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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....