Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – Angels Of The Apocalypse
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
It pains me to say so, but all the little things that have been holding Tolkki back on his march to legitimacy over the last 7 years have all come together on this, the latest release from his new “Avalon” project, Angels Of The Apocalypse. Tolkki hasn’t really tried to do anything ‘new’ since Revolution Renaissance’s Age Of Aquarius met middling reception back in 2009. Sometimes that’s worked really well (RR’s final album, Trinity), and at other times it’s aged like the warmed-over cheese it is (Symfonia’s In Paradisium). Still, if for nothing other than a spirit of nostalgia, I’ve found myself enjoying these releases in spite of their flaws – right up to now. Angels Of The Apocalypse is difficult for me to enjoy in spite of its flaws, because for so much of the album, those flaws are all that exists to listen to.
Timo is particularly cruel to his loyal listeners on this outing, starting with “Jerusalem Is Falling”, which is honestly the best song he’s written since Trinity: it’s got an awesome intro with a soaring melody, aggression abounding, and a guitar solo worthy of his late 90’s-era fame. This set my expectations through the roof, because even if it’s formulaic, Tolkki’s shown his mastery over this formula in the past, and I love hearing it again. “Jerusalem Is Falling” is right about where my enjoyment of this album begins and ends though. “Design The Century” starts on a similarly promising note, but Floor Jansen’s vocal performance is remarkably underwhelming on an otherwise cool song.
But this does nothing to prepare listeners for the absolute horror that is “Rise Of The 4th Reich”, which is ‘terrible Timo Tolkki songwriting’ on par with Saana: Warrior Of Light Pt. I or “Father” off of his second solo album. This song is a burning wreck due to terrible production, an offensive vocal performance, and, trump-card-of-all-trump-cards in ‘Dagg’s 101 bafflingly poor decisions that make already-terrible songs worse’: a voice-over clip from none other than George W. Bush Jr.. Someone – please, in the comments – I beg of you to explain to my WHY this keeps happening on albums I review!
The rest of the album recovers from there, but only slightly. There’s more metal songs like “Stargate Atlantis”, “The Paradise Lost”, and “Neon Sirens”, but they’re nothing more than uninspiring filler without bombast and ace solos to carry them along. Still, uninspired filler is better than the two pain-inducing ballads, including the aptly named “You’ll Bleed Forever (From Your Ears).” It’s a slow, disgusting display of an over-sung vocal performance on top of an absolute void of melody. Simply put, it’s one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard Tolkki write (and he’s written some bad ones). There was a time when Tolkki could write some of the catchiest and most memorable power metal anthems around. He even came close to former glory on the opening track, but he’s clearly lost interest in that style. At the same time, he offers little of value on his newer artistic pursuits, and through it all is wholeheartedly committed to writing some of the worst ballads in metal. I’m writing this not as a hater, but as a pained, long-time fan of the songwriter who penned and played some of my favorite metal songs ever. It just hurts to watch him now.
1.75 // 5