Friday, December 12, 2014

STRATOVARIUS: "Elements Anniversary Reissue" [3CD+DVD]

Rating: Reissue/Comp.
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Ho! Ho! Ho! What would the merry Stratovarius fan like to have for Christmas? What? A Mistress? Well. How about this posh 3CD+DVD digi-pak, limited to 10.000 copies worldwide? It's the second best thing to the more expensive and limited to 3.000 copies worldwide box set. Don't bother with that now as you get the albums "Elements Pt. 1" and "Elements Pt. 2" on this Anniversary release (it's been 11 years since their release so what kind of anniversary are we talking about?), also included are a bonus CD including unreleased and rare songs like B-Sides or live versions from the 2003 Elements tour and a DVD that features the 5.1 mix of both albums, rare bonus songs as well as a photo gallery.

Impressive. Ambitious work indeed. Add to this a fat booklet with lyrics and liner notes by Jens "Metal Mozart" Johansson as he talks about the elements albums on eight pages, the idea behind the work, the recording process, reception and consequences, and what not really. He goes on and on about everything from their sonically pristine way to record to equipment and how he had completely free reign regarding keyboard arrangements. The latter could of course be due to the fact that Tolkki was stuck in Madrid and told Jens to go ahead and record the keys by himself. 'I Trust you. I'm sure it will be fine', was the words from the Finn and no longer part of the band even if he started it all. The Swede was obviously over the moon and started throwing s**t at the studio wall to see what would stick. Happy, happy. Joy, joy.

Stratovarius succeeded what only few bands manage to achieve with these albums: they opened doors, tore down (genre) walls and created two milestones in progressive symphonic metal. The DVD bonus audio tracks are mostly demo versions of songs that ended up on the albums. Some of them are drum machine pre-demo versions and others are simply just keyboard or orchestra demos. Not always that interesting if you're not the 'mad die-hard must-have everything ever recorded by Strato' fan.

The CD bonus tracks are previously unreleased tracks such as "Run Away", ever so slightly distorted vocals by Kotipelto during the verse and the nice and catchy refrain in a happy poppy power metal style and way. "Into Deep Blue" is the more complex and Gothic ballad with the 'Defenders of the Crown' theme going on in the background (if you can recall the cult Amiga game from your childhood). Actually, Dream Theatre-ish would be a more correct description. Very nice and excellent vocal performance by Kotipelto. "Ride Like The Wind", not the Christopher Cross tune as this was written by Johansson and speak of 'black clouds gathering' and it's the straight ahead uptempo rocker ála early Strato or Yngwie Malmsteen and feat. the impressive solo by Jens. The French version of "Papillon" is something for Kotipelto to build on (articulation?), but could possibly work as the different take and version. The next six tracks are all live versions of Elements and other songs such as "Black Diamond" and "Hunting High and Low". These titles are strongly connected to KISS and A-HA in my books.

The surround (5.1) audio mixes of the album(s) could blow ya' away if you're the tech nerd. What better X-mas gift to the die-hard fan?

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