Sunday, September 1, 2013

Timo Tolkki's Avalon - The Land of New Hope

Since Timo’s departure from Stratovarius in 2005, he has been productive through a variety of new projects: Revolution Renaissance, Symfonia, and now Timo Tolkki’s Avalon. Surprisingly, though Stratovarius was quite weak when Timo left the band, both the band and Timo have recovered well. Symfonia was a somewhat predictable, but catchy power metal release. As the name and logo of Timo’s newest project imply, this is a similar concept to Avantasia: a metal opera featuring a variety of singers, including power metal god Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween).

From the opening melodies of “Avalanche Anthem” you are subject to an epic, heroic effort of cheesy goodness. This opening track is one of the few to best utilize the concept of a metal opera, as several vocalists are featured on the song. Among them is one of the stars on this record: Elize Ryd (Amaranthe). Her angelic vocals are simply astounding, and, as her guest singing proves time and time again, these vocals are best suited to a power metal sound. This introductory track also displays two other common themes on “The Land of New Hope”. The first is Timo Tolkki’s incredible guitar tone. His solos are so sharp and articulate that they rival any number of shred guitarists. While he does not often play anything excessively technical, the guitar solos pop out as being particularly aggressive on an otherwise tame record. The second and more unfortunate motif on this record is Timo Tolkki’s borrowing of melodies and riffs. The chorus of “Avalanche Anthem” is a throwback to the title track of Symfonia’s sole record, with its stomping rhythms and effective use of backing vocals. Tolkki has been borrowing from himself and others for a while now (see his Revolution Renaissance project), and the other noticeable times on this record are on “Enshrined In My Memory” (reminiscent of Symfonia’s “Rhapsody in Black”, which is similar to an older Stratovarius song from “Visions”) and the title track (which is a full-on homage to Helloween’s “Keeper of the Seven Keys”). In spite of these similarities, the songs are different enough that it doesn’t hurt the quality of the record.

There are certainly moments of originality on “The Land of New Hope”. “A World Without Us” is an up-tempo power metal anthem, with a stunningly catchy chorus and fantastic vocal performances all around. “We Will Find A Way” features one of the most original riffs in recent history, and is yet another highlight. The final track worth discussing is the closer, “The Land of New Hope”. It is so similar to “Keeper of the Seven Keys” that Timo recruited Michael Kiske himself to sing on this song. The performance Kiske gives on this track is otherworldly. His voice once again proves to be the gold standard for all things power metal, as he displays unmatched control over the melodies he sings. Timo closes the track and the album with the most impressive guitar solo on the record that ultimately leaves the listener craving more. 

The faults that this album has are easily overpowered by its strengths. Timo is a fantastic composer and appears to have fully recovered from the fallout of Stratovarius. The main hurdle with this record (and every other Tolkki-related album of the last few years) is the self-plagiarism and borrowing from other bands. If this issue doesn’t bother you, “The Land of New Hope” is sure to be one of your favourite releases this year.

Be sure to check out and like Timo Tolkki on Facebook!

"A World Without Us"
"Enshrined In My Memory"
"The Land of New Hope"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott