“It’s A.D. 2055 and most big cities of Planet Earth are either flooded with tsunamis or destroyed by earthquakes and fire. The whole infrastructure and communication system has broken down. The destruction is total. A small group of survivors leaves for a quest to find a sacred place known as The Land of New Hope. It is an old fairytale that has been told since decades, but very few have actually ever believed of its existence. They travel far on a journey that is full of dangers and come across a seer who guides them further. She explains to them that The Land of New Hope does exist, but it is guarded by a Keeper and only those who are pure in heart can pass him. They wander further towards their ultimate destiny.”
Sounds like a sci-fic post apocalyptic movie starring Tom Cruise doesn’t it? But no, it’s the debut album from former Stratovarius composer Timo Tolkki, or rather Timo Tolkki’s Avalon, a metal opera with an all-star cast. Sound familiar? Comparisons to Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia abound. From the artwork, the logo, the guest vocalists and players, it’s obvious that this is Tolkki’s attempt at his own metal opera franchise on Frontiers Records. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great album. On the contrary, The Land of New Hope is an excellent power metal opera with great riffs, incredible vocals, and epic power metal songwriting. The guest vocalist cast is a who’s who in the world of power and symphonic metal: Michael Kiske (Unisonic/ex-Helloween), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Rob Rock (Impellitteri), Russell Allen (Symphony X/Adrenalin Mob), Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) and Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica). The main band consists of Keyboards are provided by Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), Derek Sherinian (Black Country Communion/Dream Theater), Mikko Härkin (Sonata Arctica), and drummer Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody Of Fire), leaving Tolkki to handle the guitar and bass duties. Not surprisingly, many of the all-star cast has also performed on several Avantasia albums.
The album kicks of with the bombastic and symphonic Avalanche Anthem, which features the triple vocal attack of Allen, Rock, and Ryd, who are all in fine voice here. A World Without Us is a rocking power metal anthem once again featuring Ryd, Allen, and Rock. Elize Ryd gets the spotlight on the melodic and commercial tinged Enshrined In My Memory, which was a great choice for a first single/video. Ryd sounds fantastic on this track conveying emotion and passion quite effectively. Russell Allen and Ryd team up for the heartfelt power ballad In The Name of the Rose. We Will Find A Way featuring Kakko and Rock has a Avantasia sound that would fit in on the first two Metal Opera albums. Ryd duets with Sharon Den adel on Shine. Both ladies give their all in a powerful vocal display. The Magic of the Night is a power metal anthem that brings classic Strato to mind and features the talented Rob Rock on solo vocals. Rock also performs all vocals on the majestic To The Edge of the Earth, a speedy power metal rocker with a soaring chorus and song composition that is reminiscent of Avantasia’s Shelter From The Rain and some great double kick work from drummer Holzwarth. The ladies get their chance to shine once again as Ryd and Den Adel duet on the beautiful I’ll Sing You Home, a chilling symphonic ballad. The last song is the epic title track featuring the exceptional vocals of Michael Kiske, who shows that his vocals, like fine wine, age extremely well. In the final analysis, Timo tolkki’s guitar playing and songwriting haven’t sounded this energetic and inspired in years. Is his Avalon a threat to Tobias Sammet’s reign as the king of the metal opera? Not yet, but I look forward to chapters two and three to see if Tolkki and company can write another symphonic gem like The Land of New Hope! Recommended for fans of Stratovarius and Avantasia!