Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – “Angels Of The Apocalypse” (Frontiers Records)
This is the second album as part of a trilogy created by former Stratovarius guitar player, Timo Tolkki. Based on the concept that the Earth is being judged by 4 angels in the form of the elements and as they give their final warning, mankind sees unimaginable destruction so to it is with this darker and heavier album! With Tolkki handling most of the instruments and ex Stratovarius members Tuomo Lassila on drums and Antti Ikonen on keyboards, the singers are nothing short of a stellar cast including David DeFeis (Virgin Steele), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire, Angra) and Simone Simons (Epica). Musically, Tolkki’s compositions are essentially metal opera, being a mix of symphonic, classical and power elements, stylishly and supremely delivered by some of the world’s top metal musicians. Opening with the bombastic operatic metal of ‘Jerusalem Is Falling’, expect a wave of soprano vocals, massive choirs, ripping orchestrations, and in no small part Tolkki’s own stupendous guitar playing, which itself is classically inspired – check out those breathtaking solos! Strangely enough, and sadly, the rest of the album takes a step back, preferring to fall back on the keyboards predictably on the neo prog like ‘Stargate Atlantis’ and the power rock of ‘Rise Of The 4th Reich’, which tries to be anthemic in its political message – complete with GW Bush sample – but doesn’t really fit, although Timo has alluded that he wrote some songs with specific singers in mind? Thankfully things get better with the Scorpions like rock ballad of the passionate ‘You’ll Bleed Forever’ before the epic title track returns us to the majestic glory of the opener – why Tolkki didn’t just write an album of these tracks I’m not sure. He certainly has the potential to be up there with Avantasia but as the ethereal closer of ‘Garden Of Eden’ sails us away you can at least appreciate the grandiose and consoling performances of this ambitious project in the hope of his final opus.