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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.