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Neoclassical magic but somewhat confusing - 69%

kluseba, December 4th, 2011

Timo Tolkki's first solo output is inspired by neoclassical and melodic metal sounds as well as many traditional songs from the classic genre inspired by Tchaikovsky for example. While Tolkki proves once again that he is a gifted guitar player, the tracks are mostly covers or short instrumental tracks and offer nothing really interesting.

The most outstanding songs are surely "Fire Dance Suite" and "Soldier's Prayer" that include some vocals. Tolkki proves for the last time in the years to come that he is a gifted singer. The songs are good but not outstanding and could have been some bonus tracks from the amazing "Dreamspace" output. The first one sounds a little bit like "Shattered" and is a solid power metal effort with great vocals. The second track is a little bit slower, maybe like "Reign Of Terror" with a pumping bass guitar and some sacral keyboard sounds in the background. I wish Tolkki would have used these songs for an upcoming Stratovarius release as they don't really fit to the other instrumental tracks that are much calmer and have a different style.

That's why this album feels as if it was done in a little hurry, it sounds like a confusing compilation. It's surely enjoyable to listen to but Tolkki has already proven that he can do a much better effort than this. Fans of neoclassical metal including shredding solos and calmer and almost religious passages as well as Stratovarius maniacs from the early years should check this release out. Anybody else can skip it without any doubts or regrets.

If you like Melodic Metal, you will LOVE this. - 85%

Reaper, September 9th, 2004

This album is definitely a mix of neoclassical and Melodic Metal at it’s finest. Timo Tolkki’s album, “Classical Variations and Themes” shows signs of classically inspired music, such as “Capriccio In A Minor,” which is a short interlude if you will, of majestic proportions. It has a very beautiful feel to it, one that is most often aroused when listening to piano inspired classical music a la Tchaikovsky.

This is a very worthy purchase for fans of this genre of music. The album is mostly instrumental, with the exceptions of “Fire Dance Suite” and “Soldier's Prayer.” Timo Tolkki’s thick accent is a bit prevalent throughout the two songs, however the correspondence between his vocal style and the melodic guitars, correspond perfectly. This album alternates between faster and slower guitar melodies. For example, “Fire Dance Suite,” has a faster tempo, which serves as background melody, but only because vocals are involved. “Guitar Concerto” on the other hand is a slower paced guitar instrumental with, for the most part, simplistic strumming. The correlation between the faster paced tracks and the slower ones is done perfectly and offers a huge amount of variation. Although I, personally, enjoy the faster tracks a bit more, adding the slower tracks certainly did not hinder the album’s overall quality, it only made it stronger.

The lyrical tracks are two of the highlights of the album, probably since they offer a bit more variation within the song while, at the same, time adding a lot of variation to the album as a whole. The two songs have fantastic, catchy lyrics that are strengthened by the atmosphere that the music produces. The only complaint I have about his album is that it could have used just a few more lyrical tracks, as they are the major strong points of this album. On the other hand, tracks such as “Flying Samir,” which is instrumental, and another album highlight, are also highly appreciated. Perhaps this album could have been better with about four lyrical tracks, about four faster paced, melodic guitar tracks such as “Flying Samir,” and the rest, slower tracks such as “Lord of the Rings.” This is only a minor complaint, as I am being a bit anal on this account.

In all fairness, this album is a fantastic illustration of neoclassically influenced Melodic Metal, done right. I strongly recommend this album to fans of classical music, such as Tchaikovsky, fans of the melodic feel of certain Stratovarius albums and fans that enjoy a more delicate listening experience with lots of memorable melodies. I keenly await Tolkki’s third album and hope it’s as much a masterpiece as “Classical Variations and Themes.”