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Tolkki, Timo: Hymn to Life

There's a reason Timo Tolkki no longer sings lead vocals for Finland's power-metal group Stratovarius. As Hymn to Life, the guitarist's second solo album, clearly proves, the man is much more dexterous with a fret board than with his voice box. Tolkki opens the record with a blood-curdling yowl, and then lets ex-Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske take over on "Key to the Universe." Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel also lends her angelic voice to "Are You the One?" But the rest of Hymn to Life is totally Tolkki, whose strained voice sounds as if it's just trying too hard.

The vocal differences aren't the only clues that Hymn to Life is not a Stratovarius record. Also missing are many of the power-metal riffs, hooks and guitar pyrotechnics that characterize Tolkki's main band, currently on hiatus until 2003. If Tolkki wanted to make a record that appeals to a broader audience, he no doubt would have issued an instrumental guitar album, as the guy is one of the best music writers and players on Europe's power-metal scene. Instead, he opted for a deeply personal album -- one that seems to have been recorded for cathartic reasons. Songs like the bittersweet "Little Boy I Miss You" and the aggressive "Dear God" tackle subjects foreign to many headbangers, while "Father" is easily Hymn to Life's most disturbing track. Tolkki's vocals sound even more pained than usual as his creepy spoken-word passages and distorted screams refer to his dad as a "drunken fuck." (Sample lyric: "I piss on your grave/And curse your memory.")

Adding to the album's intensely personal vibe is the fact that Hymn to Life -- on which Tolkki also plays guitar, bass and some keyboards -- was recorded in a seaside house near Helsinki, Finland. rather than in a standard studio. Few artists put their emotions and life stories on display as dramatically as Tolkki does here, and sitting through Hymn to Life may well be a discomforting experience for some listeners. That said, if you can stomach the unorthodox singing style and atypical subject matter, this album is worth exploring.


Track Listing

  1. Primal
  2. Key to the Universe
  3. Now I Understand
  4. Divine
  5. Little Boy I Miss You
  6. I Believe
  7. Are You the One?
  8. Father
  9. Fresh Blue Waters
  10. Dear God
  11. It's Xmas Morning
  12. Hymn to Life

Added: September 12th 2008
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Score:
Related Link: Nuclear Blast Records
Hits: 2170
Language: english

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Tolkki, Timo: Hymn to Life
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-09-12 19:15:20
My Score:

***This is a review of the 2008 Metal Mind Productions remaster of Hymn to Life***

Though it's far removed from a Stratovarius album, Timo Tolkki's 2002 solo album Hymn to Life does have its moments. Forget about power metal, this is about as close to atmospheric AOR as you will get from a power shredder. The strong cuts are easily the ones that bring in some guest singers, notably ex-Helloween belter Michael Kiske on the outstanding rocker "Key to the Universe" and Within Temptation's Sharon Den Aldel on the gorgeous "Are You the One?". Throughout this rather mellow CD, Tolkki, who plays guitar, bass, and some keyboards, delivers most of the lead vocals, which is where the main problem lies here. Tunes like "Fresh Blue Waters", "Dear God", and "Father" contain extremely weak, straining vocals, and on the latter Tolkki is screaming so poorly that it's almost impossible to listen to. However, on tracks such as "Now I Understand" and "I Believe", he doesn't seem to be trying so hard and the catchy melodies actually make for a pleasant listen. Lots of acoustic guitars and calming arrangements here, and just about no bombast, so if you are expecting acrobatic guitar work, be advised there's very little of that on this puppy.

Metal Mind's remaster treatment actually gives this release a very rich and bright sheen, and the original booklet is recreated inside a nice digipack. Power metal? Not so much....but a decent slice of AOR, prog, and rock it is. Now if only he brought in a host of singers instead of tackling this on his own.



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