Symfonia – In Paradisium
Lets get to the basics. Symfonia is a cheesy name for a band. “In Paradisium” is a cheesy name for an album. The artwork features purple angels and a shiny city. Somewhere, Luca Turilli is pouting that he didn’t think of that first. Oh, and this is maybe Tolkki’s most “Metal” record since “Infinite” or “Elements Pt. II”.
The record is characterized by songs like “Fields of Avalon”, “Santiago”, “Forevermore”, “Rhapsody in Black”, and “I Walk in Neon”, powerful, with crunchy, “Episode” imitation guitars, soaring vocals that might be a bit much for Matos’ age, and still brilliant solos. Uli Kusch, for his short stint in the band, does them an admirable job.
On a lot of songs however, the real star is the most unknown member, Mikko Harkin. After an entire song of straight crushing power metal, Tolkki does something strange on “Santiago” and plays some very fruity and clean guitar solos. It’s a pretty nice contrast, but very strange. Right at the end of the solo, Tolkki’s guitar starts crunching again, and Harkin rips a keys solo aimed directly at the throne of Jens Johansson. Tolkki’s rebuttal is inspiring, it’s also one of the tightest solos he’s played in years. Something about this crop of new blood has really got him back on top of his game.
“Rhapsody in Black” is another really well done track in the mold that we haven’t seen from TT in a LONG time. The main riff is a killer, and it really pays tribute to the idea of head banging, something that Stratovarius never quite did. This was originally supposed to be the single, but I think the band ended up making the decision to release the title track for radio play instead. That was a mistake.
“In Paradisium”, the 9 and a half minute title track, was an unfortunate choice to roll out the album with. Coupled with the artwork, this foreshadowed all sorts of awful things for the band. The song would have felt right at home on the “Destiny” record, except since that already had “Destiny” and “Anthem of the World”, it really had no place. The problem is that the song is at some parts, too repetitive, and others, really confusing. The intro choirs are a nice touch, but I would have preferred to start with a riff. There’s also the issue of the sound clips in the middle of the song, which seem to just feature children talking about how awful their lives are. Seriously? I think I’ve been over this before. Voiceovers suck. It’s not the worst song Tolkki has ever written, but it really summarizes all that unnecessary excess, fruityness, and pointlessness people hate on a Timo Tolkki record.
“Pilgrim Road” will attract some controversy as well. It’s very happy, with a slight tint of folk, and a hefty serving of cheese. It’s only 3 and a half minutes, a good deal shorter than the average song length on the record, which seems to float at a healthy 5 minutes. What’s important here is that Tolkki again proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, with quite the crafty, squeal-y, shred-y, guitar solo.
The last parts of this record to address are the “Obligatories” The two songs that appear on every Timo Tolkki or Timo Tolkki influence record in the last 15 years. The acoustic ballad, and the power ballad. In the “Power” category, is “Alayna”. These have always been hit or miss for me. Sometimes, there are songs like “The Land Of Ice And Snow”, which are pulled off beautifully, with precision and care. Other times, you get bloated monstrosities like “4000 Rainy Nights”, which practically collapse on themselves with the pretentious cheese.
Having Matos sing these are risky business. His voice is far more nasally and potentially whiny than Kotipelto’s. I am glad though, that “Alayna” is restrained enough to not let anything really bad pass. I would say it’s no better or worse than “Fairness Justified” from “Elysium”. However, where I would usually say that the record could have gone without it, this one, especially the guitar solo, which feels particularly uninspired.
I was really hoping that “Don’t Let Me Go” would be a return to a favorite Tolkki standard, his inspiring classical acoustic parts. I’ll occasionally catch flak for this, but I think Timo’s classical playing is brilliant, Stratovarius always got crap for writing some bad ballads (From myself as well) but that was hardly ever on songs like “Forever”, which focused on the more unique talent of Timo Tolkki. However, the guitar parts are mostly just strumming, and its Matos’ Melodica that gives the song its character. Yawn.
This is certainly no perfect record, but the mistakes are really the ones you usually expect from Tolkki. The ballads are somewhat endearing from time to time, and songs like “In Paradisium” are what the skip button was made for. The rest of the album presents very acceptable power metal, which is all we ever really wanted from Tolkki.
Dagg’s Rating: 3 out of 5