Elements Pt. 1
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Given the number of power metal CDs we're sent each month, it'd be easy to review this CD in four words: "hey, it's power metal." But Stratovarius has always stood out in the power metal scene, and indeed, they're one of its current leaders. So the question of the month is whether or not Elements Part 1 is worthy of their legacy...
drumroll... wait for it...
How's that for an excited yes? I'm getting in a power metal mood now. From the brightly colored rainbow cover to the happy hyper guitars and high pitched vocals, Stratovarius take a tried and true formula and make it work. The real question of the month should be whether or not real men can justifiably listen to this music. I'm not going to touch that one.
But I can tell you that Elements Pt. 1 is a very ambitious release that manages to deliver. Using a live orchestra, Stratovarius have crafted some of their best songs yet. Most notably, "Soul of a Vagabond" is worth the price of the CD. It has an epic 70's styled orchestral theme that backs a powerful, driving bass riff, memorable guitar riffs and solos, and an amazing chorus complete with choirs. The song bears more resemblance to Savatage than power metal, but Timo Kotipelto's revered voice is still falsetto - no big changes there.
The rest of the songs take you through an array of power metal standards. From the classical stylings of "Find Your Own Voice" and "Stratofortress" to the thematic and upbeat "Eagleheart", Elements Pt. 1 is as power metal as power metal can get. And that's pretty power metal, if you ask me. The CD ends on a ballad, "A Drop in the Ocean," which is surprisingly atmospheric and emotive. Whenever the word 'ballad' gets tossed around in power metal circles, it's usually a bad sign. This time, it works. The superb production allows each individual note room to breathe, so every instrument plays a large role in the sound.
Going back to my original question about whether or not real men can listen to this and remain real men, well, that's personal. But in a way this review is useless. Because if you enjoy power metal and you aren't scheming to get this CD already, then there's nothing I can do for you. For the most part, this is a love it or hate it affair. However, I do suggest that even non-power metal fans give this one a chance. I hardly consider myself a fan of the genre, but somehow Stratovarius entertain me.
They do have a tendency to resort to cliche power metal sounds every so often, but largely their focus is on powerfully evocative songwriting. So forget the genre labels for a minute, and listen to Stratovarius without any preconceptions of what they *should* sound like. You'll see that amdist the 80's cliches and occasionally whiny vocals, there is a wealth of artistic merit, memorable melodies, and excellent musicmanship. For me, the live orchestra and choir is what propels this record into the "must check out" category. I've never before been interested enough in Stratovarius to listen through a whole CD of theirs, but I can safely say that Elements Pt. 1 delivers all the way through.
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