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Additional personnel: Vocals: Michael Kiske, Elize Ryd, Rob Rock, Russell Allen, Sharon Den Adel, Tony Kakko, Magdalena Lee. Keyboards: Jens Johansson, Derek Sherinian, Mikko Härkin. Orchestrations: Sami Boman.
After disbanding Revolution Renaissance and Symfonia, Timo Tolkki is back with a new band and this could might as well have been released as a solo album with a plethora of guests. He decided to call this project Avalon instead and rumors say he's already in the works for one or two succeeding albums. I don't really see the point in projects that hardly can function as a live unit, at least with all members, that is. And the subtitle, A Metal Opera. Someone ever heard of a band called Avantasia?
Tolkki never equaled blasting and forceful power metal. It was more symphonic, catchy, neo-classical and occasionally speedy and still is to this day. The opener, Avalanche Anthem with its operatic and not that good chorus and A World Without Us are living proof. With track three, we head close to disco and pop rhythms with Enshrined In My Memory, which is sung by Elize Ryd and is reminiscent to ABBA. I really can't stand songs like that one. In The Name Of The Rose is a ballad that leaves me no further impressions, besides the short and intense guitar solo. A somewhat dull track. The two last mentioned songs with Ryd doing most parts feel kind of flat without any glowing spark, even if she's doing a great job behind the mic.
Back to better again and speedier stuff with We Will Find A Way and this sounds very much like Stratovarius in its rhythm. Ryd is making her grand return on Shine, although this is much resemblant to Nightwish on the Anette Olzon years. A totally awesome track and definitely one of the top picks on this release. The Magic Of The Night starts out great, again similar to Stratovarius, but eventually, I find this song pretty plain with no killer instinct.
Power metal to the core is what Tolkki presents on To The Edge Of The World. A great and speedy song in the veins of his former band. I'll Sing You Home is the album's last ballad. A real lullaby with a Gary Moore solo on top. The epic nine minute title track is this release's definite high. I can't say Michael Kiske is absolutely flawless, but songs building up to a certain climax is what he does best, which he and Tolkki naturally are well aware of. Timo has, as we know, written several long great atmospheric and enthralling songs before and he still masters the task with brilliance.
All in all, a rather good album with some lows and three outstanding tracks listed on Staff's pick above. The record hits its top on the second half and until then I felt this album was one of many. Shine, To The Edge Of The World and The Land Of New Hope take this effort to better days and it rises up a few steps from just decent.
See also: interview with Timo Tolkki