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Simply ridiculous - 15%

Cybertrash, February 6th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Frontiers Records (Digipak)

I must admit that I've always had a soft spot for Timo Tolkki in my otherwise cold heart. Although his crazy shenanigans has made him an easy target to ridicule and dislike, I've found that I've a lot of compassion for his troubled soul and of course a lot of admiration for his genius craftsmanship. With that said I hadn’t really enjoyed his songwriting for 13 years when “The Land of New Hope” was released in 2013. This was indeed a flawed release, but it also showed promise. Especially with the wonderful track “A World Without Us”. Hence, I was thrilled to see what the guitarist had cooked up this time.

Regrettably, “Angels of the Apocalypse”, is far from a return to form. Everything is just sloppily crafted or straight out ridiculously bad. The music is generic semi bombastic power metal with an epic intent, yet the production is really plain, almost demo like at times. The guitars are simplistic, totally missing Tolkki's neo-classical touch, the drums sounds like static, digitized, slapping of raw meat, and the vocals are far too prominent in the mix and are at times absurdly underproduced and other times overproduced with bizarre effects. If that wasn't enough this album contains some really disappointing vocal performances. Full-fledged power metal legends like Fabio Lione and David DeFeis provides a sour excuse for singing no auto tuner could ever correct. “Rise of the 4th Reich”, with DeFeis on vocals, is a blasphemous misuse of orchestral hits and vocal effects (probably meant to hide the fact that “the lion” is out of key from start to finish), and is by far the worst effort on the album. “Stargate Atlantis” is almost as bad with terrible digital effects, a boring chorus and Fabio Lione and Caterina Nix (?!) struggling, and failing, to hit the notes. Floor Jansen proves herself, however, as competent as ever, but is stuck with exceptionally poor songwriting, for example the boring ballad, “You´ll Bleed Forever” and the generic “Design the Century” which is, like so many other tunes, wrecked by digital effects, with a totally flat chorus and misplaced bombastic choirs. The only decent track an the album is “Neon Sirens” where a good performance by Zak Stevens masks the flawed songwriting.

This release leaves me with a lot of questions and utter discontent. Maybe, “The Land of New Hope”, was a lucky shot and it's time for Tolkki to retire from the metal scene. “Angels of the Apocalypse” is yet another argument that this is the case.

I'll take the apocalypse over babylon. - 71%

hells_unicorn, June 2nd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Frontiers Records (Digipak)

Full disclosure is something that should be had from time to time, particularly on subjects of contention. The author of this review thus feels it necessary to state up front that he is a die-hard 90s Stratovarius fan with a severe weakness for nostalgia, and at this juncture in Timo Tolkki's chaotic solo career, pretty much any steadfast fan of his work will be coming from the same area. Likewise, approaching his latest project involves a nostalgia from the earlier days of Avantasia, back before scarecrows supplanted mythical tales of fairies and counterfeit religion. Thus having qualified the situation, it's a surefire wager that Tolkki's brand of power metal conservatism will yield predictable results, thus it could be argued that the compositional evolution since he first struck out on his own, barring the bizarre interlude that was the second Revolution Renaissance album "Age Of Aquarius" of course.

Anyway, the second opus of Timo Tolkki's Avalon dubbed "Angels Of The Apocalypse" brings few surprises to the table, hence the surprising collection of outwardly negative reviews coming its way in some quarters. To be fair, a few metal outlets have given this album a more middle-of-the-road rating in line with how its actual contents sound, but there is something to the the critiques of the album's detractors, though it amounts to making a sizable yet scalable hill into the peak of Mt. Everest. The chief flaw lay in the album's guitar-lite, vocal and keyboard heavy production which veers pretty far from even the prototypical overemphasis of said elements by the likes of Sonata Arctica into something that sounds a bit stilted. This can't be explained by Tolkki not knowing what he's doing in the studio since his production work on "The Land Of New Hope" didn't come off quite as uneven and lacking in guitar punch, but part of the culprit may lay in a potential interest in Floor Jansen's projects, past and present, which account for the over-emphasis on vocals and symphonic detailing.

The songwriting caters to a Gothic-tinged symphonic sound a bit more than the simple inclusion of Floor as well as her unofficial rival Simone Simmons, and attempts to meld Tolkki's signature melodic style into a massive orchestral score. The results are mixed at times, particularly on this album's first single "Design The Century" and the slightly faster yet still highly formulaic "You'll Bleed Forever", where the guitars tend to languish in the background as Floor wails away and the orchestral hits battle with mechanistic keyboard ambiances well above the mix of the metal elements. It's not quite to the point of demo quality and the guitar parts are not terribly intricate save the solo breaks which are thankfully louder in the mix, but it hampers the overall sound of things. Things are a little better on Fabio Lione's tenure on "Jerusalem Is Falling", which doesn't get terribly busy in the riff department, but does push the metal envelope far closer to where it needs to be. Likewise, the keyboard heavy upper mid-tempo "Stargate Atlantis" manages to conjure up a fond memory of the glory days of Stratovarius' "Visions", but in a bit more of a Revolution Renaissance debut album fashion.

Perhaps the other relevant complaint that could be visited upon this album is the lack of truly high speed brilliance that would bring about a return to Timo's zenith period with Stratovarius circa 1995-1999. In contrast to the short stint in Symfonia and the previous album under this moniker, there's nothing on here that reminds of "Legions" or "Father Time", and at best when things get going there is something along the lines of a "S.O.S." or "Hunting High And Low". At times Timo tries a little too hard at playing up the orchestral angle as on "Rise Of The 4th Reich", which also tries to take a cue from Mark Jansen by inserting a painfully long clip of the long retired ex-president George W. Bush giving some nonsensical diatribe about international unity. David DeFeis's vocal job here is a tad bit haggard, but the song suffers most from uneven pacing and a lack of continuity despite a few solid moments. Similarly, the Zak Stevens cameo comes off as a bit flat, though the guitars have finally found themselves bumped up a notch and actually make an impact, though in more of a down-tempo grooving fashion. The balladry of "The Paradise Lost" and the similarly slow yet multifaceted closing epic title song pick things up in the overall quality department, but one is left wondering where the climax is given the lack of an explosive speeder to stand above the fray.

In similar fashion to a number of Tolkki's more average outings, this album comes off as if it were a bit rushed, owing a bit to him probably trying a bit too hard and then having to finalize things on short notice. There was a trip to Greece to get the creative juices flowing cited by him prior to the album's release, which hints at a period of writer's block followed by a sudden burst of inspiration that likely didn't come into full focus. Song for song, this isn't the worst thing that he's ever put out, but it finds itself in similar territory to the Revolution Renaissance debut in that there isn't anything that outright holds the whole thing together, no singular personality around which the other characters can truly gather, although Floor Jansen seems to be the dominant character in much the sense that Michael Kiske was in the aforementioned earlier project, with Fabio Lione coming a pretty close second. It's not something to sell the family jewels to acquire, but it will suffice to keep much of his core reasonably happy, and it's worlds above a lot of the rubbish that Avantasia was putting out until just recently.

Design the worst European power metal album ever - 28%

kluseba, May 23rd, 2014

Constancy has never been the strength of legendary power metal guitar hero Timo Tolkki who has created some of the genre’s best and worst releases. After many years of personal problems, Timo Tolkki came back with a trendy metal opera project in three parts to jump on the bandwagon. The first chapter “The Land Of New Hope” was actually a good album. It wasn’t anything extraordinary but an enjoyable symphonic power metal output. I was really looking forward for the second part for another reason though. Timo Tolkki brought back keyboarder Antti Ikonen and drummer Tuomo Lassila who played on the first four Stratovarius albums. Many song titles of the new releases were also closely connected to my favourite European power metal album “Dreamspace”. In addition to this, the guest singers seemed promising with Nightwish’s Floor Janse, Epica’s Simon Simons and Virgin Steele’s David DeFeis among other. Everything seemed promising and I was ready to praise this album but it comes along as a huge disappointment. This record is maybe even the worst album Timo Tolkki ever wrote and may beat Stratovarius’ “Elements Part I” and Revolution Renaissance’s “New Era” that had at least one or two decent songs here and there.

“Angels of the Apocalypse” is so bad that I almost don’t know where to start. Let’s simply give an overall impression first. Whoever was responsible for the production of the album should be fired or quit his job immediately. The vocalists sound extremely thin, the artificially sounding orchestral passages are too loud and the sound samples are either too loud or almost inaudible from one moment to the other.

The song writing of this record is lackluster and sound like a very bad rehash of several other metal opera projects and power metal records. Most of the songs have no dynamics at all and just drag along. The vocals and instrumental parts mostly don’t fit together. The extremely weak orchestral passages are overused and kill any potential epic atmosphere. Apart of the forced single “Design The Century” which sounds like a weak copy of the previous single “Enshrined In My Memory”, no single song has a catchy chorus or hook in the entire album.

The musicianship on this record is also extremely weak. The keyboarder overuses the orchestral passages, the bass guitar has no shining moments at all, the drum play is ordinary and the guitar solos sound old-fashioned and worn-out apart of a few exceptions.

The vocalists are extremely weak. Floor Jansen almost sounds shy and out of breath and David DeFeis seems to miss every single note to only name a few disappointing guest singers.

The songs go from bad to worse. The dull vocals only introduction “Song for Eden” is a total bummer and worst possible start to an album. The vocals and instrumental parts in the lyrically worn-out “Rise of the Fourth Reich” are a dishonour to both Stratovarius’ “4th Reich” and “Götterdämmerung (Zenith of Power)”. The George W. Bush sample adds the cherry on the cake. “Stargate Atlantis” has the most awful keyboard sound I have heard in years and I listen to a lot of low budget underground stuff. The ballads “You’ll Bleed Forever” and “High Above Me” are boring and completely forgettable lullabies of the worst kind. The epic title song “Angels of the Apocalypse” is way too calm and includes too many breaks. It never ever gets dynamical or original and it’s at least nine minutes and seven seconds too long.

I really tried to find a good song on the record but none of them completely convinces me. Three tracks may partially convince. The classic power metal opener “Jerusalem Is Falling” has a few good guitar solos. “Neon Sirens” is a good rock song with an acceptable vocal performance. "Design the Century" is weak but has a catchy chorus. That’s it. This album has three tracks that are at best partially okay while the rest is more or less an abomination.

I’m sorry to say this as I really respect many works of Timo Tolkki and have followed him over all these years and always encouraged him to carry on with his music but this album is his worst ever in my opinion. The production is horrible, the musicianship is weak, the guest vocalists can’t shine, the song writing is bad, the lyrics are redundant, well, even the album title is stereotypical and exchangeable. Even if you liked the first part of the trilogy and even if you are a faithful collector, do yourself a favor and stay away from this forever.

You'll Bleed Forever? Accurate. - 15%

Dragonflame1994, May 23rd, 2014

I really loved Timo Tolkki's Avalon's debut, In fact, "The Land of New Hope" was in my top 3 favorite releases last year. It was easily the best thing Tolkki has done since "Elements Part 1" but, to put it bluntly...This album is horrible. I rarely complain about production/mixing, but this album has some of the worst production/mixing on any power metal album I've ever heard. How can this be the same guy who gave us the godly production of Element's 1 & 2?! All the guest vocalists vocals sound really weird. I mean, how do you make Fabio Lione, Simone Simons, and Floor Jansen sound like shit?! Somehow Timo manages to do this.

The album opens up with this really cheesy 45 second almost lullaby intro track "Song for Eden" sung by Fabio Lione, no music...Just Fabio singing some really cheesy lyrics Timo wrote, in a very calm soothing voice. Next is the first real song, "Jerusalem Is Falling" and the first few seconds gives us hope of it being good, and the song starts with an epic atmosphere, but soon those hopes are crushed when the verse comes in and all we hear is uninspired low E chug "Riffing" just when you think you can't take it anymore, the chorus starts and it's not much of one at all. The keyboards try to hide the bad song writing and make it feel more "epic" but don't do a good job at it, and not even Fabio's vocals can make this song less boring. I will say one good thing about this track though, Timo's solo is great, but I'm not willing to listen to 4 minutes of a boring song to hear a good 20 second guitar solo.

After "Jerusalem Is Falling" the single "Design the Century" is up next, and if this is supposed to be catchy or memorable like The Land of New Hope's single "Enshrined In My Memory" it does a horrible job at it. Floor Jansen sings vocals for this and she just isn't that impressive on this track, but that's not her fault and more Timo's fault for writing boring vocal lines. Yet another impressive guitar solo, but an overall boring track. This next track is where most of you will just stop the album and listen to better things. "Rise of the 4th Reich" featuring David DeFeis on vocals....This track is BAD. The vocal effects on DeFeis' vocals make them sound so horrible, but it's like a train-wreck and you want to turn away but can't! The sad thing is....This song is also catchy, It's like Stratovarius' Maniac Dance ALL OVER AGAIN! Once again we have an impressive solo, but a bad song. It's like Tolkki only cared about lead and nothing else, for this album.

Halfway through the album we come to the first actual semi-decent song! (Exciting, I know!) "Stargate Atlantis" with vocals provided by Fabio Lione is a mid-paced song with some clean guitars and a very catchy melody, too bad Timo had to ruin that in the chorus by adding backing vocals by Caterina Nix (Who even is this chick anyways?) She can't sing AT ALL and Fabio was more than capable of carrying this song by himself. After that we are in for a treat because there's another semi-decent song! "The Paradise Lost" this time with Floor Jansen back on lead vocals. This song is actually vocally interesting and has a very strong chorus, unlike every other song on the album so far. After a breakdown (Yes, you heard right, a BREAKDOWN) There's a pretty good solo as well.

After two semi-decent songs, prepare yourselves...because the next song is by far the WORST. "You'll Bleed Forever" (More like Your Ears Will Bleed Forever) This is the first out of two ballads on the album, all the vocals on this track are done by Caterina Nix and as I said before, this chick can't sing to save her life! You are just better off skipping this track. With only 3 songs left to go (If you've made it this far) we are now at my personal favorite track "Neon Sirens" finally it's Zak Stevens turn to take lead vocals, and he sounds great! This is honestly less of a Power Metal song and more of a Hard Rock song, but it fits perfectly with Zak's vocal style. Another great solo by Timo, and "Neon Sirens" has the most powerful chorus on the whole album. As far as I'm concerned, this track should have just been on the debut. Yes, It's THAT GOOD. The next track is "High Above of Me" the second ballad and not terrible, but not great either. It features Simone Simons at the vocal helm. It has a semi-Traditional/Celtic feel to it, Simone's vocals sound really off, very different and I'm most certain it's because of the mix, overall it's not a bad track, but it's not an interesting one either...Just a typical run-of-the-mill boring ballad (This is coming from the guy who generally LOVES ballads) anyways unless you really love Simone or enjoy ballads, just skip this track.

Finally we have reached the end of our journey and the "epic" title track "Angels of the Apocalypse" is the closer to the album featuring Floor Jansen, Simone Simons and Elize Ryd. This track has to be the most boring on the album, it's 9 minutes long and just goes absolutely nowhere. It's not bad like "Rise of the 4th Reich" or "You'll Bleed Forever" but it is just boring. The worst thing about it all is i seriously can't tell who's singing when. If you can look past that, All Timo had to do was throw some riffs in or add some hooks and it could have been bombastic and epic, but instead it just becomes a boring closer to an overall, very boring/bad album. Sorry I lied, there's one last song, it's called "Garden of Eden" and it's the obligatory instrumental symphonic outro, which, like many tracks in this album...Goes absolutely nowhere. It's just not memorable, or epic or anything. It doesn't even exist, as far as I am concerned.

Overall Verdict: Other than the guitar solos (Which are really good) nothing on this album is worth your time, besides Neon Sirens, Stargate Atlantis and maybe The Paradise Lost. So just download those and call it a day, you aren't missing anything else, trust me.

Rating: 2/5

Favorite Track: Neon Sirens (The one truly GREAT song on this album)

Originally written for rateyourmusic.com

Is it fair to call this a mid-life crisis? - 40%

imcominforyou, May 22nd, 2014

I always go into a Timo Tolkki album with high hopes. Even after his awkward phase with Revolution Renaissance and Symfonia, I still look forward to his releases with an undeserving giddiness that I should really shed already. Even after the mediocre debut album, The Land of New Hope, I still followed the reveals of the sophomore album, Angels of the Apocalypse, with a hawk’s eye. Just the prospect of the likes of Floor Jansen, Fabio Lione, and Simone Simons had me watering and drooling all over myself, but much like the debut album, this one feels like a huge missed opportunity.

Tolkki’s songwriting has taken a huge hit in the past decade. I don’t know if Stratovarius’ Johansson or Kotipelto had anything to do with it, but all Tolkki’s solo and side project albums have either suffered from mediocrity or redundancy; Angels of the Apocalypse is no exception. The first half of the album does feature some of the better instances of compelling compositions, though. “Jerusalem is Falling” and “The Paradise Lost” are both played out with a fervency that sticks out on this album. The first’s heavy symphonic utilizations is on-par with Rhapsody’s proficiency at symphonic masterpieces, and the latter features some signature keyboard melodies that harken back to “Eagleheart”, perhaps, from Stratovarius. Quite fittingly, these two songs also contain the most fitting and appropriate vocals in the album, with both Floor Jansen and Fabio Lione delivering in strides, something that can’t be said for some of the other tracks.

The biggest problem I have with this whole release is the utter bore it can be. “Design the Century”, the single from the album, is so obviously written to be accessible that it comes off as a carbon copy of “Enshrined in My Memory”, the debut album’s single. Not to mention that the poor songwriting that’s scattered elsewhere on the album really provide no backdrop for the guest vocalists to shine. The amount of talent that is on this album is not proportionate to the album’s quality.

The best example of this is “Rise of the 4th Reich”, where David DeFeis gives us his completely monstrous mimicry of Virgin Steele’s past glory, and it falls short spectacularly. The vocals sound strained and uninspired, much like the songwriting, and ultimately Tolkki’s best solo on the album can’t save this song from being an absolute trainwreck.

Speaking of trainwrecks, the last half of the album is so incredibly bland and tedious that there’s no doubt in my mind that these were all filler tracks. The two ballads on the album, “You’ll Bleed Forever” and “High Above of Me” never actually get to a point where any kind of emotion is felt, and it’s not until the 9-minute title track epic of the album comes in at the very end of the disc to salvage the wreckage of the past few songs. The finale is actually quite captivating with a myriad of progressions and symphonic movements that actually leave me with a very confused perception of Tolkki’s current abilities.

The neoclassical-tinged power metal of the Tolkki of yore is entirely gone on Angels of the Apocalypse, and instead he opts for a symphonic bombast that even the likes of Rhapsody of Fire and Nightwish have difficulty summoning. Much like the debut, Angels of the Apocalypse suffers greatly from the mediocre-to-dreadful compositions and the underutilization of some of the greatest voices in all of metal today. I’d have difficulty recommending this to anyone, for there are so many bands that do this style of supergroup power metal in a much superior fashion that Timo Tolkki has proven he can’t match. I hope he can one day release an album to prove me wrong, whether it is symphonic or neoclassical, but for now it looks like Tolkki has lost the drive and passion for creating great music.

Written for The Metal Observer

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen! - 35%

mjollnir, May 18th, 2014

In the mid 90s, during the infancy of the "Information Age" is when I discovered the European power metal scene that was taking off, and one band in particular stood out. Stratovarius was a band that made me develop such a love for the genre that at one point it was all I listened to. In his prime, Timo Tolkki wrote some of metal's finest compositions (for lack of a better word because song won't cut it.) What he wrote during the 90s will be forever hailed as classics of the genre and no one can deny his talent and the sheer perfection in which he played his instrument. However, it seems that after his infamous meltdown he had around 2004, something is terribly wrong.

So in 2008, Timo Tolkki walked away from the band he started leaving the rights to vocalist Timo Kolitpelto and became involved in projects of his own including Revolution Renaissance which was pretty much disastrous, Symfonia which was just awful, and his current namesake, Timo Tolkki's Avalon. Their second album is called Angels of the Apocalypse and this sees not just Tolkki but a slew of power metal heavyweights sounding washed up and just phoning it in. Guests vocalists included were Fabio Lione, Zak Stevens, David DeFeis, Simone Simmons, Floor Jansen, etc...you know big names of the genre. With this talent this should be absolutely amazing, right? Well it's far from it. I actually wonder why they even accepted the offer to sing on such uninspired songs. Slow, plodding and just endless one note riffs and chugs even Tolkki's solos couldn't polish this turd.

After the obligatory intro there is the first proper song, "Jerusalem Is Falling," The first minute seconds sound epic and promising, then the verse comes in and the sheer lack of riffing and low E chugging that seem to go on forever until the chorus. The keyboards try to cover the bad songwriting but didn't do a great job. Half way through the song you're bored out of your friggin' mind. Tolkki can still play a mean lead solo, I gotta give him that but when they just become part of uninspired songwriting, you can't even give him credit for that. Fabio Lione sounds like himself...nothing new there. It's when the other "talent" shows up is when I start to fear that we are seeing the sad decline of these people right in front of our faces and it's not pretty. Floor Jansen sings the vocals on "Design The Century" and she sounds adequate. I can't put it all on her, the song is just not catchy at all. Another bad song so Tolkki can play a good solo.

This brings us to the most disappointing part of the album, David DeFeise's turn to lend his vocals to "Rise of the 4th Reich." If it were not for vocal effects, this would have been eve more dreadful. This scares the shit outta me...does this mean Virgin Steele is done? This is getting serious folks. And, of course, another shitty song for Tolkki to show off to. Who does he think he is, Yngwie Malmsteen? At this point, I'm just done but I need to give an honest and total review of the entire album so I'm going to keep going here and finish this out. "Stargate Atlantis" is actually a decent song and maybe the only truly good song on the album. It's a mid paced rocker with some clean guitars and a catchy melody. The title of the song is...it's sad because it's a decent song. The background vocals should have ended up cut out of the song but other than that it's not as offensive as the previous songs.

"Neon Sirens" means it's Zak Stevens' turn to perform and this isn't that bad either. It's nothing to jump up and down about but the song does fit Zak's voice. He sounds the same as always, adequate to great depending on the song. It's a rocker and less of a power metal song that has a decent groove to it. I'll say I like it so there's a couple of decent tunes here. The long "epic" number that usually graces an album like this is the title track of the album and is nine minutes of absolute boredom. I'm sorry but all it would have taken was some riffage and maybe throw some hooks into the song and it would have been bombastic and epic however with Tolkki phoning it in for most of the album, the song just ended up flat. Sad because this could have been so much more if they just tried a little harder.

I'm not sure if Tolkki's out of ideas or is in enough denial to really think that he can stamp his name on something and it automatically means greatness. All I know is that I feel like him and some of the major players in this genre are putting their signature on something that is lower than sub-par. Did they listen to this before they put their stamps of approval to this rubbish? Sad.


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