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Enjoyable melodic rock from a unique musician - 77%

kluseba, December 4th, 2011

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.