By Dr. Abner Mality

There is a moment during the song "The Game Never Ends" where keyboardist Jens Johansen and guitarist Matias Kuplainen engage in an absolutely sizzling duel. It's the kind of moment when you forget the fluff and sweetness of Stratovarius and realize just how magnificent they can be.

It's the best moment on the album and there aren't enough of them to quite suit my taste, but you also don't have to like a particular brand of hot rod to appreciate the fine craftsmanship that went into building it. That's kind of where I'm at with "Elysium"'s not the sort of ride I like, but it's still a hell of a car. These long-serving Finns are archetypal masters of clean melodic European power metal and this record shows why. Timo Kotipelto's voice is too smooth and shiny for me, but that voice is perfect for what it is. The way these guys mesh is unassailable. Even at its weakest, "Elysium" reminds you that you are listening to a fine turned machine. It's certainly much more interesting than their previous record, which was a boring mid-paced plod.

"The Game Never Ends" is the album's stand-out, but if you like fast melodic power metal, you should also enjoy "Under Flaming Skies" and "Event Horizon". "Infernal Maze" is a complex neo-classical work out with more excellent keyboard/guitar interplay, but the album opener "Darkest Hours" is just too flat and typical for me. The album's centerpiece is the monstrous 18 minute plus title track, which has several stirring moments, but just doesn't hang together as a cohesive song. It's just too long and boring, even though again you marvel at the perfect musicianship. And of course you get the typical Stratovarius ballad, "Fairness Justified"...good for what it is, but what it is is soft and sugary.

Fans of European power metal and Stratovarius in general should definitely be pleased with this album. And if you're a newcomer to that genre, this isn't a bad place to start. I'm just going to look up some big, ugly, fire-belching beater to get my own personal joyride.