Band: Timo Tolkki’s Avalon
Album: Return To Eden
Release Date: 14 June, 2019
Label: Frontiers Music SRL
Review by Sean
I’m gonna spoil my review in the first sentence by saying this is the power metal release of the year. Nothing has so far, and nothing will after, be better than this that calls itself power metal. That’s not too surprising though, from the former Stratovarius man, but what is surprising is just how stellar this album is. I’ve been sort of at a loss lately, not really enjoying metal as much, stuck in a rut. This album rejuvenated me in a way I didn’t think possible.
From opening instrumental ‘Enlighten’, a soft, symphonic welcome which steps into the thoroughly enjoyable and cheesy ‘Promises’ (featuring Riot V’s Todd Michael Hall). It’s just what you want for an opener to a power metal album. Bombastic, soaring, keys up the wazoo.
‘Return to Eden’ is quite an ensemble track, featuring three guests, Italian singer Mariangela Demurtas, former Savatage frontman Zachary Stevens, and Todd Michael Hall again. Despite this, it works well, each vocalist playing their part well, the music not being too overshadowed.
Next up is ‘Hear My Call’ with vocals being handled by the wonderfully talented Anneke Van Giersbergen. (Nailed it without looking. Bonus) It’s a standard symphonic metal number, but I still dig it. Fans of Epica should enjoy this one thoroughly.
‘Now and Forever’ stood out as a favourite of mine, mainly because it sounded like an old school Stratovarius track. Todd is back again, and he blends well with that “Strat” sound. Definitely one to look out for off the album. Extra shout out to the solo work here. Massive elements of Malmsteen.
With ‘Miles Away’ we approach the other side of power metal. Slower, soppier, designed to draw the ladies in. It’s still a good track, and makes for a good little breather between heavier tracks.
Good thing too, because ‘Limits’ pick up the pace and then some. Those keys are super reminiscent of early Sonata Arctica. Well, if the band themselves can’t sound as good as they once did, someone else needs to take that mantle, I suppose. This one is another favourite. Very cheesy, frenetic power metal. Just how it should be.
‘We Are The Ones’ might just be my favourite on the whole album. Once again it features Anneke, and she really shines through here. Something about this track just elevates it above the others, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but God damn I want more of it! It’s has a catchy chorus that everyone who appreciates power/symphonic metal well enjoy, the guitars are peak Nightwish, and the keys are better than ever. The gauntlet for other bands in the same styles has been laid down massively here.
The latter third of the album kicks off with the soft and melodic ‘Godsend’, Mariangela getting a song all to herself here, showing that she has just what it takes to match pretty much anyone else you could put her up against.
From there we have the rousing and uplifting ‘Give Me Hope’, featuring former Elegy frontman Eduard Hovinga. It’s standard power metal fare, but still a damn good track. If you remember the sort of stuff power metal was gigging is in the early 2000s, you know what I mean.
‘Wasted Dreams’ packs a bit more of a punch, but still has that 2000s sound to it. It’s another highlight though, as those vocals (Zachary Stevens again) more than make up for the rest of it.
Closing us out is ‘Guiding Star’, and as closers go, it’s a pretty fucking good one. Not content to sit back and end with a soft song, the guitars, synths, keys, and vocals are sending us home happy.
All in all, as said above, this IS the power metal album of 2019. If I say anything else down the line, I’ll down a pint of Carling as punishment. Mark my words on that one.
9 out of 10
02. Promises (feat. Todd Michael Hall)
03. Return To Eden (feat. Mariangela Demurtas, Zachary Stevens, & Todd Michael Hall)
04. Hear My Call (feat. Anneke Van Giersbergen)
05. Now And Forever (feat. Todd Michael Hall)
06. Miles Away (feat. Zachary Stevens)
07. Limits (feat. Eduard Hovinga)
08. We Are The Ones (feat. Anneke Van Giersbergen)
09. Godsend (feat. Mariangela Demurtas)
10. Give Me Hope (feat. Eduard Hovinga)
11. Wasted Dreams (feat. Zachary Stevens)
12. Guiding Star (feat. Mariangela Demurtas)