Album review: TIMO TOLKKI’s AVALON – The Enigma Birth

Frontiers Music [Release date 18.06.21]

Living legend of power/symphonic metal, Finland’s Timo Tolkki has again hooked up with fast rising guitarist/ writer/ producer Aldo (Secret Sphere/Sweet Oblivion) Lonobile on this, Avalon’s fourth album.

As the memory of Tolkki’s longtime band, Stratovarius, recedes into the distant past (2012), his “new” band, Avalon, continues to elbow its way to the front.

It’s worth stating the obvious difference between Stratovarius and Avalon – apart from any opinions on the music – Strato was a band; Avalon is Metal Opera. Moulding and melding disparate vocals into one unified sound is a tough gig for any artist, no matter how talented. Magnus Karlsson succeeded recently with Heart Healer, but others haven’t done so well.

There’s a primitive beauty to opener and title track, ‘The Enigma Birth’. You Tube sensation, Pellek’s skyscraping vocals and the galloping beats are a good, tight fit for Tolkki’s eminently melodic, broad brush stroke symphonic rock.

‘I Just Collapse’ and ‘Memories’ quickly level off into no more than skillfully orchestrated rock/metal. They’re sung by Caterina Nix, sounding here like Pat Benatar or Lee Aaron. She does her best, but ultimately, the arrangements and production are flat and uninspired.

We’re hitting a wall here.

Then comes the breakthrough. A handful of tracks lift the album into the world of Tolkki’s grandiose, pomp peppered metal. ‘Truth’, ‘Another Day’, ‘Beauty And War’ are theatrical pieces, punctuated by rushing, thick cut riffs, speeding, dancing keyboards and a pounding percussive beat.

Tolkki once again shows his command of orchestral and chorale arrangements … rhythms sway, strings swoop, and harmonies soar. One minute, the music is delicate and restrained, the next it’s blazing with passionate vocals, most notably from Jake E and Marina LaTorraca.

Amazingly, it steps up another gear for ‘Dreamer’, sung by Fabio Lione – intense, adventurous, visceral even, but memorably melodic, creating a sense of drama that was missing from that mid album sag. It’s a blissful, six and a half minute, Euro metal romp that will delight all Symphonic Metal fans. It doesn’t get much better than this. ****1/2

Review by Brian McGowan

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