Etikettarkiv: guitar solo

Stratovarius – Elysium (2011)

Power metal pioneer Stratovarius’ twelth studio album Polaris basically shocked the fans in 2009, bringing forth a powerful line-up after the departure of long-time guitarist and composer Timo Tolkki, who left the band in a big feud in 2008. Polaris was a refreshing new album, stepping on new grounds of progressive metal and techno, and meanwhile continuing the twenty-year tradition that made band famous to begin with – technically challenging yet extremely melodic, uplifting songs with heart and emotion.

2011’s Elysium, the second album with the new line-up, is probably even better. The album highlights on melodic hits such as Darkest Hours and Event Horizon as well as the beautiful ballad Move the Mountain and the epic and emotional 18-minute title track as well as the beautiful Lifetime in a Moment. The album perfectly balances all that we have learned to expect from Stratovarius, and it even brings a bunch of new stuff to the table.

1. Darkest Hours (04:10)

Released in late November of 2010 alongside ”Infernal Maze”, Darkest Hours is another one of the many Stratovarius hits and singles that wouldn’t grow on me immediately, alongside especially the Polaris single ”Deep Unknown”. While growing on me eventually and becoming a pretty strong track, ”Darkest Hours” stays somewhat of a medicore track, though it is indeed a good listen.

2. Under Flaming Skies (03:51)

An interesting track with some unique riffs and melodies, even though I hoped for a return of the Arabic (?) theme in the intro. The solo is good but I can’t help but feel that the song would have worked better with a slower C-passage before the final chorus.

3. Infernal Maze (05:32)

Infernal Maze was perhaps a bad choice for a pre-album single release (alongside ”Darkest Hours”), because of its epic and extremely non-singley arrangement, but to me this is a golden song. It reminds me of many of Stratovarius classical epics, alongside the newer, progressive and neo-classical themes of Polaris, especially ”Emancipation Suite”. The song gets a grip on both an emotional and technical level, bringing up speed in perfect balance with slower tempos and excellent guitar and keyboard work. It grows a lot in just five and a half minute, and it does really impress me.

4. Fairness Justified (04:20)

The beginning of this semi-ballad sounds a bit off right after ”Infernal Maze”, but it works. The choir chorus works unexpectedly well, even though it feels a bit sudden and maybe even forced upon the listener. Alike ”Under Flaming Skies”, I think the chorus is better suited for a more epic track, where it can be built in additional two or three slower minutes before the first chorus.

5. The Game Never Ends (03:54)

The Game Never Ends sounds (at least on first listen) a little too much like old school HammerFall for my taste. Power metal is good and HammerFall is okay, but this kind of thing has been done. Hopefully it will grow on me on subsequent listens. The ending keyboard solo is pretty cool though.

6. Lifetime in a Moment (06:39)

The second longer track on the album (after ”Infernal Maze”) is less progressive and more of the traditional epic style, even though it does incorporate some nice new age reminiscent sounds and some techno work after the choruses. Starting out with an interesting choir introduction, it moves into a calmer piece and escalates perfectly as the chorus kicks in just before the three-minute mark. The guitar riffs in the chorus stick out like they seldom do in Stratovarius music, and it works. The guitar solo, alongside several solos on the album, is a bit disappointing and too generic for my taste, and so it also fails to bring the song up properly before the third and final chorus, but it is still okay. The song reminds me of ”King of Nothing”, one of my favorite tracks from Polaris, but I think I might start to prefer this.

7. Move the Mountain (05:34)

Move the Mountain is the first proper ballad on the album, seeing as even though both ”Fairness Justified” and ”Lifetime in a Moment” has ballad elements but I wouldn’t count either as a full and proper ballad. This is a good thing, really, and something I love in music with special arrangements (bands that come to mind include both Devil Doll and My Dying Bride) is how they seldom have real ballads, but they incorporate it well into the music making more songs have a whole new dimension. Kind of like the old-school episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama often ending on a heart-felt tone even though the episode overall is comedy.

I think vocalist Timo Kotipelto brings in some amazing vocals in here, especially in the heart-felt verses. Keyboardist Jens Johansson – one of my all-time favorites – brings in the first really amazing solo on the album at 3:00 – 3:56 until he also brings some beautiful piano melodies when the song moves into a bridge. I was previously disappointed with some of the songs lacking a proper bridge (especially ”Lifetime in a Moment” which ended all too soon), but this kind of makes up for it.

8. Event Horizon (4:24)

Wow! This song kicks off wonderfully well with some strange noices and voices moving into a neo-classical keyboard section before the first verse. And you know what I said about the lack of good solos? I take it all back. This song is filled with great riffs and solos, even though the vocal sections (on first listen) don’t sound that extraordinary. This is definitely a live song, and I can’t wait to see this live in the future.

9. Elysium (18:14)

Basic summary: This song is pretty damn awesome. It is epic and emotional and everything one could want from an 18-minute track from a technical and wonderful band like Stratovarius. It contains three different choruses, all extremely good, and it has some wonderful riffing, solos, picking and vocal melodies, with all instrumentalists as well as vocalist Timo Kotipelto on the top of their trade. I wrote down my thoughts while listening to it the first time, and you can see them here below.

[00:00] The big album epic… I was really looking forward to this. Stratovarius generally bring great longer tracks (many bands do, the longer tracks works good for great composers who need longer time to fully achieve their dream), and I’m pretty sure this is their longest yet – popular bands in general don’t deliver tracks above the 12-minute mark or so, with a few exceptions.

[01:06] The track starts out promising with keyboards and some full band work before being joined by a choir. Nice and epic.

[04:00] The song works into a verse with Kotipelto’s agonised vocals, and then moves into a chorus, a cool mixture of guitar riffing, bass lines, keyboard picking and some guitar melody. Then comes a guitar / keyboard battle solo, and it’s a quite nice one. Why did they save all good solos for the final three songs?

[06:01] The chorus returns a second time, before the song falls into a strange mid-section with cool effects, slow drums and some guitar riffing, moving into a heavier section.

[07:48] Drums and bass lines are joined by Kotipelto’s vocals, and it moves into some new chorus before a guitar solo kicks off, and he repeats the verse.

[11:00] Another great guitar solo! The chorus really starts making an impression the second (or is it the third?) time around, and I realise how emotional the song is on a deeper level.

[13:32] The song moves into a section like its introduction, and it really sits well after the chorus. Kotipelto’s voice works extremely well in with the instruments, and its more varied and emotional than, dare I say, ever before.

[16:52] An instrumental, semi-techno section comes and brings the song up even further, before a choir kicks in and with it kicks some serious ass, followed by the solo. I’m somehow reminded by one of my absolute favorite Strato songs, ”Mother Gaia”, but I can’t tell why. The song then moves into repeated chorus originating in the acoustic section (see 13:32) and it works oh so well. As always, I don’t listen much to the lyrics on first listen, but as soon as I get the actual album and not the Spotify version in my hands I will surely listen through it again with the booklet in my hands.

[18:13] And it ends.

For My Pain… – Fallen

For My Pain… is a Finnish gothic metal band which I got to hear of mainly because their keyboardist is Nightwish’s lead member Tuomas Holopainen. They released their debut album, the masterpiece ”Fallen”, in 2003, and they released a following single with three new songs, called ”Killing Romance”, in 2004, but since then, they haven’t released anything. A shame, that’s what it is.

The album opener is ”My Wound is Deeper Than Yours”, and according to me the song doesn’t quite work as an opener. It’s too boring. You simply can’t make someone understand the potential of Fallen by a song like this one. Sorry, but frankly… fail.

Something I like loads about For My Pain… is that they combine so many different music genres and styles. They can play sad, depressive songs, hard, heavy songs, and happy songs. An example of the latter is the second track, ”Dancer in the Dark”. It’s a soooo good feel-good song. Wohoo!

”Queen Misery” is one of the greatest highlights of the album. It’s like good FMP songs are, it’s sad and happy at the same time, depending on how you see it, what you listen for. That’s cool. And you just HAVE to love that chorus.

”Sea of Emotions” is not very high up on my plays, yet it is a good song. I think, though, that it’s too predictable. I like the whispering before the chorus, and the keyboard in the chorus. It’s a very experimental song, I’d say.

The fifth track, entitled ”Rapture of Lust” has a really cool guitar intro and chorus (it’s about the same notes on vocals instead). I also like the vocals on this song, very experimental (like all their music, heh). This is another song that can be both sad and happy. Me like. The guitar solo at about three minutes is… really cool.

”Broken Days” is probably my favorite of the album, and every time I listen to it I really recognize my life story among the lyrics… Sad, isn’t it?

According to me, ”Dear Carniwhore” is the worse song of the album, way worse than the other songs. I guess every album needs a really heavy song though, and that’s good. It makes me think of some Metallica song, can’t recall which one. Maybe the end of the chorus of Enter Sandman?

”Bed of Dead Leaves”… there’s nothing wrong about the song… it has never succeeded to get through to me though. I can’t understand why. I guess I would count it as neutral. A five if I had to grade it 1-10. I can at least say I like the drums on this track, they’re cool, especially at around 3:30 where it’s a short drum solo.

Okay, I’m going to be honest now. I downloaded the next song (”Autumn Harmony”) at first an hour ago, so I really don’t want to review it yet. Okay? Sorry. :/

At first, ”Tomorrow is a Closed Gate (Dead For So Long)” was my favorite track off the album, but now I don’t know. Maybe I played it too much. I’ve started to get annoyed with it. The chorus is good, though, and the lyrics reminds me of Kamelot’s ”Don’t You Cry”. It’s a good finale.

That’s all, folks. Thanks for the time.

Kamelot – Ghost Opera

On June 5, 2007, American power metal band Kamelot released their eight studio album entitled ”Ghost Opera”. I downloaded (I am ashamed, please forgive me) the album the same summer.

Since I first heard Kamelot (with first loves like ”The Haunting (Somewhere in Time)” and ”The Black Halo”) in the summer of 2006, I’ve loved the band. There is something special with their ability to combine some of my favorite genres in metal: symphonic, progressive, power and (on later albums) gothic. My love for the band is nothing that changes with this album, not at all. As a first comment on it… I love the title and art work… I will buy it as soon as I get some money, I promise. However, I more want to buy their ”One Cold Winter’s Night” DVD. It seems cool.

Over to the review.

The album kicks off with a one minute instrumental entitled ”Solitaire”, that really feels like a waste of time, or an excuse to have eleven tracks on the album, cause it sounds much better than eleven…. A solo violin playing the most boring notes, where’s the KAMELOT? Just skip the track… I do.

”Rule the World”, the second track, is one of those songs that has nothing special that sticks out, but that it’s nothing wrong with. I like the raise of Roy Khan’s voice in the chorus, and it’s quite speedy. It doesn’t really touch me otherwise, but it’s really an okay song.

The main track has an eponymous title with the album. ”Ghost Opera” is a speedy, interesting breaking-border song. And GOD that video’s fabulous! It’s quite boring in a way, though… I can refer to Sonata Arctica’s song ”Wolf & Raven”; the song seems to have a great potential but everything fades when it sounds the same without grande changes. It’s not catchy enough.

”The Human Stain” is the fourth track of the album. It is a cynic’s view of the world: everything bad, human kind’s selfishness (”No one really wants to die to save the world”), and the wish to be an innocent child again. It is a good, cool and catchy song, that is sad and interesting with gothic metal-similarities such as the keyboard playing throughout the song.

”Blücher” is based on the sinking of the the German cruiser of the same name in World War II. It’s a bit like ”Rule the World” but better; it’s quite neutral, nothing good nor bad about it… It’s cool with the intro as well as some parts of the background that’s just filled with sounds of the war; screaming, shooting etcetera.

And here comes what I would presume is my favorite track of the album. ”Love You to Death” is a beautiful story about a couple where the girl is dying, and this is his speech to her about how he will stay by her forever, love her to death… It’s the longest song off the album (5:13) and for that I’m glad. It has a cool intro and a catchy chorus… Me like.

”Up Through the Ashes” is what I would call one of the heaviest song of the album. It’s quite angry. I like it.

”Mourning Star” is quite neutral. I’ve got nothing against it, despite it’s not one of my favorite. Guess I miss some kind of turn that never shows up.

Vocalist Roy Khan tries lots of new vocal methods in the song ”Silence of the Darkness”. It also holds a great guitar solo that has a cool, outstanding sound. I guess I’ll try it as soon as I have the powers. This is one of the songs that seems really cool live (I might go to their Stockholm concert in May, 2008, wih).

Kamelot is really good on slow, sad songs, and they usually have at least one per album. On Ghost Opera, ”Anthem” is the one. It is a sad piano song with a fascinating chorus and beautiful yet sad lyrics. I keep listening for the introduction of sudden drums in the end, by ”I’ll be the best I can”. That would sound great… WHY NOT?

The final song of the album is ”EdenEcho” which is another song that would be lovely live. It doesn’t really make it unto my mind, so I cannot count it as one of my favorites. Yet it has a cool chorus.

Tracklisting:

  1. ”Solitaire” – 1:00
  2. ”Rule the World” – 3:40
  3. ”Ghost Opera” – 4:06
  4. ”The Human Stain” – 4:01
  5. ”Blücher” – 4:03
  6. ”Love You to Death” – 5:13
  7. ”Up Through the Ashes” – 4:59
  8. ”Mourning Star” – 4:37
  9. ”Silence of the Darkness” – 3:43
  10. ”Anthem” – 4:24
  11. ”EdenEcho” – 4:13

The album also features two bonus tracks (”The Pendulous Fall” and ”Season’s End”), both which I haven’t heard.