7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2003
2003 has been quite the busy year for Stratovarius. Releasing two albums - Elements 1 & 2 - signing a $3.5 million three album record deal with Sanctuary, and also the very public disputes between band members that saw the departure of singer Timo Kotipelto and drummer Jörg Michael. Meaning that this latest release by the band will be the last to feature Timo and Jörg, which, to me, is a dissapointment as the first thing that attracted me to Stratovarius was Timo's singing.
But Elements Pt 2 is a fine album for Timo to bow out on, choosing now to work on his solo career. You'll find that Stratovarius is "dictated" by guitarist/songwriter Timo Tolkki, who is the founding member of the band and hence forth makes all the decisions. That didn't sit will with Kotipelto obviously who wanted more involvement in the song writing side of Stratovarius, which led to a fist-fight and the singers dismissal from the band. But enough about that controversy that's surrounding Stratovarius right now. The thing to concentrate on is the music.
Opener "Alpha & Omega" continues where Elements Pt 1 left off. A more metal song, fuelled by crushing riffs, excellent drumming, Timo's soaring high-pitched vocals and some surprisingly great lyrics for a band from Finland. Telling the story of a omnipotent being it feels almost operatic, and you will soon find yourself head banging and singing along.
Next to "I Walk To My Own Song", it features a lot more involvement from keyboardist Jens Johansson - something which is featured a lot more in this album than Pt 1 - and is a catchy, fun song. The lyrics feel empowering, and Timo really excells here. Of course I cant take anything away from the rest of the band, they're all on top form.
"I'm Still Alive" is a dissapoint in comparison to the first two songs. Starting off strongly, it seems to lose focus by the time the chorus rolls around, Timo failing to project his voice over the guitars and drums, only when it all slows down to raise back up as he reiterates that he's still alive does this song truly shine.
Next up "Season Of Faiths Perfection" is a definite step up. A more mellow, sombre song starting with Timo singing over a acoustic guitar, the keyboards then play a brief interlude, before the whole band joins in, along with a great chorus. Simplistic but great lyrics find that you can soon sway your head to this song before the song roars up majestically. Awesome song.
Going back to their more metal roots, "Awaken The Giant" is the stuff that first makes people want to learn to play the guitar. Great riffs make it so that you can find yourself head banging to the opening in no time. With the pre-chorus and chorus this song really comes into it's own, you stamping your foot down to match the music.
"Know The Difference" begins with a frantic, fast-paced piano opening that you'd expect to hear from a modern day phantom of the opera. Soon enough the song thrashes along, but you'll find that Timo's vocals become kind of drowned out and the chorus doesn't quite have a impact because of this. Nevertheless, still a great track for the mindless head banging.
Yet another slow moment, "Luminous" has a great opening, feeling magical, like you have stepped into some sort of trance, with nothing but the voice of Timo and the sweetly dripped backing of the keyboards. When the drumming slowly kicks in you know that the song is building to something, and when the guitar and bass hit, you are very much rewarded.
Onto "Dreamweaver", Stratovarius go back to the song-structure they used on Infinite. IE having the title of the track sung out in the background while Timo continues on with the chorus. Timo is used to his full potential on this song, one very instantly catchy track.
Closer "Liberty" has exactly that feeling... Liberation. With the guitar opening, this song sets high expectations and doesn't dissapoint. Using string instruments, keyboards, some great use of the guitars, bass and drums and as always, Timo's great singing this is a definite treat at the end of the album. Whether Tolkki is a "dictator" or not, he can write some great music and lyrics.
All in all a superb album. And if the music wasn't good enough, the cover art is very, very good. Something very eye-catching and just screams out "buy me" - well it did to me....
Who knows what the future holds for Stratovarius. Will the new singer be able to top Timo? I've heard rumours that it could be a female singer.... All I've got to say is that if Tolkki continues to write lyrics and music like this, the new singer is three quarters of what Timo is, then Stratovarius have a very bright future indeed.
Five stars - Better than Elements Pt 1.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 12 March 2004
I initially wasn't going to buy this album. Elements 1 wasn't great in comparison to earlier albums, and the recent troubels within the band only worried me further. However, seeing the somehow incredibly inticing cover art, I figured "Hell, why not. They deserve a break".
Unfortunately, this album disappoints. Its hard to describe. All the songs are solid, and are what you expect of Stratovarius...but thats it. Theres nothing new, and nothing to stand out. This album might as well be titled "Misc Metal album #644". Elements 1 had a few really good tracks that stood out and demanded repeat listening, but this one really doesn't hvae much to offer. At no point does any of the tracks come close to songs such as Black Diamond, Eternity or Falling Into Fantasy from previous albums.
In terms of the band members, nothing has suffered. TK is still a fantastic vocalist, and Jens is one of the best keyboard players I have ever heard. TT is still a respectable guitarist too, but on this album, none of them appear to be challenged. The guitar riffs are the same ones we've heard a thousand times, TK and Jens continue to shine as the most talented members of the band, but not enough to make this a stand out album.
By all means, buy this album if you are a total Strat nut - you'll probably love it and come back to your computer and yell at this review. But for me...the only destiny for my copy is to sit in my CD rack collecting dust while I wait for the next Koltipelto solo album.
On a more topical note - Unofortunately, Koltipelto has also now left...this is the last Strat album featuring this excellent vocalist. Enjoy his voice while you can...and get his solo stuff!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2011
I think the songs on this album are all, on the whole, of high quality. However, the problem is that the album structure is not very varied and the songs sound a little formulaic by around the half way point. There are standouts which would, on their own, merit four or even five stars ('I'm Still Alive', 'Know the Difference', 'Luminous', 'Dreamweaver') but, the rest, while being good, just seem to merge into a bit of a mulch.
Whereas 'Elements - Part 1' was a masterpiece with a mix of short, medium and long songs of varying tempos, 'Part 2' seems too monotonous. However, I'd would still definitely buy this album for half of the songs. It's just the rest of them sound the same as each other.
on 1 September 2006
For some reason I can't bring to mind, Stratovarius came up in one of the descriptions that resulted whilst searching Ebay for Ayreon CDs! Curious, I followed this up and took a chance, bid for and won `Elements Part 2' without hearing a note beforehand.
I was pleasantly surprised. Whilst not the normal fare I would feed into my CD-player (Ayreon, Genesis, Pendragon...you get the picture), the music of Stratovarius contains many of the elements (please forgive the pun) I really love. There is great guitar-work, keyboards, and orchestration, sweeping and complex musical themes, melodies you can hum or whistle long after the CD stops revolving. Oh, and they do offer a degree of listening variety on their discs - some significant changes in tempo and style from track to track.
Ah, did I mention the lyrics and vocals? Now you must understand that Stratovarius are Finnish (yes, the same as the incredible winners of the 2006 Eurovision!) Whilst not quite of the same stable as those Eurovision winners, the lyrics can be corny and are delivered with the inflection that can only come from northern Europe. Strangely, this is part of their charm. However, like (as I believe) Nick Barrett of Pendragon, there seems to be a degree of over-ambition. I would like to hear the likes of Damian Wilson have a go at singing their material - he could do justice to the sometimes soaring and powerful vocals required of Tolkki's compositions. I'm afraid that Timo Kotipelto struggles to hit the heights.
So, much as I like their music (`Elements 1 & 2', and `Infinite' purchased to-date), I hover between a 3- or 4-star rating, erring more towards the latter due to the music itself. As ever, it's all a matter of personal preference and taste, of course. A friend of mine listened and likened them to Iron Maiden - perhaps he's right, I wouldn't really know. Based on what I have briefly browsed on their (extensive and informative) website, the band has undergone a change of style since their earlier work (claimed to be more influenced by Black Sabbath and Ozzy). Visit their website, learn more and try their MP3 samples.