Saturday, May 17, 2014

Timo Tolkki's Avalon - Angels of the Apocalypse

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, 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 even 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'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 he 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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