At times it can truly be said that Stratovarius is nothing if not inconsistent. Since vocalist Timo Kotipelto joined the band in 1995 their craft has matured and earned them a place atop the power metal legions – and with good reason, as their best material is uplifting, atmospheric, and scalding in it’s display of emotion and instrumentation. On the not-so-bright side of things, each album has been severely bogged down by very ‘*off* day’ songs, serving as joyrides through ultra generic songwriting and recycled Euro-metal melodies. Dismaying as it is to say, Elements, Pt. 2 showcases itself as the best example of this imbalance in a Stratovarius album in years, in an utterly glaring way. To make things worse, on past Strato albums the aforementioned Kotipelto’s voice could at least carry one through the filler with some entertainment with it’s feel-based precision, and tasteful technique… – whereas, the complete opposite proves all too prelevant in Elements, Pt. 2. The opening song, Alpha & Omega starts out with a decidedly non-traditional slow speed, and some interesting keyboard atmospheres, both of which seem exciting, at least, until the chorus breaks in. Timo Kotipelto has apparently sold his vocal spirit to the helium demon in exchange for a higher vocal range, and the results are disasterous – especially when utilizing the old argon gasses on a chorus melody as uninteresting as the one in the opening song. This is Stratovarius by the numbers, and forgetting to divide. And yet Alpha & Omega is one of the best songs on the album, because of the few things it does do right. Blithering frustration is imminent, but nothing compared to the music ahead.The album’s first single, I Walk To My Own Song, is next, and could be considered one of the ’standouts’ on Elements 2 as well – mainly thanks to the smoking solo section by guitarist Timo Tolkki that jumps out and commands the metal horns be thrown. But mashed on either side of the burst of quality is the band playing by an average of 1/3 of their own rules and mixing every piece of bland one usually expects from a ’single’ into the song, topped off by Kotipelto’s strep-throat wailing. I’m Still Alive follows, opening with a great riff..and then morphing into a [insert random fast Stratovarius song here] part 2, but without the magic touch. Hopes grow high that this band could still pull off being inspirational with the fast-power-metal-anthem motif, but unfortunately Kotipelto’s helium induced vocals carrying bland choruses over predictable song structuring leave more than a mild disappointment. Seasons of Faith’s Perfection continues the trend of a very promising beginning, but the band once again falls into one of their own niches – this time it being the Stratovarius-slow-song-machine if you will – and once again, this time around it fails to break through with any more then potential passion. The almost eerie keyboards and acoustic guitar work are excellent, and on the other side of the coin, the chorus is indistinguishable from any other standard Euro-metal ballad. The entire album continues at this unbearable, snail-in-molasses pace, delivering all-too predictable songs in every category (a few slow songs, the fun fast songs, the mid paced anthems, et al) with an infuriatingly teasing spoonful of shimmering good ideas scattered randomly on top – and don’t forget about Kotipelto singing higher than he should and can, and losing his once great power. Lyrically Elements, Pt. 2 is Strato’s standard odd mix of Christian and new age ideas, but on the positive, the Christian influence is bolder and even pokes through as inspirational once in a while, such as in Know the Difference, which quotes part of a popular prayer (if some prayer is to be contained in such a way), the Serenity prayer originally credited to Reinhold Niebuhr. Aside from instances in the same general field (which can also be found in Alpha & Omega), and an almost pretty good song in the beautifully atmospheric Luminous, there isn’t much more truly memorable or exciting about Elements, Pt. 2. There are many things Stratovarius does well with their music, and generic is definitely the opposite and undoing of them all.