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Chaos Magic - Chaos Magic

Chaos Magic - CD Review
Chaos Magic

Chaos Magic



CD Info
Label: Frontiers Records
Language: English
Total tracks: 11 Total time: 52:53
Rating: 7/10

In the near-decade since guitarist Timo Tolkki parted ways from his former band Stratovarius, his musical endeavors for the most part could be likened to an “unfinished symphony”: numerous projects that began with promise and potential, and ultimately never saw the light of day, or just did not live up to expectation. This all seemed to change in 2013, with the first release of his “rock-opera trilogy”, Avalon. So far, only two of the three albums have been released (the third album yet to be announced at this time), but they gained a lot of recognition with a roster of guest stars from the melodic metal community that any musician would be glad to have: from Floor Jansen to Elize Ryd, the Avalon albums were a lovely combination of Tolkki’s trademark lightning-fast yet melodic guitar playing, coupled with the strong sweetness of some of the best female metal vocalists on the scene today.

While Floor and Elize are already stars in their own right, one guest star who stood out was Caterina Nix, formerly of the band Aghonya. She might not have had the name or the credentials of the other vocalists included on the albums, but it was clear she had the talent. Obviously this was clear enough to Tolkki as well; as the two of them have gone on to form their own project called Chaos Magic. It’s not certain at this time whether this band is going to become something permanent, or whether it is just a project for both of them to pass the time between their “day jobs”, so to speak. But considering what chemistry the two had on the last Avalon album, it’s interesting to hear how they sound when combining their talents together not just as musicians, but as songwriters as well.

From the futuristic opening track “I’m Alive” to the Within Temptation-esque “Dangerous Game” and the fist-pumping “One Drop of Blood”, the album starts out with the upbeat, anthemic tunes that Tolkki was known for with Stratovarius; but less of a power metal “slaying the dragons” feel, and more of a modern symphonic metal vibe and not as obviously “Tolkki”, if you will. The fourth track, “Seraphim”, is probably the first that feels as though it has a Timo Tolkki stamp on it; the beginning very reminiscent of the Stratovarius song “Elements”. But it’s a very unobtrusive stamp, at that; just enough for those who are fans of his music to notice his influence, but not enough to where it outwardly bears his mark. The same can be said for the next track, “From the Stars”; where, strangely, the drums and keyboards are more reminiscent of Stratovarius than the guitars! But Caterina sounds gorgeous on this tune and it’s my favorite so far. The sixth track, “A Little Too Late” has some nice guitar work, but I’m still waiting to actually hear Tolkki work his (chaos) magic on this record. It’s a nice poppy tune that would make a good single.

As the album reaches its second half, it sounds like we finally get to hear Tolkki’s voice (literally) doing some chanting at the beginning of track 7, “Passionflow”. Again, there are bits that remind me of Stratovarius, but nothing so obvious. For example, parts of this song remind me of the Stratovarius song “Babylon”, but not so much that it’s a sound-alike. The next track, “Dead Memories” starts off like a ballad but quickens the pace as it goes. However, the tempo does slow down for the ninth song, “Please Don’t Tell Me”, which features some beautiful, emotive singing from Caterina and reminds me of the other side of Tolkki’s songwriting, the side that I really love: the heart-wrenching ballads. And then, on the penultimate track, “Right Now”, the guitar virtuoso that is Timo Tolkki finally shows up (well, sort of)! The guitars are heaviest on this track than any of the others so far, anyway. Tolkki’s guitar work carries over into the final track, “The Point of no Return”, which is another upbeat tune that would make a great single and is a nice closer for the album.

Overall opinion: Even though Timo Tolkki and Caterina Nix are both credited on this album, it’s plain to hear that Caterina is the star and that this album is more to showcase her talents, of which she has in abundance. She has a pure, beautiful voice that reminds me of a not-so-pitchy Anette Olzon, with the classical/operatic tendencies of Sharon den Adel, and the clear rock voice of Cristina Scabbia or Charlotte Wessels; but that’s not to say she sounds like any of them. Tolkki sort of hangs out in the background; for those who are fans of his playing style, they will be disappointed not to hear that distinctive guitar sound that he is known for. On the other hand, though, I think it is cool that he has chosen to take a backseat on this project and let the singer be the centerpiece here. After all, the album cover does say “Caterina Nix featuring Timo Tolkki”. That being said, this is a solid enough album; it’s not bad, but if you are a longtime fan of the scene or are familiar with the many bands in this genre of music, you aren’t going to hear much here that you haven’t heard before. For example, “Dangerous Game” was so reminiscent of Within Temptation that it was almost jarring not to hear Sharon’s voice. However, if you are new to the scene, this album makes a great “beginner’s guide” to melodic/symphonic metal: Caterina’s voice is not too operatic to be a turn-off to new listeners; her voice is clear and can be both soft and strong when required. There are some symphonic aspects to it, but the album is not drowning in orchestra and choirs. Perhaps some people out there who were always turned off to Tolkki’s Malmsteen-esque solos or his power-metal approach might even like this album or feel more inclined to give it a try, because it completely lacks either of those two influences. While Caterina and Tolkki make a nice pair and the music sounds good, I would prefer if this were simply a side-project or a one-off thing; as I am a fan of Tolkki’s guitar playing, and want to hear him doing what he does best. While it’s refreshing to hear that he doesn’t have to be the “guitar god” all the time, it would be pretty boring if this was the direction he decided to go in from now on! I think this was a great way to stretch his wings musically and show listeners what else he is capable of; but I, for one, will be glad to hear him get back to the power metal he has made his hallmark, because that’s what he excels at and that’s what the fans love to hear from him. I wouldn’t mind hearing other collaborations with Caterina someday, but maybe something different or something that is more a collaborative effort than just “Caterina Nix featuring Timo Tolkki” (maybe get around to finally making that third Avalon record?). Although this was an enjoyable album and I liked it a lot, I cannot say it was anything that knocked my socks off right off the bat; this was definitely a “grower” of an album, meaning it took a few listens for it to grow on me. Maybe I’ve come to expect certain things from Tolkki as a listener and a long-time fan; who knows? That being said, if you are a fan of symphonic metal, it’s worth adding to your playlist because there is a lot there to appreciate. It might help if you are not a fan of Tolkki’s previous work or do not know his music that well, because perhaps then you can enjoy it for what it is far better than I could, as it seems my expectations did slightly lessen my enjoyment of the listening experience. All in all, it’s still an impressive album and introducing another talented voice on the scene is never a bad thing!


Thanks to Dustin at Frontiers Records.
For more information about Chaos Magic, visit Caterina’s Facebook page