REVIEW: Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – The Enigma Birth

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Acclaimed Finnish composer, Timo Tolkki, is back with another AVALON album, bearing the intriguing title. “The Enigma Birth.” Coming out via Frontiers Records on June 18th, 2021, this new studio effort sees Tolkki surround himself again with some well-known musicians that bring the songs to life in a beautiful way. Among the guests, we can mention James LaBrie, Caterina Nix, Fabio Lione, and Marina LaTorraca. Interested yet? Keep reading then.

Listening to this album is like reading a book where each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character. Because ten of the twelve songs included on this album have a lead singer, with the other two featuring UNLEASH THE ARCHERS’s Brittney Slayes. Consequently, the songs have their own flavor and identity based on, not just who is singing, but also on how predominant elements from such genres as modern metal, power metal, or symphonic metal are. And, as always with Timo Tolkki, catchy choruses, earworm melodies, and incredible solos are the backbone of this album. Throw in some excellent mid-tempo songs and a few top notch power ballads to achieve a nice balance to satisfy every listener. And while the styles and tempos may change from song-to-song, the vitality and melodic edge are a constant. 

On the modern and sleek part of the record, Marina LaTorraca (PHANTOM ELITE) brings in some “Titanium” vibes on the ballad, “Another Day,” and especially the up-tempo “Time.” Her crystal clear vocals soar above the backing instrumentals while also bringing forth emotion and intensity. The underlying piano melodies in “Time” add a lush layer of harmonies that contrast neatly with the lively drums and orchestral arrangements. CYHRA’s Jake E. has the lead on “Truth,” an energetic and upbeat piece where his piercing vocals carry most of the melody, as the instrumental parts are mainly there to support his efforts. For the power ballad, “The Fire And The Sinner,Jake E. is joined by Brittney Slayes and their combined voices give more weight to the chorus, all the while showing his more emotional side during the verses. Still in the category of melodious and lively is “Beautiful Lie,” where James LaBrie is singing his heart out, on top of rumbling guitars and pulsating drums. I have to point out that Andrea Arcangeli’s bass in these songs is both grave and groovy, enhancing the main melody with gusto and panache.    

Fabio Lione takes extremely good care of the power metal slice of the album, singing on “Dreaming” and “Without Fear.” For some reason, “Dreaming” brings to mind the wonderful sound and atmosphere of “Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution),” being fast-paced and intricate, with a symphonic undertone to it that is balanced by the warmth of his voice. “Without Fear” has a good energy to it, coming from the pounding drums, guitar harmonies, and Lione’s delivery, closing the album on a highly melodic note. Likewise, the opening track, which also happens to be the title track, benefits from the talents of YouTube personality Pellek, being another speedy number with sky-high vocals, which the former DAMNATION ANGELS vocalist delivers with his usual style and flair. There are some synths popping up here and there, adding color and vibrancy to the song.  

CHAOS MAGIC fans will recognize Caterina Nix’s enchanting vocals on the symphonic-oriented pieces “I Just Collapsed” and “Memories,” the latter featuring Brittney Slayes. The backing strings and groovy, melodic guitars make hard-rocking “I Just Collapsed” a great follow-up to the opening track, while also injecting some elegance and charm to the album. “Memories” is a power ballad that actually feels like a duet between Caterina and Brittney as their styles and vocals play well off of the violin accents and symphonic arrangements. Rounding up the cast of talented vocalists is ICON OF SIN’s Raphael Mendes whose powerful vocals can be heard of “Master of Hell” and “Beauty and War,” both rather menacing and heavy numbers. There are some neat orchestral arrangements that somehow soften the songs and contrast with his Bruce Dickinsonesque voice, making it pop out even more.

All-in-all, “The Enigma Birth” checks off all the boxes and scores high points in most categories, being a well-rounded and extremely enjoyable album. If the backing arrangements give the album a coherent feel, the eight vocalists make the songs their own, adding texture, nuance, and variety to the music. Also, the tracklist is well put together to give the album flow and dynamism, spreading the songs evenly throughout so as you don’t have similar sounding track coming one after the other, which is always a bonus. Because of Timo Tolkki’s wonderful sense of melody, it is easy to either sing along to the choruses, or play air guitar during the solos. Ultimately, this is power metal done right by one of the best in the business.   

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

The Enigma Birth ft. Pellek
I Just Collapse ft. Caterina Nix
Memories ft. Caterina Nix & Brittney Slayes
Master Of Hell ft. Raphael Mendes
Beautiful Lie ft. James LaBrie
Truth ft. Jake E
Another Day ft. Marina LaTorraca
Beauty And War ft. Raphael Mendes
Dreaming ft. Fabio Lione
The Fire And The Sinner ft. Jake E & Brittney Slayes
Time ft. Marina LaTorraca
Without Fear ft. Fabio Lione

Lineup

Timo Tolkki – Guitars
Andrea Arcangeli – Bass
Marco Lazzarini – Drums
Antonio Agate – Keys & Orchestra

Additional guitars by Federico Maraucci and Aldo Lonobile

Label

Frontiers Records

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