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Timo Tolkki’s Avalon - Angels of the Apocalypse

Timo Tolkki’s Avalon - CD Review
Angels of the Apocalyps

Angels of the Apocalypse





CD Info
Frontiers Records
Symphonic/power metal
English lyrics
11 Tracks - 52:00
Rating: 9 of 10

Former Stratovarius guitarist-mastermind Timo Tolkki has always been known for his majestic, heroic, over-the-top musical style; so it probably came as no surprise to anyone when he announced his Avalon project in late 2012. Deemed as a “metal opera trilogy”, the Avalon project would share some common factors with other rock operas in that the story would be played out by a cast of characters ranging across the music world. Where it differed from other rock operas was that the story would be told backwards; with the final chapter of the tale released first, and the beginning of the story revealed at the end.

The first album, Land of New Hope, was an immediate success due to its impressive guest roster: Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd was the lead female character, and other well-known names on the symphonic metal scene such as Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel and Sonata Arctica’s Tony Kakko were also on hand to flesh out the other character roles. So when Tolkki announced the lineup for the follow-up album earlier this year, expectations were high. Tolkki met those expectations right off the bat when he secured the vocal services of Floor Jansen, who at this time is no doubt the hottest commodity on the metal scene. Tolkki also revealed that the music would take a darker, heavier turn due to the album’s storyline. Before anyone heard a note of what was to be Angels of the Apocalypse, listeners were already on the edge of their seats waiting to hear what was to come next.

The opening track, “Song for Eden” is not much more than an intro featuring lovely male vocals. A great way to set the tone for what the album will be.

The music immediately thunders on “Jerusalem is Falling”, and longtime Tolkki listeners will immediately catch his playing style within the first opening riffs. This song features Fabio Lione, whose vocal prowess shines here. I’ve never heard his voice before, so he sounds to me like an interesting hybrid of Rob Halford, Michael Kiske, and Timo Kotipelto; if that can even come close to the mark! It’s very symphonic, progressive, and heavy. This song is a favorite.

“Design the Century” is the third track and the album’s first single, featuring Floor Jansen. Many fans have complained that the song is too simplistic for a dynamic voice such as hers, but Tolkki knows what he’s doing. I think a lot of the reason it took me so long to warm to Floor as a vocalist is because it felt like everything she was doing had to be over-the-top; whereas on a song like this she just sings the damn song and still manages to knock your socks off. Not everything has to be bombastic and grand in order to be great, and Tolkki shows this here with Floor’s voice.

The fourth song, “Rise of the 4th Reich” features some screaming vocals to accompany Tolkki’s crunchy guitar riffs! The vocals on this song are wicked and aggressive, alternating between screaming high vocals and brutal growls. There are also some sound clips from former president George W. Bush interspersed throughout; hmm, wonder if there’s a theme here? (I’ll refrain from making political commentary now.)

“Stargate Atlantis” hearkens back to early Stratovarius in feel and style, and that’s a good thing! This sounds like a song that could have easily been on Dreamspace or Fourth Dimension. Fabio’s vocals are very powerful here as well.

“You’ll Bleed Forever” is a gorgeous ballad where Simone Simons from Epica sounds absolutely stunning. For some reason I prefer her voice on the works of others and do not care for Epica at all. I don’t know why this is, but there you have it. Timo comes in with a moving solo that sounds like the guitar is crying alongside Simone’s sorrowful vocals.

Track seven, “The Paradise Lost”, is an awesome fusion of symphonic and progressive elements. Floor’s voice sounds great here too; again, not doing anything too daring or extreme, but that is OK! Her voice fits the feel of the song and to me that is far more important than vocal acrobatics, if you know what I mean.

“Neon Sirens” is the eighth song, featuring Virgin Steele’s David DeFreis on vocals; he has a rougher voice than Lione but still very pleasant to listen to. This is a heavy, gritty song that reminds me of old-school metal from the ‘80s; makes me want to put on some denim and leather and headbang!

The next song, “High Above Me”, is a slow ballad with lovely piano work. This sounds like the song featuring Caterina Nix, but as I am not familiar with her voice and do not have any liner notes to go on, this is just a guess. Tolkki can write some of the most beautiful ballads around, and this one is no different. I’d cite this as another favorite so far.

The title track, “Angels of the Apocalypse”, starts out from the gate as a dark tune, and it clocks in at nearly 10 minutes! The song slows down a little and it sounds like all three female vocalists have a part in this song at one part or another. There is one point where Floor really lets loose, so hopefully everyone who is criticizing the simplicity of “Design the Century” will politely shut the hell up after hearing this.

The final track, “Garden of Eden”, starts out like a gentle lullaby with soft pianos. This is another short piece; only a little more than 2 minutes and an instrumental. It’s a lovely closer to the album and to this part of the story overall.

Overall opinion: Tolkki doesn’t disappoint musically, and the second installment to his three-part metal opera delivers the goods. There are dark and heavy songs such as “Rise of the 4th Reich” and “Neon Sirens”, coupled with beautiful slow songs like “High Above Me” and “You’ll Bleed Forever”. Tolkki’s cast of characters carry the story all the way to the end, taking us to the dystopic, futuristic world he has created through the music. And while Tolkki is content to let the vocalists take center stage, his music has equal strength in telling this story. I would even go so far as to say I liked this album better than the last one, and I really liked Land of New Hope. If each chapter keeps improving, I can hardly wait for the final (first?) installment of the trilogy!

For more information about Timo Tolkki’s Avalon, visit his official site.