Label: Frontiers Records
Release Date: May 21, 2013
I suppose if there were anything on this planet I could actually say was made better by the existence of ABBA, it would be that they helped inspire Timo Tolkki. Tolkki is a heavy metal legend best known for his work as a guitarist and songwriter in power metal giant, Stratovarius. Of course after ABBA, Tolkki later discovered guitarists such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Randy Rhoads, and ultimately developed into the virtuoso most power metal fans know him as today.
In 2008, Tolkki left Stratovarius after over 20 years with the band, and a lot of power metal fans craved for more of his music. He formed two projects, Revolution Renaissance and Symfonia, both have since disbanded. His latest project, Timo Tolkki’s Avalon is another supergroup in the mirror of his previously mentioned acts and others such as the who’s who of symphonic metal, Avantasia. Featuring high-profile names such as Russell Allen (Symphony X), Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) and Michael Kiske (Unisonic, ex-Helloween) this is a promising future indeed for our beloved Timo.
The debut is a concept album that Tolkki hails as a Metal Opera. It is set in the year 2055, after the Earth is nearly destroyed by natural disasters, a group of people band together in search of The Land of New Hope, which you guessed it, is the title of the album. It starts off with an ever-epic track “Avalanche Anthem” with perfect orchestration, nicely paced drum work, and great vocal presence. Unfortunately, at times the chorus work gets repetitive and boring, and in true power metal fashion it is layered to high heaven. That being said, the music itself is quite memorable. “Enshrined in My Memory” should spark an interest for any Symfonia die-hards out there, as it is a straight copy of the melody from “Rhapsody in Black”. This track, sung entirely by Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), sounds like a true classic power metal song in every way, complete with a soaring guitar solo, and the drums are very traditional in the cymbal heavy rock n’ roll style.
The album features a full run of classic power metal sounds, to more modern tracks like “We Will Find a Way” featuring Rob Rock (Impellitteri) and Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) who play off of each other perfectly. Unfortunately, the music seems like it’s just all been done before. Probably put out by Stratovarius themselves or even Cain’s Offering. Considering keyboards are provided on the album by Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) and Mikko Härkin (Cain’s Offering) all that seems to be missing is Timo Kotipelto.
“Magic of the Night” is a blend of something along the lines of techno and power metal, but features more gritty vocals from Rob Rock. Even the guitar solo seems more in your face and dirty than any other on the album. Anthem-like tracks such as “To the Edge of the Earth” and “A World Without Us” stand out on the album, especially thanks to the vocal presence of Russell Allen on the latter. Russell meets Rob is a recipe for perfection, nearly as good as Russell meets Jorn.
Timo Tolkki is a fabulous musician and deserves all of the credit in the world that he receives for his work. A great example of this is the album’s epic, “The Land of New Hope”, bringing our journey to its close. Michael Kiske’s piercing voice soars over distorted guitars ever so perfectly, and although the song runs long, the arrangement is just incredible. I couldn’t think of any other better way to end such an epic release. While it’s not a release to go down into the book of heavy metal for generations to come, it is still a powerful release of beautiful symphonic metal music. Tolkki gets to add another great project into his already impressive and beefy resume, and power metal fans everywhere get to hear musicians they love singing and playing all new tracks (for the most part anyway) orchestrated by the wonderful Sami Boman, who has been at this music thing since 1995. Rest assured, The Land of New Hope is definitely worth checking out.
Vocals: Russell Allen, Elize Ryd, Rob Rock, Tony Kakko, Sharon Den Adel, Michael Kiske and opera vocals by Magdalena Lee
Keyboards: Jens Johansson, Derek Sherinian, Mikko Härkin
Drums: Alex Holzwarth
Orchestration: Sami Boman