Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – Angels of the Apocalypse (Frontiers)Monday, 19th May 2014
Choosing to avoid the crazier aspects of guitarist Timo Tolkki’s career (remember the fake blood photos and new Stratovarius vocalist ‘Miss K’?) I remember in the mid-1990’s impact albums like Episode and Visions made on the international power metal world, and his songwriting and production skills had a key part in their headlining ways. Moving away from the band has resulted in a less than ideal response to his work in Revolution Renaissance and Symfonia, he has taken on the project album platform that is quite successful for Avantasia as this second go around Angels of the Apocalypse illustrates.
The second of a planned trilogy of albums (as 2011’s Land of New Hope is the finale; who knows why Timo works back to front), the 11 tracks contain a myriad of well-known power, progressive, and traditional metal vocalists. Of the first eight tracks, Rhapsody (Of Fire)’s Fabio Lione and Nightwish’s Floor Jansen get three songs each, both comfortable on the bombastic “Jerusalem Is Falling” and elegant “The Paradise Lost.” The heavier, mystical “Neon Strains” is a perfect fit for Circle II Circle singer Zachary Stevens, and one of the album’s better numbers due to its more straightforward, anthem-oriented energy which gives Tolkki a chance to flex more of his early hard rock/ metal guitar influences.
The final two tracks “High above Me” and the 9-minute title track feature shared female vocals from Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd, Epica’s Simone Simmons, Chilean singer Caterina Nix for the former, with Jansen supplementing the latter. These songs prove the old adage that fundamentals matter, because for all the symphonic layers, bombast, pacing, and talent, if the crux of the riff doesn’t move you, or the melodies can’t hook you – you end up delivering material that the people could care less about. And let’s not delve deep into the less than ideal tone choices for the production – digital and synthetic, you wish Tolkki would hire Fredrick Nordstrom or Jacob Hansen to handle the boards and concentrate more on the musical side.
Approach cautiously and accordingly. At least I still can crank Visions to wipe away my memory from Angels of the Apocalypse.