Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – The Land Of New Hope
Timo Tolkki’s Avalon
The Land of New Hope
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
To all those that had indigestion listening to Timo Tolkki’s ill-fated Symfonia project, and to those that still can’t hear out of their left ear after trying to force themselves through Saana: Warrior Of Light Pt. I: you’re probably owed some sort of an apology (I once considered reviewing Saana…, but I didn’t like the thought of spending the rest of the day around a toilet, and I don’t think Dan would let me assign a negative score anyways). That being said, our five-year-long metal nightmare seems to be approaching its close. Timo Tolkki has landed himself a comfortable record contract with Frontiers, and has composed a formidable offering that may finally offer some career stability.
The Land of New Hope is the first of a three album deal with Frontiers records, featuring an all-star lineup of Alex Holzworth on drums, as well as a keyboard brigade of Mikko Harkin, Derek Sherinan, and Jens Johansson. The vocal duties are provided primarily by Rob Rock and Elize Ryd, but Russell Allen and Sharon Den Adel are also in the cast, as well as Tony Kakko and Michael Kiske. Stylistically, the sound has settled into a bit of a generic symphonic metal mold, but with Tolkki’s own distinctive style of vocal melody and guitar leads. That’s not to say that either of those attributes are unique to Timo Tolkki, but the way he focuses on them is rather distinct and evident on the record.
The album bookends quite well, with the albums most memorably melodies on “Avalance Anthem”, and a very strong performance from Michael Kiske on “The Land of New Hope”. The best song on the album however, is “To the Edge of the Earth”, that features only Rob Rock’s vocal talents, and a keyboard solo almost certainly recorded by Jens Johansson. My best research efforts could not confirm that it was in fact Jens’ solos, but the style and tone are such a distinctive throwback to Stratovarius’ Visions album that one would be hard pressed to conclude otherwise.
Tolkki’s usual flair for the dramatic is present, especially channeled through the songs written for Elize Ryd, but I regret to say that her performance, while exceeding my subterranean expectations, still falls short of the bombast it was written for. Often times she sounds a tad bored, or at least not able to tap the emotion that Timo was trying to draw out of the song. This isn’t helped by surprisingly lackluster production either. I’m not sure why this department has fallen short, as excellent production has been a hallmark of Timo Tolkki’s albums throughout his entire career, but the sound here is nowhere near great.
Still, I don’t want to terribly malign the album, since there are parts where it really does excel. Tolkki’s end of things, particularly the songwriting and guitar playing, is top notch, and Rob Rock is awesome whenever he’s given the opportunity. Still, with Avantasia finally remembering how to make a quality metal opera, this is a decidedly second-fiddle release. It will please diehards, impress fans, and satisfy casual listeners, but there’s still another leap this project needs to make before greatness.