Sound: After Stratovarius' "Polaris", an album giving us a first approach to their new guitarist, Matias Kupiainen and new bassist Lauri Porra, the band goes on with "Elysium", an album that certainly follows their legacy. Although Timo Tolkki is missing from the band's lineup once again, somebody would notice that there are almost no changes in the style of Stratovarius. That's good news for Stratovarius' fans! The bad news, though, is that this might be the last album Michael makes with Stratovarius and we all know his contribution was always important for the band...
Back to "Elysium", apparently their style remains that neo-classical/power metal style with the rapid guitar and keyboard solos and never leaves those slight progressive elements we all witness at points of their songs. The album starts with "Darkest Hours" a rather encouraging song which reminds us of "Hunting High And Low". Although having a less impressive introduction it has an amazingly strong chorus. Afterwards come more power metal songs except two ballads, "Fairness Justified" and "Move The Mountain". The two ballads create a strong feeling of melancholy, the former with a rather slow musical development and the latter with an intriguing intro and an expressing chord progression. A very good impression also make the heavy "Lifetime In A Moment", a competitive creation of Lauri Porra, "Even Horizon", which proves Stratovarius' great influence of neo-classical and "The Game Never Ends", which is created to remind us that Johansson can be very fast and won't stop for any reason. The album finishes with the epic "Elysium", which is the longest song ever created by Stratovarius. Divided into three parts, it begins with a rather not intriguing intro and goes on with a fairly interesting "first part". However, from the second part on it becomes gradually more interesting and shows what Stratovarius really are and deserve to be, especially because of the terrific keyboard/guitar solo after the second chorus of that part and finally because it can "extract" all the hidden "hope and faith" of the listener leaving them with the sense of flying by the end of the song.
Kotipelto's voice never lets us down and Kupiainen's playing fits very well for the band and he's now proven a capable successor of Tolkki. Johansson plays a rather important role into the band, as always, while Michael enhances the songs significantly, showing his drums mastery and ability to fit great for the band. Porra proves to be a highly skilled bassist, without whom the songs would be empty. // 9
Lyrics: In general, lyrics keep Stratovarius' style alive and comply very well with the musical parts. When music says "happiness", Kotipelto is happy! That's a great skill Kotipelto undoubtedly has mastered, among the other skills he is perfect at, and his voice is what power metal needs today.
Stratovarius never forget their tribute to Earth, this time with "Under Flaming Skies" and remind us what we owe to nature. Most songs of this album have lyrics that hide great hope inside them with "Darkest Hours" being a strong base for that feeling and "Elysium" being the peak of it. Somebody also notices the great contrast created in "Lifetime In A Moment" when Kotipelto says "Moment in a lifetime/ Lifetime in a moment", a phrase that gives us a rather cynical impression of what time really is (in connection to the lyrics and music of the rest of the song, of course). A somehow insignificant "error", noticed at the end of "Event Horizon", is the countdown that tries to state (almost apparently for the listener) that something is coming, which not the best way to introduce an epic song such as "Elysium", in my opinion. But this does not affect in any way the overall great impression the lyrics and Kotipelto's voice give the listener. // 8
Overall Impression: Well, the overall impression "Elysium" gives to a Stratovarius listener or fan is "Stratovarius never die". It complies very well with their style and proves their greatness, especially with songs "Darkest Hours", "Under Flaming Skies", "Lifetime In A Moment", "Event Horizon" and "Elysium", the latter being my favorite Stratovarius' song. "Infernal Maze", although having fairly good lyrics and music, is not a song that makes very good connection with the rest of the album. However, it could not easily be excluded, as it shows the excellent combination Kupiainen and Johansson make.
This disc cannot be removed from my shelf for any reason. Say it's lost, I'd buy a new one the following day. Just perfect. // 9