Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – Return To Eden
Everyone who has listened to melodic metal or power metal knows Timo Tolkki. If not by name but through his songs he made while in Stratovarius. Those songs are still played this very day when Stratovarius is touring even though Timo Tolkki hasn’t been part of it for over a decade. Timo Tolkki continued his musical career after Stratovarius by building up bands like Revolution Renaissance, Symfonia and his latest, Timo Tolkki’s Avalon.
We have reached the third and the final chapter on his Avalon trilogy and it is called “Return To Eden“. Each three albums have been very much different from each other. The first one “The Land Of New Hope” (2013) was an excellent album and had a guestlist of musicians to match the excellence. Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Michael Kiske (Helloween), Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) just to name a few. The second album “Angels of the Apocalypse” (2014) was quite a disappointment. And to imagine that the guestlist on that album was just insane made it even bigger disappointment. Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Fabio Lione (Turilli / Lione Rhapsody), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Simone Simons (Epica), Zak Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle).
Little did we know that although it took around 5 years between “Angels of the Apocalypse” and “Return To Eden” the concept and the ideas were brewing inside Timo Tolkki‘s head and in late 2018 it was time to start putting up the album. Timo basically disappeared from the internet and social media for a whole year until it was time to announce the first single from “Return To Eden” titled “Promises” and a video of the song was released at the same time.
“Promises” introduced us to a vocalist called Todd Michael Hall (Riot V) who was a very pleasant acquaintance. I must admit the first time I heard this song I briefly thought it was Kotipelto singing. In Tolkki’s catalogue I would put this on the fast tempo songs and holy shit it’s a good song. Especially the chorus is catchy as hell. One finnish journalist wrote in his Facebook about this song “Could it be that Tolkki just made the best power metal song of this century?“. Well I am not sure about that but in it’s genre it’s one of the best songs I have heard in a very long time.
“Return to Eden” is a more mid tempo song which brings us 3 different vocalists: Mariangela Demurtas (Ardours, Tristania), Zachary Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle) and Todd Michael Hall (Riot V). Each vocalist having different type of voice suits perfectly as they sing their own lines. Lyrics, as often with Tolkki are about love and hope for the better world.
“Hear My Call” brings us the one and only Anneke Van Giersbergen and her voice keeps on being mezmerising. This is the type of song that Tolkki could probably write in 5 minutes. It has all Tolkki elements, mid tempo, melody, catchy chorus. Unfortunately Anneke wasn’t available for the video so Frontiers decided to release a lyric video of it instead. But it was definately a song they had to release as a single.
“Now and Forever” gives us Todd Michael Hall (Riot V) and song by song I start liking his voice more and more. This song could very easily be a Stratovarius song, it has so many similar elements in it. This song also has guitar and keyboard solos like Timo and Jens used to do a lot in the past. Songs throughout the album are between 4-5 minutes long and they are mostly so good that you don’t even notice the time passing by. That, at least to me has always been a good sign.
“Miles Away” has a very promising beginning but that doesn’t carry throughout the whole song. Zachary Stevens is an awesome vocalist and there are some nice orchestral parts + a nice guitar solo but all in all it drops on the “I could skip this”-category.
“Limits” is perhaps the fastest song Tolkki has ever written. Eduard Hovinga (ex-Elegy, Mother Of Sin) sings in this one. It has some very familiar tones like a very similar keyboard sound as one Jens Johansson has. I would love to hear this song live and see how the entire band reach for oxygen bottles afterwards. The song itself doesn’t bring anything special but for a person like me who loves fast tempo songs with intense double bass drumming it’s a real treat.
“We Are the Ones” brings us again the awesomeness of Anneke Van Giersbergen. Mid tempo song with quite heavy guitar riffs but it’s really Anneke that keeps the song together. Perhaps the only song on the album that doesn’t have Tolkki written all over it. I just have loved Anneke’s voice ever since The Gathering days so I can’t say anything bad about any song she sings in.
“Godsend” gives Mariangela Demurtas the place to shine. The song keeps building up towards a beautiful chorus and one of Timo’s trademarks, guitar solo that follows the melody of the song. This is the ballad of the album but by no means a ballad that had to be written on the album. Everyone who knows Timo Tolkki knows how good he is at composing ballads as well. I have found myself listening to this particular track the most lately.
“Give Me Hope” is well…how to put this…just like Stratovarius when Tolkki was still in it. Eduard Hovinga sings this one but some reason his voice doesn’t sit very well on this song. Somehow the range just isn’t there. All in all the song is a bit flat and maybe another song I would put on the “I could skip this”-category.
“Wasted Dreams” although another mid tempo song but sounds actually quite heavy. The strong voice of Zachary Stevens definately helps but the guitar riffs and the rhytm section all together makes this song very pleasant to listen.
“Guiding Star” is the last song on the album and they definately didn’t leave any scraps to the end. I simply love this song! Strong double bass drums + orchestral elements and my goodness Mariangela Demurtas…she just nails this one. A perfect way to end a near perfect album.
So what is the conclusion for “Return To Eden”?
People who know the relation between me and Timo Tolkki might think I should be the last one to review his work cause obviously I would only say positive things about it. Wrong. I am in fact very strict when it comes to his music and he knows it too. So saying that, when he told me that there is a new album coming I must admit I was bit worried especially since I didn’t really like his previous Avalon album “Angels of the Apocalypse“. But when I got the album in fact months ago already and listened to it I was completely and utterly blown away. Timo has gone through a very rough patch in his life and with that he is still able to produce music like this only proves my point. Timo Tolkki has always been, still is and will always be one of the best if not the best composer in his own genre.
Timo Tolkki is back baby!
The master in his own genre has returned and brought you an album full of gems. There are still lot of fans for Timo Tolkki and hopefully they find their way to this album cause it is worth every second.
User Review( vote)
“Return To Eden” debuted #7 on national Finnish charts and that was a big disappointment. But with next to none promotion from Frontiers there is not much you can expect really. If for instance Nuclear Blast would have released this album it would have debuted #1 easily.