Review by Dave Crompton
I must confess dear reader, I approached this album with much trepidation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not adverse to an occasional injection of Metal; whether it be traditional Metal, Power Metal, or Symphonic Metal (No, I don’t even go near Trash, Death, Doom etc … too scary !! ), but the thought of 51 minutes of never-ending double bass drum patterns and rapid guitar widdling filled my delicate soul with worry. I need not have worried, as “The Land of New Hope” leans more towards my beloved Melodic Rock genre than I would ever have anticipated; thus, more often than not I found myself captivated by the musicianship on display here.
I’m sure the vast majority of you will know, Timo Tolkki gained recognition from his long-standing work with Stratovarius, and here he has gathered a band of merry men … and women, to participate in this ‘from apocalypse to land of new hope‘ metal opera. Yes, the story isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s not really the story on show here (although the lyrics serve their purpose well enough)… it’s the music.
The vocals throughout are shared by: Rob Rock (Impellitteri), Russell Allen (Symphony X, Allen/Lande, Star One, Adrenaline Mob), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween, Place Vendome, Unisonic) and Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica). They all do a commendable job developing, then carrying the story along; but it is the beautiful, ethereal vocals of Elize Ryd that, for me, is the star of the album !!
‘What about the songs?‘ I hear you scream…… well ……
The opus begins in true Power/Symphonic Metal fashion with “Avalanche Anthem”….. and it is an avalanche of sounds: double bass drums, rapid guitars and dominant orchestral keyboards … all those traits I was dreading. However, within a short space of time the keyboards, the variation of tempo, and especially Ryd’s heavenly vocals (in contrast with Allen and Rock’s) temper the ferocity of the song. The same vocalists remain for “A World Without Us” which satisfies me immediately with a quintessential rock riff, and mid-song there evolves a short but stunning guitar break by Mr Tolkki.
Two songs in, and I was actually beginning to enjoy the album.
Confirmation of this came with “Enshrined In My Memory”. Elize Ryd takes this on herself, and it really can only be described as Ethereal Symphonic AOR (if that’s not an official sub-genre, then it should be). It even has a chorus to sing along to, which is rare on these types of albums. Probably the best and most accessible song on the album! Initially, “The Name Of The Rose” continues this trend, but the reintroduction of Allen and Rock give this a harder edge.
“We Will Find A Way” picks up the pace again – vocal duties are shared between Rock and Kakko. Yes, the double bass patterns return (usually in the choruses of albums of this ilk), but they never outstay their welcome. Did I say that “Enshrined In My Memory” was probably the best song ? Mmmmm …. maybe not – “Shine” is superb, and immediately sounds as if it’s been extracted from a Within Temptation album. No surprise then, that this is Sharon den Adel’s turn to shine (no pun intended). This song has everything I love in a Symphonic Rock song, and if you’re a WT admirer, like me, you’ll enjoy this !!
“The Magic Of The Night” brings me back down to earth, and reminds me that this is, first and foremost a Power Metal album. Rob Rock takes on vocal duties, and if you’re familiar with his vocal approach then you’ll know what to expect. Mr Rock remains with us for To The Ends Of The Earth, and it’s more of the same: blistering guitars, frantic drums and a 100mph keyboard duel between Derek Sherinian and Jens Johansson – all this crammed into 5 minutes … Phew, I need a rest !!!
“I’ll Sing You Home”, sung solely by Elize Ryd gives me that rest. A beautiful ballad with exquisite orchestral arrangements, and a heart-wrenching guitar solo – a fitting welcome for our band of travellers who, only 40 minutes ago were escaping floods, earthquakes and fire!
“The Land Of New Hope”, the title track, is an 8 minute epic, featuring the renowned vocal talents of Michael Kiske. Even though I possess albums by Mr Kiske, I really struggle when he sings at the top of his range … which he does on this closing song. So for me, despite it being a worthy song to close the ‘opera ‘, I feel the 8 minutes could have been shared by all the participating vocalists.
In conclusion – this album was, surprisingly, an enjoyable aural journey, executed by well established musicians. Don’t let the term “Metal Opera” dissuade you from picking up a copy. There is relatively little Power Metal on display here, and the two female vocalists ensure you’re never far away from pure melodic bliss.
A World Without Us
Enshrined In My Memory
In The Name Of The Rose
We Will Find A Way
The Magic Of The Night
To The Edge Of The Earth
I’ll Sing You Home
The Land Of New Hope
Timo Tolkki – Guitar, Bass Guitar
Alex Holzwarth – Drums
Derek Sherinian – keyboards ( To The Edge Of The Earth )
Jens Johansson – keyboards ( To The Edge Of The Earth )
Mikko Harkin – keyboards
Sharon den Adel
Available NOW on Frontiers Records