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The second official solo record by Timo Tolkki is a very calm melodic rock album that reminds me a little bit of the calm rock music of the seventies and eighties and also of the solo albums of Michael Kiske. Sometimes, there is even too much melodic rock in here as in "Fresh Blue Waters" that sounds like an ordinary southern rock ballad that could have got some airplay in the southern part of the United States of America if it had been released as a single. And guess what, Michael Kiske is even invited here as a guest singer and does a great job in the opening "Key To The Universe" with his emotional clean vocals.
The surprising thing is that the other tracks have as great vocals that must not hide behind the performance of the German power metal legend Kiske. It's the first time in almost eight years since his first solo record and Stratovarius' legendary masterpiece "Dreamspace" that Tolkki performs the vocals. His voice has changed since then, sounds less high pitched and energizing but a little bit more natural, down-to-earth and still very emotional. It's a different style but a very good one. I have always felt that Tolkki was a gifted singer and should have always remained as the main vocalist of Stratovarius with his unique voice. Now I even discovered that he has two unique voices.
Another guest singer on this record is Sharon den Adel from Within Temptation on "Are You The One?" that should please fans of the Stratovarius record which was released prior to this album, "Infinite". The slow and melodic guitar solo is simply amazing and the atmosphere is very inspiring and dreamy. The female vocals fit well to the track but are thin compared to the performances of Kiske and Tolkki himself. But it's a great thing that Tolkki invited Sharon den Adel before her band even got the great breakthrough and success they would soon after achieve.
This wouldn't be a true Timo Tolkki release if there would not be any kind of experiments. The most important one is clearly "Father" that has a very eerie feeling, a strange vocal performance and some discordant guitar chords mixed with flute sounds from a keyboard. Tolkki screams and sounds a little bit out of tune but this was the effect he wanted to create and we should take it as it is. This piece of music is surely experimental and original but it's so strange that I'm not even sure if I like it. It's also one of the heaviest tracks on the album and contradicts all the songs we have heard before. Note that the lyrics seem to be very personal and brutal. They are worth to be checked out even if Tolkki still does some obvious mistakes in his phrase constructions and has a big but charming accent. One could maybe compare it to "030366" from the "Fourth Dimension" album of Stratovarius.
Despite a couple of good songs like "Key To The Universe", "Are You The One?", "Father", "It's XMas Morning" and the beautiful epic title track "Hymn To Life" with an impressive, meaningful and engaging speech quotation towards the end of the track, there are still a couple of lengths and rather mediocre tracks to find on this album. It's a rather calm record and not as vivid, progressive and experimental as I wished it to be. I also dislike the permanent presence of cheap keyboard effects in all songs. On the other side, Tolkki still has a fascinating voice and this album is worth to be checked out by fans of melodic rock and dreamy melodic metal.
You should be a Strato fan to find out about Timo's solo CDs, so I guess you are one since you are reading this.
And here is my recommendation: AVOID THIS ALBUM. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
Now I'll explain you why. The main reason is that this is a pop album. Yes. Timo Tolkki has made a POP album. This album is made entirely of ballads and power ballads, so consider yourself adviced. I have no problem with ballads and keyboards, but an ENTIRE album made of them? No sir, not what I want in my CD player. Luckily I downloaded this one instead of buying it...
Yes, it's that bad. It even features Sharon den Abel from goth-melodic (WTF??) Within Temptation, whose voice I strongly dislike. The first song, which is easily the best one, features metal-hater Kiske, but he doesn't sound like in the old Keeper's era. Actually I didn't recognize him until I saw here in the archives that he was singing that song. His voice is very different but not bad, it's just kinda... strange. Anyway this one is enjoyable supposing you like really slow ballads. But then, it all falls apart and the listener is tortured in a merciless way by Timo's worst vocal performance, ballad after ballad after ballad and even one surprise I'll tell you in a minute.
Little Boy I Miss You is the gayest song ever, a song that could easily appear on a Britney Spears CD, as well as Are You The One? and pretty much every song here. But now let me ask you a question: do you remember 030366? Do you remember the abomination it was? If you think that one is the worst song ever written by Timo Tolkki, you are wrong. Track 8, Father, sounds like 030366 but this one manages to be EVEN WORSE. The vocals are incredibly horrendous, and those stupid "industrial" sounds from 030366 are back, and if they lacked coherence in the old song, here they lack it even more. I just cannot believe this song made it into a record. What the fuck was Timo thinking about when he wrote this? And how could Nuclear Blast release this incredibly crappy record?
I should be congratulated for reaching this point of the album, but halfway through track 9 I decided it was enough and hit the ear-saving stop button. But according to the previous review track 10 sounds like 030366 (oh no... not again), so I'm glad my ears didn't bleed anymore.
Please, please, I beg you not to listen to this album. Make yourself a favor. Just make your pop-loving friend listen to this one and he/she will probably tell you it is good or very good, so at this point you already know at what we are looking here. Seriously, go listen to Episode or Visions.
I just can't describe how pissed off I am when I think of the fourty minutes of my life that I wasted listening to this shit. This is not worth downloading.
Please don't make any more solo albums Timo. Write stuff like that in Destiny, for Stratovarius. Forget this stupid thing.
Timo Tolkki severely lacks the shredding that he is known for in Stratovarius on Hymn to Life, but many of these songs are still rather touching. Most of the songs are sung my Tolkki himself, and I personally would not consider this to be a metal album by any stretch of the imagination.
Key to the Universe is a power ballad type song, with ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske on vocals. In my opinion, this track is probably the single most emotional track I have ever heard. Timo's solo is slow and melodic, and Kiske's voice has never sounded more crisp and clean. This song is alone reason enough to listen to this album.
Now I Understand, sounds like a more upbeat version of the Police's "I'll Be Watching You". It is probably the second best track on the album, seeing as still displays rather melodic guitar parts, and passionate vocals from Tolkki.
Fresh Blue Waters, I am convinced is a country song. Some of the vocals sound remiscent to Pink Floyd, but the guitar tabs to this song are straight out of an old country song. Halfway through the song, it is surprising to see Tolkki break out a Stratovariusesque solo however.
Dear God and Father are probably 2 of the worse songs that I have ever heard. They offer no listenable elements whatsoever. Tolkki seems to have forgotten how to play guitar here and manages to do a worse job of singing than usual. To me, these songs resemble Stratovarius' 030366, but minus any sort of rhythm.
I wouldn't really recommend this to diehard metal fans, or even die hard Stratovarius fans, but I think it would be pretty nice for fans of bands such Pink Floyd, OSI, and other progressive rock type bands.