Elements Pt. 2 (Nuclear Blast)
by Vinnie Apicella
The Finnish fivesome fires on most cylinders with the follow-up to last year’s Elements Pt. 1. While most talk of Finnish bands centers around the pessimistic side of the equation and black metal bleakness, Stratovarius stands apart with their uplifting and operatic sound that’s influenced countless others in the formidable Euro-metal market.
Elements Pt. 2 features nine tracks of varying tempo, from slow and soulful to (a minority of) fleet-fingered speed metal, merging the accepted standards of virtuosity, vision, and depth with thundering percussion from in-demand skinsman Jorg Michael and intuitive key work by Jens Johansson.
Opening with “Alpha & Omega,” a symphonic and unusually plodding affair, the songs flow smoothly and follow no apparent pattern of concept; random “elements” which in fact possess more immediacy than its heavily-orchestrated predecessor. “I Walk to My Own Song” and “I’m Still Alive” are perfect examples of power tempered with pride, highlighting Tolkki’s sometimes self-indulgent string work, and the shiny pipes of TK, a gifted yet very un-metal vocalist at times.
Elements Pt. 2 captures emotion on all scales, touching the somber side with stirring epics like “Season of Faith’s Perfection” with its rousing atmospheric accompaniment, the vindictively stormier character of “Awaken the Giant,” or the fretboard flash of “Know the Difference.” “Dreamweaver” is pure traditional metal, featuring a catchy opening riff and Dream Theater-like drama before breaking into a crushing chorus akin to the anthemic appeal of a Running Wild or Sinner sing-along.
Overall, complaints are few: Only nine songs, skeletal production that’s exposed in the percussion, and the touching but too weepy closer, “Liberty.” Stratovarius, raised on and still characterized by old German stalwarts like Helloween, or the classically-trained efforts of Malmsteen, produce another multi-faceted model of consistency.
(2323 W. El Segundo Blvd. Hawthorne, CA 90250)