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A hypnotizing record to calm down to - 70%

kluseba, December 4th, 2011

Timo Tolkki is and has always been an exceptional musician that has many different musical sides in him. He's well known for his power metal records with Stratovarius, Revolution Renaissance and Symfonia. In the early years of Stratovarius we have even seen a far more interesting side of his music with a more progressive approach where Tolkki proved that he is not only a very gifted guitar player but an amazing singer as well. Tolkki used his solo records to experiment a lot, often with hints towards classic music and collaborations. When Tolkki can break free and do what he wants, you shouldn't expect an ordinary power metal record.

The unfairly bashed and misunderstood "Saana - Warrior Of Light - Part I: Journey To Crystal Island" is probably the most courageous experiment Timo Tolkki has ever done. I admit that this album isn't easy to approach and must sound quite unusual to the majority of the metal fans.

This album focuses on chilling keyboard passages and almost uses no electric guitars. Tolkki invited different guest singers, female and male ones to perform different characters in this conceptual record. The singers all have different kind of voices and even though they are rather unknown, they are quite gifted and give an emotional and unique touch to the record that mixes New Age approaches with ambient music and some classic influences. The album has some symphonic touches and a few climaxes next to many calm passages. The bombastic final double pack "Warrior Of Light" and "Journey To The Azores" could please to a larger fan basis but the rest is calm, slow paced and very particular. A big part of the short record is purely instrumental and invites to dream and relax.

Some parts lack of diversity and sound monotonous but that's exactly the effect Tolkki wanted to created. This album is peaceful, meditative and inspiring. It's a great and hypnotizing record to calm down to. It's not a masterpiece, it's not as unique as Tolkki pretends it to be and it's surely not an album I could listen to every week. But it's a special record for special occasion and despite its monotonous flaws and mediocre sound quality a quite enjoyable album for open-minded fans of New Age music.

A Lifeless Experiment - 28%

GuntherTheUndying, February 11th, 2011

My daily listening routine usually consists of heavy music from the dawn's opening to its eventual end, so having the occasional anomaly is certainly a healthy experience I enjoy. Something like “Saana-Warrior of the Light, Part 1: Journey to Crystal Island,” however, turned this little vacation of mine into a solid waste of time that quickly repelled me back to my riff-driven basin, with all my little blast beats and guitars happy to see me. I didn’t loathe “Saana” because it’s not a metal record; that’s something a moron would say. “Saana” is simply a vapid exploration of Timo Tolkki’s inability to write solid, enjoyable music along with a number of silly ideas and banal performances colorlessly adopted by Tolkki’s wrecked experiment. I honestly like the idea, but the execution is so poor even my Paxil can’t stop me from sulking and asking, “Why?”

Most of "Saana" revolves around short tracks covered in sublime keyboards and other calm instrumentals plodding on to create a chilled atmosphere, as most ambient music is supposed to. While Tolkki did a decent job making the record accessible at hindsight, everything slowly dissolves, because there's nothing else. Several of the sixteen tracks slither at the same pace, using the same functionalities and ideas as the song before, and eventually collapsing altogether. Different approaches like narration or electronic drums appear here and there, but it's all completely lifeless and results in no zest at all.

"Saana" also has an ensemble of singers to go along with the atmosphere, but once again, the over-the-top charade shines solely on pure mediocrity. The various vocal performers are much like the remaining album: powerless, daft, and boring. If Tolkki tried to keep his listeners uninterested, then he flawlessly succeeded. And that's probably the album's biggest problem: it's just not memorable at all. Tolkki whips out his guitar toward the end of the album, but don’t believe his finger-flexing greatness shows up for even a second; instead, he sluggishly adds a few notes here and there, seemingly just because. None of it properly equates with the inadequate atmosphere anyway, so why bother? We didn’t forget you play guitar, but thanks for the reminder.

Timo Tolkki has been responsible for some of the greatest power metal this universe will ever know, not to mention his guitar playing is idiosyncratic and of a glorious foundation that has and will encourage generations of future guitar players; he’s an important figure whether you’d like to admit it or not. “Saana,” being his estranged dive into the unknown, deserves credit at its appropriate moments and overall theme, but something like this still pushes all the wrong buttons; something like this will never become remotely memorable; something like this is just a pursuit into redundancy. “Saana” will do wonders at putting you to sleep if insomnia invites itself in, or maybe driving a girl on a first date so you don’t freak her out with Morbid Angel CDs; its serious uses are sadly limited to such trivialities.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

This should have never been created. - 5%

PowerProg_Adam, January 11th, 2010

I will start this review out by saying that I am a huge fan of Timo Tolkki's guitar playing, whether it be in his solo work, old Stratovarius, or Revolution Renaissance. That is the problem with this album exactly. There is no guitar work at all! There are only 2 songs with any amount of guitar tone even. There are no riffs or solos. I seriously doubt this album is anywhere along the lines of what anyone would expect from Timo. The other solo albums drastically differ from each other, but at least have at least a taste of what Timo Tolkki is known for, and that is complex yet melodic guitar playing.

Pretty much every song sounds the same. The majority are ambient interludes that typically last about 2 minutes. A few of the songs contain some generic pseudo-operatic female vocals along with synth work that lacks variety and complexity. Most of the songs sound as though there was very little though put into them and a brief idea was expanded on a re-used thoughout the entire album.

There really isn't much else that needs to be said about this album except for that it is extremely disappointing and I wouldn't even recommend it to fans of Timo Tolkki's previous solo work. The only thing that redeems this album from getting a 0 is that the vocals on Warrior of Light start to sound slightly more powerful and give you a clue that maybe one song on the whole album may be slightly listenable.

Timo Tolkki had difficulty in getting this album released, and I can see why. He is a guitarist first and foremost, yet he is not playing guitar. I believe that his management, everyone who helped on the album, and his fans all expected something completely different from him. Lets hope if he continues his solo career that it isn't on this same path.

What I Did Over My Vacation - 25%

Empyreal, March 22nd, 2008

I don't mind soothing background New Age-type music, in general. Really. However, Timo Tolkki just isn't very good at making this type of music, and no matter how many people will tell you that Saana - Warrior of Light is SUPPOSED to not be metal, or that it's SUPPOSED to be slow and atmospheric, in response to any form of criticism, that doesn't change the fact that this is a lame attempt at a musical expansion on Tolkki's part.

There is no metal anywhere on Saana - Warrior of Light, and instead, this album is (almost) entirely atmospheric, relying on synthesizers and other instruments to carry the music forward, in the same way of many New Age artists who write music to relax or meditate to. Everything here is very slow and moody, without a lot of variation, until the very end of the album (more on that later), and while a lot of it comes off as dull and pretentious, there are definitely moments here where Tolkki does succeed at creating a credible and pleasant atmosphere. The vocal duties are shared by one Jennifer Sowle, who sounds like every other female "operatic" vocalist in modern music today (except even more prissy and flat, ugh), and the heinous Heikki Pohyia of resident Finnish butt-rock kings Twilightning, and fortunately, neither of them comes off as overly irritating - simply coming off as overly boring, instead. Seriously, people will call this "visionary" and "beautiful," but I just call it "boring."

The real problem here is not that this isn't metal, as some will claim, but that the compositions on display are thoroughly lackluster. The fact that this is ambient New Age/soundtrack background music isn't bad, but that just means that we have to judge it based off what it is, and while it's not all bad, it's just not very well written, either. About half of the songs here sound as if they were written for a soundtrack to a movie of some kind, and those are the truly lacking ones, sounding too pompous and frigid to really come off as moving or inspiring at all. Then the vocals come in and ruin it even further. I cannot express enough my dislike for Jennifer Sowle's bland, emotionless voice. Saana is actually quite pleasant, though, when it reaches a landscape of musical euphoria as on "Crystal Island," a little atmospheric piece, complete with oceanic sound effects in the background to accentuate its charms - this is what the whole album should've been like, instead of the dragging, plodding drollery of most of the rest of the crap here. "The Letter" is probably the best song here, a genuinely touching and heartfelt little ballad with excellent flute (I think that's what it is, anyway) touches throughout, and a vocal performance that does not suck. At all, in fact - quite a nice surprise.

Okay, that's all the praise I can give this album. I haven't yet mentioned how terrible of an idea of Tolkki's it was to write an album of peaceful, relaxing music like this, and then break the flow of his pensive, quiet instrumental utopia with a guitar driven song like "Freya's Teachings." It STILL doesn't feature any riffs, instead just opting for rhythmic nothingness, but the guitar is indeed very present here, even underneath the synths layered over it. This song is not a terrible one in itself, but it becomes increasingly bizarre when you notice that it is placed AT THE END OF THE FUCKING ALBUM, after a solid half hour or so of ambiance, after the listener will have already settled into the cozy, dreary atmosphere that the rest of the album had been trying so hard to convey. It is right there and then that you, the listener, will remember that this album was written by the same man who wrote that awful male opera singer bit on "Back to Madness" off of Stratovarius's last album. It's unprofessional and sloppy, completely breaking the flow of an album that was just starting to get better. As a metal songwriter, you can't just release a looooong album of synths and ocean sounds, and then try and introduce guitars to the mix 3 songs before the album ends! That isn't "experimenting." It's not "musical expansion." It's not "open mindedness," either. It's fucking with your fans, Tolkki; teasing them, plain and simple.

This point is driven home with the title track, which is hands down the worst song that Timo Tolkki has ever written. It's probably supposed to be some sort of symphonic pop-metal aberration, but nobody can ever quite tell with Tolkki. It has a big choral opening, but this has no feeling or energy to it at all, and then it proceeds to plod on and on with ear-raping "emotional" symphonics and pop semblances, with that awful chorus popping up here and there at random, before finally fading out, with its opening buildup leading to absolutely nothing at all. The album proceeds to end with, ironically, the longest song on the album in "Journey to the Azores," which is just four minutes and forty-seven seconds of boring ambiance, not particularly good or bad. There are a lot of lame narrations in this song, though.

I can see this album being easily misunderstood by metalheads in general, as they will expect Tolkki to at least keep writing guitar-driven music with verse-chorus-verse structures and fast, melodic elements, as he has been doing for years. That's understandable, but I'll just settle that score right now: This is not a metal album, and nobody ever said it would be. If you're going to fault Saana for not being a metal album or not for having guitars, then you're not faulting it for the right reasons. No, this is simply a piss-poorly written and structured album, and while there are enjoyable moments, enjoyable moments do not a good album make. Tolkki needs to make up his mind on which musical direction he's trying to take (the symphonic movie soundtrack theme? The oceanic ambiance? The shitty synth-pop?), or else he will soon have no fans left at all.