Timo Tolkkis Avalon
The Land Of New Hope

01. Avalanche Anthem
02. A World Without Us
03. Enshrined in My Memory
04. In the Name of the Rose
05. We Will Find a Way
06. Shine
07. The Magic of the Night
08. To the Edge of the Earth
09. I'll Sing You Home
10. The Land of New Hope

Timo Tolkki - Guitar, Bass Guitar & Producer

Classical Variations and Themes (1994)
Hymn to Life (2002)
Saana – Warrior of Light Pt 1 (2008)

Elize Ryd (Vocals)
Rob Rock (Vocals)
Michael Kiske (Vocals)
Russell Allen (Vocals)
Sharon den Adel (Vocals)
Tony Kakko (Vocals)
Alex Holzwarth (Drums)
Jens Johansson (Keyboards)
Derek Sherinian (Keyboards)
Mikko Härkin (Keyboards)

Orchestrations: Sami Boman
Opera vocals: Magdalena Lee
Stanis W. Decker (Artwork)

Released 2013-05-17
Reviewed 2013-06-06



It's a bit of a shame what happened to Timo Tolkki and Stratovarius. In my opinion, Tolkki is a really nice guy - one of the nicest I've interviewed actually - and a person that reflects on him self, his environment and tries to see all the correlations between everything even the not so obvious. Sure, Stratovarius works without Tolkki too, somewhat, but it's not the thing that is the shame. During a few years Stratovarius really was the pinnacle of power metal, the absolute all star line-up that probably was as close to an ultimate line-up as there has ever been. But that was then, this is now and Stratovarius does albums without Timo while Tolkki himself has created a metal opera and he calls it Avalon and for this special album he's invited some guests to help him. The result is 51 minutes and the name is 'The Land Of new Hope' and it consist of 10 classic power metal tracks in Tolkkis typical power metal ways (which means grand, epic, somewhat faster than mid-tempo and really well made).

However, it's difficult to just approach this album without thinking Tolkki's probably had some inspiration from his friend tobias Sammet and Sammets project Avantasia (which by the way released an album as late as this spring). The style of Avalon is not particularly different from Avantasia, Tolkki's also used the "opera" kind of expression and the idea of several guest musicians (some of whom already known from Avantasia) and if you look at the name you see some similarities as well (Avantasia is created from the two words "Avalon" and "Fantasia" so there you go). I'm not saying Tolkki has copied Avantasia, I'm just saying there are similarities but perhaps this was something Tolkki has wanted to do for a long time, maybe right now when not only Stratovarius but also his more recent projects was over it was the first time he could do it? I do think the similarities are a bit too big not to mention, so that's what I've done now but it's not plagiarism and it's not like Sammet has copyrighted the right to make these so let's drop it and move on!

'The Land Of New Hope' takes place in the future, in a time when mankinds destructive ways has left mayhem and a hostile environment around us so the few people that are left have to fight for survival. The embark on a journey for the land of the dreams and stories, the paradice or whatever you'd like to call it - The Land Of New Hope perhaps? The journey is the story told and we hear it from two female and four male vocalists. Most songs are sung by Rob Rock, Russel Allen and Elize Ryd and together they actually cover nine of the ten song - three of which together. The conclusion of the album, however, has been left for the promised voice of power metal - Michael Kiske, whom Tolkki has used before on his album 'Hymn To Life' - an album where Kiske sung the song Key To The Universe. However, I don't think Kiske becomes some sort of "savior of the album in the eleventh hour" because there is so many great vocalists doing a good job on this album and if you want to hear the best vocal performance of the album you should instead direct your ears to the track Shine, where Elize Ryd and Sharon Den Adel sings duett - it's like angels singing to music from power metal harps. Besides I've seen some critics saying Kiskes vibrator's too big… sorry, meant vibrato. I think it's a fair point, but a bit exaggerated to be honest.

The album as such I find is well-made in every way. The production side is good with a great sound, nice mixing and high quality feel. Song-wise I find most of the material good too with plenty of variation, exciting structure and clearly out of line with most other things in the genre - and that's mostly something positive, if you ask me. I think it does a lot to work with the right people when you do things like this and in contrast to Sammet and his Avantasia, Tolkki has used a lot less musicians and instead seems to have concentrated on getting people that are really good - not just write people in to roles for the sake of having names in the credit list, which Sammet seems to have done more and more lately. Ryd and Rock does most track (five and six respectively) and along with the rest of the vocalists they really raise the bar of the album, lifting the tracks that Tolkki hasn't managed to get right from the beginning (or been a bit too creative with his ideas). I think for example A World Without Us is a difficult song that would have been quite poor if not for the vocalists (and then the whole album would probably have felt weaker).

On the instrumental side I think Tolkki's made a good job overall, but here he's probably played his cards a bit too unconventional on some of the tracks. I think there are parts where the unpredictability just goes one step too far, but then there are also tracks where it seems like Tolkkis just takes out his Stratovarius notes-book and after thinking "what worked best?" just copied and pasted a few of the things, only covering it with an odd keyboard line or something- We Will Find A Way and To The Edge Of The Earth are probably the two that takes it to the extreme.

As a whole, though, I still think 'The Land Of New Hope' is a really good album and even though there might be a lack of tracks that will become immortal, I think there is a overall high quality on more or less all the 51 minutes of this album. I think some of it is down to Tolkki trying to find something different in this otherwise so trite genre. It's not all songs where it works, and in some of them he doesn't seem to try, but he has the manpower to still get a good performance out of it and the album therefore have no problems finding itself somewhere above average. It's not perfect - but we've found new hope, let's keep it alive!



Label: Frontiers Records
Three similar bands: Avantasia/Aina/Stratovarius
Rating: HHHHHHH (5/7)
Reviewer: Caj Källmalm

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