Released: 2013, Frontiers Records
It’s been five years since Timo Tolkki officially left Stratovarius, and in that time he’s kept busy with projects of varying quality. It’s safe to say that most fans looked down on his SAANA – WARRIOR OF LIGHT project, and Revolution Renaissance hardly set the world afire with their two albums. I was impressed, however, with the vitality shown by his last band, Symfonia. IN PARADISIUM featured a great pairing with Andre Matos and contained some Tolkki’s best song writing in years. It’s really too bad that band has, apparently, been put to rest. Now he’s back with the first part of a trilogy in his new metal opera saga. I’m not going to go into the “coincidences” or somewhat questionable intentions that have been floated about this project, but I know that after the success of Symfonia I was excited to hear what Mr. Tolkki had in store.
THE LAND OF NEW HOPE is a post-apocalyptic tale, featuring the usual assortment of guests that you tend to get in these types of projects. The lead vocalists are Rob Rock and Elize Ryd who handle the majority of the work; although Sharon Den Adel and Michael Kiske (who apparently still doesn’t hate heavy metal enough to stay away) take the lead on one song each. Notably, the album features keyboard contributions from Jens Johansson, in what’s as close to a reunion of the “classic” Stratovarius lineup as we’re ever going to get. All in all, it’s an impressive cast of musicians.
Musically, this is exactly what you would want to hear from Timo Tolkki – speedy power metal with lots of keyboards and orchestration, powerful vocals, and tear-jerking (ahem…) ballads. Of course my favorites are the fast anthems, so “To the Edge of the Earth” and “We Will Find a Way” stand out to the most, especially with Rob Rock’s excellent vocals. However, Elize Ryd does spectacular work on her featured songs, notably the mid-paced “Enshrined In My Memory” and the stand-out ballad of the album, “I’ll Sing You Home”. Michael Kiske only appears on the title track and it makes you wish he would just give in and make a true power metal album. Those are just the highlights, but there’s honestly not a song here that I dislike.
I’ve been listening to this album almost non-stop for a month now and I still can’t get enough of it. Tolkki’s been on a roll the last couple of years and this is perhaps his best moment. I eagerly await parts two and three!