Guitarist extraordinaire Timo Tolkki (ex-Stratovarius) returns with the final installment of his symphonic metal trilogy Avalon project in the album Return to Eden.
Before getting into this album, I had no idea it was the third part of a trilogy, whose first two albums have not been exactly enthusiastically received, and after learning that I can see many of the same flaws in Return to Eden as others have made against the first two albums, “The Land of New Hope” and “Angels of the Apocalypse”. Those first two albums featured well known vocalists for guest spots including the likes of Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), and Floor Jansen (Nightwish) and some of the legendary guitar work expected from Timo but many thought the music in general seemed forced and seemed to lack that certain spark. After listening to Return to Eden, I was struck by some amazing guitar work as one might expect from a guitarist who once made a “50 fastest guitarists” list, but in general there seemed to be a lack of passion and intensity. Every part of the songs seemed to be scripted with the band just reading along and following the script…albeit to near perfection.
The album starts out promising enough with a fast riff opening up the first real track, “Promises” and Timo carrying the song with continued fast riffs, but even as strong as this song is, I couldn’t help but think it was a heavier version of Europe throughout most of it and the overall sound and structure seemed dated. Timo’s solo does come in and redeem the song a bit, but as one of the best songs on the album, it still seems lacking.
Next up is “Return to Eden” which starts out reminding me of something from Trans-Siberian Orchestra with the guitar and strings opening. The guest vocalists on the verse sections but the female chorus /backing vocals sound more like they belong in an 80’s pop song, potentially something Swedish. “Hear my Call”, “Miles Away”, “Godsend”, and “Give Me Hope” venture more toward the power ballad category and all contain parts you swear you’ve heard in past power ballads.
Fortunately, not all of the album travels that path and in addition to “Promises”, “We Are the Ones” not only showcases some great vocals by Anneke Van Giersbergen but the song itself moves along with a bit more pace than some of the preceding tracks and has a nice, heavy riff that comes through outside of the verse sections. TImo also seems to loosen up a bit more in the solo on this song as well and not just insert something formulaic to fill the time. Likewise, “Wasted Dreams” starts out with a guitar riff dominating the sound over the keyboards and this time, Zachary Stevens smooth, expressive vocals fill the guest role. Unfortunately, even in the better songs on the album, much of the song seems forced; for instance the fast double bass drum work, which was well-done but seems to be regular staple in many of the songs with little to no change between them.
Timo Tolkki’s Avalon trilogy is apparently coming to an end and unfortunately, never seemed to live up to its potential. Mind you, performances are strong, but the songs seemed to be missing that special something that would set them apart and better fit the expectations around a project being led by such a great guitarist.
Written by John Jackson
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)
Various artists – vocals (see tracklist)
Timo Tolkki / Lead Guitars
Andrea Buratto / Bass
Antonio Agate / Piano and Keyboards
Giulio Capone / Drums , Piano and Keyboards
Aldo Lonobile / Guitars
Release Date: June 14th. 2019
Record Label: Frontiers Music
Video for ‘Promises’
Video for ‘Godsend’
Lyric video for ‘Hear My Call’