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Rubbish - 20%

EndlessTorment, December 26th, 2013

Once the brains behind the most over-rated and overblown power metal band in Europe, Timo Tolkki eventually departed Stratovarius after a spectacular nervous breakdown. With the inglorious passing of his subsequent Revolution Renaissance project, this vehicle is a band featuring cast-offs from every other power metal band that’s ever existed. Also featuring ex-Angra/Shaman/Looking-Glass Self vocalist André Matos, keyboard player Mikko Härkin from Sonata Arctica, ex-Stratovarius bassist Jari Kainulainen and drummer Uli Kusch from every band in Europe, Symfonia is exactly what you’d expect from a group so named and containing such people. And it sucks.

In a word, In Paradisum is rubbish. In a sentence, it’s predictable, un-imaginative, uninspiring and bland, featuring the same ideas Tolkki ran out of more than a decade ago. If the name of the band isn’t warning enough, the cover art should suffice. Graphics like this belong on Final Fantasy games, not metal albums. The songs are dreary, without a single original element. Matos sings way higher than any human should be allowed and while it’s a credit to him that he does so without actually going off-key, a register this high becomes annoying very, very quickly – and this album is almost an hour long. Kusch phones in his tracks and Kainulainen does pretty much what he always did: stands around in the background of promo shots. Härkin is allowed some of the spotlight but, let’s face it, Janne Wirman he ain’t. Naturally, the real focus is Tolkki, which is sad because, like Yngwie Malmsteen, he’s simply relying on his name alone these days. But at least Yngwie retains the ability to make your jaw hit the floor once in a while, often when you least expect it. Tolkki can’t be bothered, instead content to merely serve up ten tracks of risably awful power metal pap. Every track on here could have come from any of the bands that these guys have been in before and Kusch alone has made this album dozens of times, and much, much better. No wonder he doesn’t seem interested. Neither should anyone else.

Review originally written for www.loudmag.com.au

Tolkki needs to step out of Stratovarius' shadow - 70%

TrooperOfSteel, April 30th, 2012

So here I am listening to a CD of previously unreleased Stratovarius songs from their classic period of the 90s. Then imagine my surprise when I reach for the CD cover and realise that in fact it is not Stratovarius, but actually Symfonia's debut release called 'In Paradisum'. But in all seriousness folks, Symfonia is ex-Stratovarius founder Timo Tolkki's newest metal project after the demise of Revolution Renaissance. Releasing 3 albums between 2008-2010, Revolution Renaissance never had the support from the fans (especially Stratovarius fans) and by the time of the third and final CD ('Trinity'), Tolkki had already pulled the plug on the band well before the actual release date of the album. It was unfortunate, particularly that the final disc was actually the best of the three.

This time round though, Tolkki (when forming Symfonia) has surrounded himself with a plethora of high profile musicians, namely vocalist Andre Matos (ex-Angra/ex-Shaman), keyboardist Mikko Harkin (ex-Sonata Arctica), bassist Jari Kainulainen (ex-Evergrey/ex-Stratovarius) and drummer Uli Kusch (ex-Masterplan/ex-Helloween). Going by the sound coming from Symfonia, it seems as though it doesn't matter who Tolkki has in his corner, he always returns to the sound of classic 90s Stratovarius. And this is the case with 'In Paradisum', the uncanny and almost exact resemblance to Stratovarius and the reason for the pun at the start of this review.

There are a few songs on the CD which do break away from the Stratovarius mould; however they don't come around till the second half of the album (with the exception of possibly "Santiago"). "Pilgrim Road" is a great song with interesting folk metal elements and a killer solo in the middle, while the bombastic and catchy "Rhapsody in Black" is one of the best tracks on the disc. Reminiscent to Edguy in parts, the track has an upbeat feel with pounding drum and bass lines. Andre Matos may be struggling at times now to reach the high notes (it can get rather cringe-worthy in parts throughout the album), but he delivers an excellent performance on "Rhapsody in Black".

Lastly, "Santiago" has a small similarity to Stratovarius, but for the majority the track is one of the best. The track has some powerful guitar riffs, with a sombre passage in the middle, but overall it's fast-paced, heavy and quite catchy.

The remaining seven tracks are very similar to Stratovarius, including the album opener "Fields of Avalon" and the following track "Come by the Hills". Both songs could have come straight from any Stratovarius CD, from 'Fourth Dimension' to 'Infinite'. With that being said, the two tracks are very good, with thundering double-bass blasts, furious power metal riffs mixed with a neo-classical prestige and soaring vocals for "Fields of Avalon", and mid-paced but upbeat and melodic chugging type riffs with choirs during the chorus for "Come by the Hills". "I Walk in Neon" is a very good song; however it sounds very much like a cross between Stratovarius songs "Eagleheart" and "Distant Skies", while "Forevermore" is another solid and speedy track with double-bass pounding and excellent guitar riffs, but again much like past Stratovarius songs.

I know there have been more references to Stratovarius than Symfonia in this review, but once you hear 'In Paradisum' for yourselves, you will understand where I and any other reviewers doing a write-up for this album are coming from and thus why Stratovarius is mentioned so many times. Don't get me wrong, this release is quite entertaining and powerful, and would definitely be something worth tracking down if you are a fan of European power/neo-classical metal; but ultimately it sounds too much like a Stratovarius copycat. Whether this was a deliberate act from Timo Tolkki remains to be seen, but you would think that to get out beneath Stratovarius' shadow, Tolkki needs to create something new and different from the band he was a part of for so many years. Don't forget, he did sign over everything to do with Stratovarius to the remaining members of that band, which means he has nothing to do with it anymore. So why record an album that is almost exactly like Stratovarius?

To Symfonia's credit, they all performed very well on 'In Paradisum' and it seems like this supergroup is working together well without a hitch.

Hopefully Symfonia can last longer than Revolution Renaissance and release discs with a sound that is more of their own evolution and less like Stratovarius. But for that to happen, the song-writing needs to be a team effort and not just Tolkki ruling the roost.

Originally written for www.themetalforge.com and www.metalcdratings.com

I never realized Paradisum meant hell... - 35%

Metal_Detector, July 7th, 2011

Well, first things first, the cover is one of the "happiest" (ahem) things I've ever seen in my life. I know that has no predetermined bearing on the music enclosed, but I thought it was worth mentioning, since it really does give one an accurate prediction of how this one plays out. This is some of the cheesiest, most repetitive, least imaginitive power metal I've ever heard compiled on a single compact disc. It's albums like this that cause terms such as "flower metal" to live on. Don't be fooled by the band name; this is Stratovarius, and these songs are the ones that couldn't even make it on their worst albums. In Paradisum is basically Infine pt. 2, except even worse this time around. All the same riffs, choruses, rhythms, and vocal patterns that polluted Stratovarius's weakest material are present here. There's not a shred of originality to be seen.

In Paradisum is an album that suffers from a little disorder I like to call "Two Minute Skip Syndrome;" after two minutes of each song, you're guarunteed to have heard all it will have to offer and you might as well just skip the rest of it. After all, why waste precious moments to hear the same poppy, upbeat chorus repeated ad nauseum? At least with ten identical songs at two minutes a piece, you're only wasting twenty minutes of your life and not the sadistic fifty included. This is the verse/chorus/verse/chorus/repeat chorus formula crammed down our throats repeatedly. It isn't heavy enough to be a headbanging good time, and it doesn't contain enough balladic beauty to be interesting, either. In Paradisum is the act of aging musicians stuck in the past, never finding the inspiration to do anything beyond the same release time and time again. Now that the carbon copies are elevating into double digit territory, I don't know whether to feel anger or pity.

Biggest embarrassments include the obligatory "epic" title track and "I Walk in Neon," a cheap replica of "Hunting High and Low." You'd figure Timo and his group of savages would want to stop wasting their lives doing this; you sorta only get one, you know. I actually like the helium-fueled chords of former Angra vocalist Andre Matos, so hearing him dying here is only more depressing; and he's still hitting the notes, too, making cliched straight-shooters like "Rhapsody in Black" actually sound somewhat decent. But one man can't save a band, and if there's ever been evidence of that fact, it's right here with Symfonia. This is a hollow shell of a band with no soul beneath its cotton candy exterior. No heart is beating under it's mechanized, emotionless skin, composed only of faulty spare parts that wouldn't fit its previous equally inferior models. Obvious metaphors aside, it just really fucking sucks.

(http://metallicfaithimmortal.blogspot.com/)

A monumental letdown. - 20%

Alchameth, June 6th, 2011

Tolkki, Matos and Kusch working together. For a melodic power metal fan, the previous sentence would trigger unsettling (by the least) fits of euphoria, since these three gentlemen are firmly placed as legends within the genre, regarded as an influence by many musicians and are generally considered to be very solid songwriters/players. Especially Matos, who simply refuses to give up writing interesting stuff, even when it comes to his (unfortunately) underrated solo albums.

When I knew Tolkki was forming some kind of supergroup, my initial feeling was that of doubt. Not that he would in fact have the balls for it, but that he would finally lay down the ego and the overwhelming Stratovarius-ness in his playing in order to let the other musicians' output to be a part of the final product. Midway through this album's mixing process (If I recall it well enough); the man said something in the lines of “Matos is a really good musician and he has some cool ideas”, which prompted me to think “Finally, damn it!”… What a silly thing hope is.

This album feels like it was released 15 years too late and is one of the most lazy and formulaic metal CDs I’ve ever heard. I couldn't believe how generic some of the stuff here was. Simply put, this is a slightly more progressive Stratovarius featuring Andre Matos circa “Angels Cry”. They could’ve done something different, showing the world how these creative musicians were capable of something more daring and fresh instead of just sitting down in the studio, turning off their individual talents and writing rehashed Stratovarius stuff over and over again, with the only difference between songs being some acoustic guitars here and there and lengthier, vaguely progressive parts that pop out of nowhere and disappear without leaving any impression on the listener.

Right from the start, “Fields of Avalon” is a forewarning of the cliché maelstrom that is about to take place inside your CD player. Total “Fourth Dimension”-worship, the song begins, rushes its way to the inevitably catchy chorus, runs around its own tail for a while and then ends. Matos sings in a full high-tenor voice here which, for the first time in years – and this is coming from someone who enjoys some of his more inventive moments – annoys the living shit out of me. It is way too exaggerated, and it happens way too many times. And you better get used to it, because he sticks with that mix of Kotipelto and a castrated Dickinson for pretty much the rest of the album, only rarely going for something punchier or attempting to put some soul or personality into it. In a way, Andre’s performance can be overall compared to the album’s; over-the-top and catchy for those who like it, but annoying and sterile at the same time. Again, it lacks personality and punch.

Tolkki, as many of us have expected, is forever trapped into some kind songwriting void on which his recurring writer’s block doesn’t let him create anything different from Stratovarius’ B-sides and recycled ideas. His riffing style is the same, his soloing is the same. One may argue that this is his mark, and I agree, but every musician needs to CHANGE some stuff sometimes in order to stay relevant. I’m all for an artist having a particular style, but how bad can it be to SPICE THINGS UP a little bit? Would it hurt to throw in some different influences? But I’m sorry. We’re talking about good ol’ Timo here, so we all might as well suck it.

What’s that? You’re talking about Uli Kusch? Sorry, but he seems to working somewhere else and that hack from Sonata Arctica (I mean the drummer! They former keyboardist’s here) has been called, because god damn this stuff is uninventive. Nevermind the passive, predictable basslines either. My god, what is up with bassists these days? What happened to guys who used to listen to Geddy Lee and Victor Wooten when they were younger? Oh, they’re in much better bands nowadays, sorry about that. Sorry Jari, you're a veteran and all, but this is a dead, lazy performance.

I’ve come to a simple, relatively well-known conclusion: fans enjoy being deceived, and are easily so for that matter. Many live in the same limbo Tolkki does. “Hey, another Tolkki album! Surely something fresh is coming up!”. Being a fan is a bitch.

This is a terrible album and you should only listen to it if you happen to have a raging hard-on for bad Stratovarius songs complemented by brain-dead songwriting. Too bad Mr.Tolkki is not the only one who does.

Hightlights: Check out “Elysium” for recent examples of Stratovarius’ highlights.

"Bland" in every sense of the word - 15%

Khat57, May 27th, 2011

Holy shit, a power metal supergroup consisting of members of Helloween, Sonata Arctica, and Stratovarius? Sign me up! Wait... Wait, no. Timo Tolkki's heading this project. And it's still past 2000, the year he lost all of his creative juices, isn't it? Fuuuuck, this is gonna be painful...

Coming from the ashes of Revolution Renaissance, Tolkki seemingly sought to release the single most generic, contrived, forced piece of shit power metal anybody had ever heard. And dammit, if he didn't succeed. Where do I even begin? I hate to knock out what is probably the worst factor of this whole CD, but I would have probably gotten to it sooner or later. Andre Matos, formerly of Angra, is a shit singer, and continues to be a shit singer on this album. There, I said it. His balls-piercingly high vocals bog down every solitary second he appears in. He makes Tobias Sammett sound like Phil Anselmo on this release, Jesus Christ. It probably doesn't help that all of the choruses here are the forced kind of choruses that try to be sing-along anthems, and you kind of hum with them while they're playing, but the next song that comes on, it's instantly forgotten.

Tolkki can still solo like a motherfucker (there, a positive note, don't expect too many more), but his riffs are still shit. Basically every single riff on this album, I am not kidding, is just a series of faux-pas "epic"-sounding long notes. And if they aren't those (this instance occurs, like, twice), it's a note strummed to shit for a few seconds, then a note slightly higher or lower on the guitar being strummed to shit for a few seconds, and so on, and so forth. I wouldn't be surprised if almost every verse and chorus of this album were backed by the exact same audio clip.

I usually find it unfair when a reviewer says "It's nothing you haven't heard before," but I find it perfectly applies here. Everything on this album is so commonplace in the power metal genre, you're honestly missing nothing if you don't listen to it. The most disappointing thing about it all is the association everyone involved in this project has with power metal. Every member is a 15-20 year veteran of the genre! (keyboardist Mikko Harkin has only 10, but still!) And for them all to collaborate and release this generic pile of horse-shit is appalling! Especially when the bands they used to be associated with are still releasing quality material, if not some of the best they've had in years! (Sonata Arctica notwithstanding) I mean, come on, Stratovarius has "Elysium," and that kicked ass, Angra's "Aqua" album has had critical acclaim (as I'm not a big fan of the band, I have no say in the matter, but I'll go with what my fellow power-metalheads have been saying), Helloween has "7 Sinners," which was pretty good... Come on! What gives, you guys?

After re-reading one of my sentences in the previous paragraph, I think I figured out the problem. "Collaborate?" I'm pretty sure nobody had anything to do with the songwriting process but Timo Tolkki, that fucking controlling egomaniac. I'm not 100% sure on this theory, but given Timo's track record in the last 10 years or so, it's a highly likely possibility.

Of course, if there's one thing Timo Tolkki's still good at, besides shredding his guitar, it's writing epics, and the 10-minute monster "In Paradisum" doesn't disappoint... entirely. Andre Matos' vocal lines are still delivered poorly, but the epic choir brings back to mind the days of "Elements" and "Destiny." On top of that, it's the only song on here with a genuine riff! A GENUINE FUCKING RIFF, YOU GUYS! Yeah, this kind of song has been done better by many others, even Tolkki himself, and the kids talking in the middle is both creepy and annoying, but at this point, I'll take anything besides the tripe released thus far on the album.

With little to no power or surprise (save the sometimes shredding solos, like the ones in "Forevermore" and "Rhapsody In Black"), this album is already at the top of my lists for both biggest disappointment and worst album of the year. And it's not even June yet. (at time of writing)

Stratovarius: 2, Timo Tolkki: 0....

Oh Timo - 33%

GuntherTheUndying, May 25th, 2011

Consider Symfonia Timo Tolkki's self-planned coming-home party back into power metal after the dudes of Stratovarius kicked his ass out and turned Tolkki's vapid gimmicks into sensational music; see "Elysium" for additional information. This time Tolkki bought a number of prominent musicians boasting accomplishments in Angra and Helloween among a plethora of others. The fanboy poo is of course flying from hand to hand now that this once-noteworthy figure has "returned" to his natural form, yet "In Paradisum" is far from the greatness some pompously assume. The album is essentially melodic power metal caught in an awkward pose, offering little substance once the sugary fluff and half-assed instrumentality are overturned. If this is excellent power metal, then this review was written by a giraffe that lives in the ocean.

"In Paradisum" is what many fear it would be: power metal by numbers. Symfonia seems to have blueprinted what was to be in their debut via a list, organizing intros, bridges, choruses, solos and transitions through a cloned process of juvenile song writing. Every track follows a predictable decree in which these items lifelessly turn on Tolkki's uninteresting riffs. Andre Matos' off-key, squeaky voice is so bad it's almost funny, and the other super troopers of Symfonia have little to no presence throughout the album as it is. The material is largely unmemorable, and Symfonia sees no end to these gigantic perils which plague the record from its mediocre opening to the lame-duck ballad that ends "In Paradisum."

Symfonia drops the balls right from the get-go, and the band immediately crumbles when Matos' cringe-worthy vocals cover the apathetic intro-verse of "Fields of Avalon." The overall scheme is powerless and generic, restricted to the most predictable angle one would expect in melodic power metal, yet still showcased through Tolkki's fret-slashing solos and Matos' awful voice. The remaining tracks sway between fast and slow, hard hitters and ballads, but nothing changes the fundamental spitefulness and fatigued garbage overall. It's quite a shame considering this was supposed to be something greater than Tolkki's usual stuff; it's nothing like that "Saana" crap, but I still feel like puking every time I force myself to experience Symfonia's intergalactic letdown of an album.

Well, I suppose the lackluster tracks and less-than-exemplary performances drive this into the ground; the intent is acceptable, but totally annihilated by Symfonia's dire chemistry. The whole album basically sounds like a collection of rejected Stratovarius riffs and second-rate keyboards stuffed between below-average ideas and novice song writing, so really nothing goes Symfonia's way. The only selling point of this release is Symfonia's lineup, and since every member fails to deliver anything beyond their usual performances, I'd recommend skipping this moldy facade with extreme prejudice. I at least hope Tolkki fans will finally throw in the towel on this band and their idol; he can't even get his own equation right anymore.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

They deliver what we expect and even more - 78%

kluseba, April 11th, 2011

After almost a decade of instability, one of the most recognized and admired musicians of the power metal genre is back. Timo Tolkki's new baby is a super group as he has not come along all alone. André Matos from the enjoyable Angra is on the vocals, Mikko Härkin from the rather overrated Sonata Arctica plays on the second guitar, the German power metal legend Uli Kusch that has been in bands such as Helloween, Gamma Ray and Masterplan is on the drums and this is also a small Stratovarius reunion as Tolkki's old band mate Jari Kainulainen plays the bass guitar on this first record of the new band.

Many people may be afraid that the band is playing boring stereotypical power metal but this record turns out to be the best one that all of the band members have done in the past years. Anyone that likes the Stratovarius era between "Fourth dimension" and "Destiny" and thought that the band has lost its strength afterwards will adore this record. Anybody that likes what a band like Edguy has done around its "Vain glory opera" or "Theater of salvation" records should buy this power metal album of the year until now. Somebody that prefers the first three albums of "Avantasia" to the recent ones may also risk one or two ears and give this worthwhile record a try. Anybody that is familiar with the early works of Sonata Arctica like "Ecliptica" and especially "Silence" has an album he might consider buying immediately. Could this album surprise or convince any critics of melodic happy power metal? Is this album an epic milestone? Is this record innovating or a true highlight of the career of the involved musicians? That's not the case either but anybody that may give this album a try exactly knows now what to expect. I sincerely hope that this band carries on and doesn't break apart too quickly. It's needless to say that their technical abilities and personal abilities are elevated enough to create truly entertaining power metal albums and I also feel that this band has the potential to be more creative and diversified in the future. The first album is just a sign to show the world that those guys are out there and to prove that they are back in action so they didn't want to take too many risks. But if one listens carefully, one discovers that the band has an interesting symphonic and progressive touch on which one could build something new. As a fan of the first three records of Stratovarius, I'm still waiting and hoping for something as courageous, fresh and diversified as "Twilight time" or "Dreamspace". I feel almost a little bit sad that Tolkki doesn't sing on this record as he has underrated abilities and a unique voice. Nevertheless, he as well as all the other band members does a solid and sometimes even surprisingly inspiring job on the record.

Let’s talk about some of the songs now. The most outstanding track is without a doubt the majestic title track “In Paradisum” and though it reminds of some Stratovarius epics, it’s a positive fact that the song doesn’t remember too much anything one has heard before from this band. The song is unique, has some symphonic elements that remind of “Nightwish” or even “Therion” and an eerie and progressive middle part. There are many other high quality tracks to discover. “Come by the hills” has a strong bass line and reminds with its slow paced and unusual structure of the glorious “Dreamspace” era a part of the soft vocals. “I walk in neon” has also those mysterious and dark vibes that I liked about that particular album. “Alayna” goes even further and is an eerie and floating ballad filled with many progressive changes and doesn’t copy the usual kitsch tracks. This track is the hidden gem on the record. The other ballad “Don’t let me go” is full of acoustic guitars and smooth violins. It reminds a lot of “Celestial dream” with some modern electro sounds in the background. It’s a perfect and peaceful way to close an album. “Pilgrim road” has a strong folk metal touch and could have been a song from “Elvenking”. The electronic elements contrast the folk sounds and create a rather interesting experiment even if the vocals are a little bit too cheesy. “Rhapsody in black” has a riff sounding like “I was made for loving you” by KISS but is otherwise a half ballad with chilling acoustic guitars that sounds really relaxing.

Even if there are a few predictable songs like the typical signature riff shredding of the opener “Fields of Avalon” or the comparable “Forevermore” as well the slightly harder and darker “Santiago”, the five stars show us that they still have some ideas and something to say. Ten years ago this record would have earned a worldwide attention and success. Nowadays, it’s simply a traditional but strong power metal album that any fan of the genre will adore.

True Power Metal Glory - 95%

alexxhighlander, April 5th, 2011

If you love melodic power metal and have loved it for at least ten years, you will love this album. It's that simple.

I’m talking about glory days power metal, from the time the unbeatable team made up of Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and Edguy were putting out killer album after killer album and runners up Angra and a few others released top material as well.

I’m talking about vocals that are so goddamn sentimental that they actually choke you up even though the lyrics are so cheesy and your life is fine, while the huge choirs of angels sing in the background trying to carry you away to some distant wonderland.

I’m talking about killer guitar solos that pick the song up and throw it up in the air battling keyboard solos that turn it all into a mind-blowing duel, and a double bass barrage that will get you in the right mood for one hell of a ride, my friends.

With this line up, what else did you expect? There is not one single musician in Symfonia that could be called 'average' or just 'pretty good'. They all excel at what they do and have the experience and track record to back them up. They don’t have to prove themselves to anyone. Writing this album was probably as easy as it gets for these guys, as it truly does not explore any new grounds. Songs are simple, short and direct for the most part, with a total playing time of just under one hour.

Actually, I am glad they didn’t try and innovate or any such nonsense. I was afraid they might come up with such ‘innovative ideas’ as the ones that have plagued the genre in the past five years or so, with bands departing from their original sound in favor of even more dated forms of metal or hard rock, becoming boring and redundant in the process and completely losing their identities. You have nothing to fear with In Paradisum, as this is, I repeat, pure power metal glory.

The cover art could be better, and many will bash this album as being just 'more of the same' from guitarist Timo Tolkki. Well, they’re right. It’s more of the same ingenuity this guy brought to us on his best works with his former band. So I’m glad. As with regard to production, songwriting and musicianship, this album is nearly flawless.

Along with Cain’s Offering and Pathfinder, Symfonia have proven once again there is hope for power metal.

From one comeback to the next. - 92%

hells_unicorn, April 5th, 2011

When it comes to Timo Tolkki, the only certainty is uncertainty. Not so much in what you will get from him musically, as there is a level of continuity that can be expected, though this is contingent on said Finn’s mood. But when it comes to band stability, the period where such a thing coincided with Timo’s career has long passed, and it seems that with his latest creation he is desperate to try and get back to those days. While the sudden scuttling of Revolution Renaissance might seem like an erratic move in line with his unpredictable caprices, it makes sense when looking at the fold that is Symfonia as to why it was done. Ultimately the former project had degenerated into a confused combination of late 90s Stratovarius and Timo’s less than stellar solo hard rock ventures, and the surprisingly solid final offering “Trinity” underscores why a fresh start was probably the best move in getting himself back in the game.

This is, for all intents and purposes, a super band that may prove to have the longevity of others of their kind such as Civilization One and Ride The Sky. But at the same time it is a perfect coupling of several musicians with similar stylistic tendencies, one of which being Jari Kainulainen, who had seen all of the good times and some of the bad times of Stratovarius along with Timo. Rounding out the arrangement is a former Sonata Arctica keyboardist with similar chops to that of Jens Johannson, and a veteran high flying air-raid siren to rival Koltipelto and Kiske in Andre Matos. And if the all star list wasn’t familiar enough, Uli Kusch has lent his kit work to the band, bringing in a representation of the Helloween roots that has dominated this style from the get go. It might not be a match made to last, but for anyone who fell in love with the “Fourth Dimension” through “Visions” era of Stratovarius, it is definitely one made in heaven.

“In Paradisum” is a very appropriate name for an album that exemplifies the paradise of sounds that encompassed early Stratovarius, with high flying tempos, basic speed metal riffing, loads of double kick drumming, and enough light keyboard atmospheres to rival the billowing clouds of a mid-spring sky. It might not win any awards for heaviness, but when looking at a solid reassertion of the same winning combination of classic rock and fast paced influences that European power metal has drawn from the 70s and 80s, this is solid from start to finish. “Fields Of Avalon”, “Santiago” and “Forevermore” all take a pure orthodox road that will instantly bring back memories of such Stratovarius fan favorites such as “Legions” and “Father Time”. The fear of many that Timo had lost his shredding edge and felt the need to employ other guitarists to fill out the solo sections is dispelled as a barrage of familiar fits of Malmsteen worship once again graces most of the instrumental break sections, though with that somewhat less longwinded tendency in line with Timo’s past work.

Perhaps the one area where this album is a bit atypical for Timo’s body of work is that he puts most of his best work into the mid-tempo offerings on here. Sure, there is the usual longer epic with a slow paced groove on the title song that reminds heavily of “Soul Of A Vagabond” and the previous album title song “Trinity”. But the real winners on here are “Come By The Hills” and “I Walk In Neon” with two utterly unforgettable choruses that take the listener right back to the days when Avantasia and Edguy actually made music that was worth a damn. Andre Matos’ vocal attack is as high flying and glass breaking as it was on “Angel’s Cry” 18 years prior, the riff attack is invigorated and fresh, and the songwriting is on point. The only real down point, as per usual with the typical Stratovarius album, is the closing ballad, but in comparison to such crappers as “Drop In The Ocean” and “Celestial Dream”, “Don’t Let Me Go” is more of a bland experience than a terrible one.

This could prove to be an impressive power metal empire, if this fold can keep it that is. Occasionally the convergence of longstanding veterans into super bands in this endless game of musical chairs going on yields up a classic. This is a good year for this style of metal thus far, which may make it a bad one for the wallets for said consumers of such syrupy goodness, and why not. With all of the crap pushed by the actual mainstream, why not get a better version of it where you can sing along with a melody while occasionally banging your head?

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 5, 2011.

Shit. - 30%

Empyreal, April 5th, 2011

Right from the cover art you can tell this won’t be any good. I mean, there are more pinks and purples on there than on most Disney princess artworks! Don’t you people have any testicles at all? Fuck. Symfonia is the newest Timo Tolkki project and In Paradisum is their debut. Being that Tolkki has pretty much released worse and worse versions of the same old generic power metal for more than a decade now, it’s easy to assume this is a huge pile of monkey droppings and just skip it altogether. But it’s more than that! It’s a huge pile of monkey droppings made by a bunch of guys who have been playing this music for a long time! Oh the joys. Let’s make this a quick one.

Andre Matos is on vocals and his performance once again makes me think he’s had too much helium for breakfast. Uli Kusch on drums…well, won’t be long until he’s out, as he never stays in any band for very long anymore. The other members, assembled from random components of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, do competently, too, but it’s all just so piecemeal, so uninspiring. Haven’t we heard this a hundred times before? The production is excellent on this, but the songwriting is tepid and the opposite of anything remotely exciting. Nothing here is done in a way that makes me want to hear those old ideas again, either.

And it all succumbs so violently to the usual Tolkki clichés that will make anyone familiar with them want to vomit excessively. They’re like bad acne: overlong songs, repetitive, slow riffing, an influx of sappy, overly sentimental bathos and a lack of any balls. Songs like the woeful title track or the pointless, overly hyperactive “Santiago” underscore all the problems with this by themselves: directionless crap with too many parts that have nothing to do with one another. More fecal matter like “Rhapsody in Black” and “I Walk in Neon” starts cropping up especially toward the end of the album. Could be worse, though; we could have another “Mother Gaia” on our hands…eugh.

This is a very listenable album for the most part, but after a listen or two, it will start to offend you just by way of how shitty the songwriting is, and how lacking in any modicum of passion this all is. In Paradisum is moribund, uncreative hack work by a man who hasn’t had a good songwriting idea in a long, long time, and you should be ashamed if you actually buy into it. Fraudulent, meaningless junk for lobotomy patients and chimpanzees. One more for the incinerator.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com