Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – The Enigma Birth
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 18/06/2021
Running Time: 58:49
Review by Simon Black
The Avalon project is now onto its fourth album, once again produced and co-written by Aldo Lonobile, and showing no sign of running out of steam. Both these guys seem like regular riders in the Frontiers stable these days, but this time Tolkki has outdone himself when it comes to the vocal guest contributions. These releases have always taken a leaf or two from the Avantasia Metal Opera for Dummies handbook, but in this case the guest list is quite the eye opener. In fact, albums like this require a special turn of phrase that I don’t use too often, so pardon me while I dust down “Holy cow, what a line up!” for your delectation and delight…
Let’s face it, there aren’t many records where you are going to get James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Jake E. (Amaranthe/Cyhra), Marina La Torraca (Phantom Elite/Exit Eden), Brittney Hayes (Unleash The Archers), Raphael Mendes (Icon Of Sin), Fabio Lione (Rhapsody/Angra/Eternal Idol) and Caterina Nix (Chaos Magic) on the same record and even Tobias Sammet normally only indulges in about four guests per release, making this something of a smorgasbord of Operatic tonsil tickling indulgence.
Opener ‘Enigma Birth’ is a dose of full on Symphonic Power energy, this time featuring Norwegian YouTuber Pellek on the microphone. I had not come across the man before, but here alone he demonstrates a quite spectacular range of octaves in his delivery. Catarina Nix takes ‘I Just Collapse’, which is a solid, moderately paced, rocker that would not have sounded out of place on Stratovarius’s “Destiny” album. In fact the production of this disk echoes that album’s rich fat sound rather a lot. That is no bad thing…
‘Memories’ gives us a Duet along with Unleash The Archers Britney Slayes, which given the presence of both voices is actually quite a restrained power ballad. Brazil’s Rafael Mendes delivers a strong Maidenesque performance on both ‘Master Of Hell’ and ‘Beauty Of War’ and as with his recent Brother Against Brother release from Frontiers, works best when he’s not in a duet, as he is on the former track, which allows him to release his safety locks and go for broke. Things go more Progressive for ‘Beautiful Lie’ to make James LaBrie feel a little more at home, as Tolkki demonstrates, although we know him best for his contributions to the Power and Symphonic genres, he is more than capable of pushing the boundaries into other genres and remains one of the most technically gifted song-writers around.
It’s easy to get distracted by the vocals, but the instrumental performances are pretty stellar as well, let’s face it we are talking about the man who carved Stratovarius’ reputation for melodic delivery and full on shredding when required and Tolkki has definitely still got his mojo in that regard.
I could go on and on about the individual songs, but in all honesty, I cannot find one duff or mediocre song on this near hour long slab of technical and vocal virtuosity. This has the added bonus of being one of those albums where the complexity subtly increases the further into it you get. Had they take the fuller, technical approach from the outset, it might have turned some listeners off, but Tolkki wisely opts for most catchy openers with stellar vocal delivery to reel you in, building to the more subtly crafted elements over time, and before you know it an hour has flow right by.
‘Beautiful Lie’ feat. James LaBrie (Official Lyric Video)
01. The Enigma Birth (feat. Pellek)
02. I Just Collapse (feat. Caterina Nix)
03. Memories (feat. Caterina Nix & Brittney Slayes)
04. Master Of Hell (feat. Raphael Mendes)
05. Beautiful Lie (feat. James LaBrie)
06. Truth (feat. Jake E.)
07. Another Day (feat. Marina La Torraca)
08. Beauty And War (feat. Raphael Mendes)
09. Dreaming (feat. Fabio Lione)
10. The Fire And The Sinner (feat. Jake E. & Brittney Slayes)
11. Time (feat. Marina La Torraca)
12. Without Fear (feat. Fabio Lione)
Timo Tolkki – Guitars
Andrea Arcangeli – Bass
Marco Lazzarini – Drums
Antonio Agate – Keys & Orchestra
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.