• 4/10


Release date: June 6, 2008

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

The new album of Finnish guitarist Timo Tolkki is a puzzling release in several ways. First of all, why did he give this project a new name instead of having it run by his name, as he did before with his solo works? All musicians are only “borrowed”, the songs are written by himself, and himself alone, and if anything is known after the noisy split of Stratovarius, it is his name.

Secondly, how many times can Michael Kiske fool his fans? Yes, Mr. “I will never do Heavy Metal again as I hate it” Kiske sings five of the ten songs on New Era. Okay, to give him a bit of credit, most of these are the ballads. But there are two songs which are Metal, and nothing else. Melodic Metal, alright, but Metal nonetheless. Kiske’s non-Metal solo efforts were all non-essential, to put it mildly, so is it that he can overcome his nausea and sing a Metal tune if somebody just offers enough money?

And not to forget: Does Timo Tolkki really think the songs on New Era are that good that he needs to publish it? Because when you strip this album bare of marketing and history, what remains is an assembly of 10 quite unsophisticated Melodic Metal songs. Timo never was a spectacular guitar player and only a mediocre song writer – if you don’t believe it check the Stratovarius albums again, you will find that none offers more than a handful of respectable songs, and even worse on his superfluous solo effort Hymn To Life – who had a tendency to repeat himself regularly.

The same is true here. This album is one hundred per cent Tolkki. He played it safe and composed stereotypical songs which could be taken from the drawing board of Melodic Metal. There is the mandatory up-tempo opening track “Heroes” with some good leads and a lot of predictability and another one of the same type later called “Glorious And Divine”, both sung by Tobias Sammet who had been more convincing before and sounds uninvolved, which at least lets you tap your foot. But most other tracks are so cliché that one checks the cover and booklet again to make sure it is not a comedy about the Melodic Metal genre.

What saves the day for Timo, at least partly, is that a few songs despite their unoriginality still work well. Three songs stick out of the mud slightly: “Eden Is Burning” is Dio-esque and would not stand out on one of the recent Dio albums. The same is true for the final song “Revolution Renaissance” which sounds like a collaboration between Dio and Stratovarius, but the best track is “Born Upon The Cross”. Why? Because it sounds exactly like Black Sabbath during the Tony Martin era, somewhere around Tyr and Headless Cross. This statement is not a compliment for Tolkki, you say? It never was intended to be. Tolkki poaches twenty years of Melodic Metal history and repeats music that was already recorded before with only slight variations keeping him barely short of plagiarism. Some of the songs even remind of older Stratovarius material, so he is not ashamed to steal from himself, either. Or does he pay homage to his very self?

Now, what has to be mentioned specifically is Tolkki’s guitar playing. As the guitarist has written all the songs, one can expect the album to be impressive at least in that department, right? Unfortunately, even there Timo does not convince. It is obvious that he is not a bad guitar player, and everyone who has seen him play knows that he has the right feeling and skills to deliver the goods. But on New Era too often riffs sound uninspired, many times he only plays a few chords which then must be enough for dragging seconds bringing all drama and suspense to a complete stop, while no other instrument or any voice takes over. Not surprising, as it is rather a solo album and not a band effort.

Unfortunately, this album cannot be recommended unless you are a great Stratovarius fan and liked the last albums, which were already mediocre at best. Or you are a big Black Sabbath fan, Tony Martin-era, and do not mind spending the money for an album for just one song. Other than that, the new start Tolkki hoped this album would be is a backfire in spite of the three great singers; Michael Kiske, whose performance with all criticism towards his general disrespect for his fans flawless and great, Tobias Sammet, who may not shine but still manages to be good, and Pasi Rantanen of Thunderstone, whose raw voice adds the right feeling to “Born Upon The Cross”. And that raises the final question: Why did Frontier release this album which is quite obviously below their usual standards?

Since this is an album by a musician who sold a great deal of albums, it is still a good idea to check out on his website and especially listen to “Revolution Renaissance” on his MySpace site. Then judge yourself.


  • Frank Jaeger

    Frank was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Bavaria, Germany. He has worked in the games industry for more than 20 years, now on the manufacturing side, before on the publishing end. Before this, he edited and handled the layout for a city mag in northern Germany ... maybe that is why he love being part of anything published. Frank got hooked on Metal at the age of 14 when a friend introduced him to AC/DC. They were listening to The Beatles, Madness, and The Police, and he decided they should move on. Well, they did, Back in Black became Frank's first Metal album, and since Germany is reasonably close to England, they had some small New Waves Of British Heavy Metal washing up on their shores: Tygers Of Pan Tang, Samson, Gillan, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Sweet Savage, Diamond Head, etc. If he had to pick his favorite styles, Prog and Power Metal would be at the top of the list.

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