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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.