can in “Learning to Fly,” or shred like Timo Tolkki throughout the entire instrumental titled “Stratofortress.” Of course, this duo should not solely be given credit for the higher technical and melodic elements, as more credit should be given to keyboardist Jens Johansson on this release. Throughout the album, (including the ridiculous aforementioned instrumental) he creates solos that are as remarkable as even Mr. Tolkki’s; pushing the boundaries as to how far a keyboardist can work in a power metal album. Outside of solos, he also leads numerous of the songs on this release, like the melodic anthem “Eagleheart.” As for the instrumentalists Jorg Michael and Jari Kainulainen on drums and bass respectively, both perform their jobs as well as they should. So, as a result, expect a lot of double bass drumming and equally quick bass playing in the backgrounds; as Stratovarius uses these elements in numerous songs, like “Find Your Own Voice.” However, these men get more opportunities to branch out and take a break from the blistering playing, as “Papillon” and “Elements” all focus on lower intensity and tempo playing.
In closing, if you get one Stratovarius album, I would advise that this should be that album. Though this album lacks the constant intensity of albums like Destiny
, I can attest to Elements, Pt. 1
being much more varied, grandiose, and unique in comparison. The album may be difficult to get through in one sitting thanks to its 61 minute length, but it is everything you could possibly want from Stratovarius. Comprising of overblown sing-along choruses, insane soloing on both the keyboards and guitars, and enough melodies and diversity to make many competing bands look bland in comparison, Stratovarius is at the top of their game with Elements, Pt.1