Saturday, February 19, 2011

Symfonia- Finnish Metal Expo show

I haven't heard this entire show yet, only a few songs from it. But I've heard enough of the new material, and seen the setlists, read the blog posts, whatnot, that I think I have something interesting to say about Symfonia.

First off, I am so glad the band is a reality, that songs are being released, and shows are being played. It seems like with Tolkki, all too often does he talk big and not deliver, RR as a Stratovarius album, Return to Dreamspace, The first Hymn to Life book, an RR world tour, ect...

Rumors of Symfonia actually came months before the announcement, and what the rumor originally said was Matos/Kusch/Jari/Tolkki/ and Bob Katsionis.

Of those, my original thought was that only Katsionis really made sense. Tolkki had already fired Jari once, but then I remembered that Tolkki is a big fan of Ritchie Blackmore, and in historical relevance, Ritchie Blackmore fired Roger Glover (Bassist as well) from Deep Purple before hiring him back into Rainbow.

These are all guys that left a big impact on their respective bands, and left for bigger and better things, only to find out that they couldn't catch lightning twice so easily, and they all REALLY need this gig to work. I like that, because although they all have pretty big egos, this I think should humble them a bit.

But, onto the show, the (Incomplete) setlist was as follows.
1.Fields of Avalon 
2.Come by the Hills 
3.I Did it my Way 
5.Lasting Child  
7.Rhapsody in Black 

I like, a lot, Fields of Avalon and Come By the Hills, from samples, sound like great high octane energetic songs, especially Fields of Avalon. I Did it My Way was an RR tune, it's now been sung by Kotipelto, Kiske, Matos, and probably Gus Monsanto at some point. Damn.

The big surprise here is Dreamspace. I love this song to death, it's an artifact from a very early time in Tolkki's career, and it lets him take some material from Stratovarius, without seeming like he's trying to hold onto the "Golden era", and the thought of hearing that with Matos on vocals is really exciting. Lasting Child is an Angra tune, I was never a fan of it, but whatever. Stratosphere is another interesting selection, because it's by no means Strato's best or most famous instrumental, but still very good. I like that.

The last 3 songs are what I've heard on video, and so this is where I stop reviewing the character of the band, and go onto actually reviewing material.

The first is Rhapsody in Black, Tolkki has said this is the album's single. Tolkki has said in interviews that he was a bit worried about pop influences, and Rhapsody in Black has a very "Pop" groove to its main riff, but it's undeniably power metal. Oddly enough, listening to it I can't help but think that it doesn't sound too different from the material on "Twilight Time" That's a very good thing. Matos sounds great on it, of the three I've heard, its my favorite song, (But I have high hopes for fields of Avalon). The other two tracks, Pilgrim Road, and Forever More, impress me first because they make very good use of Matos' voice, especially Pilgrim Road.Everything is in place for not only a very good band/album, but an interesting one, with a lot of power metal these days, they're executing very well, but not doing anything particularly interesting with that execution.

Now, onto the studio track "In Paradisium". I'll keep it short because I want to do a full review of this when it comes out, what, this month? Tolkki obviously sat down with the intention to write a 10 minute song here. It's all here, the sweeping choruses, the fake orchestra sounds, everything that would have felt right at home on Destiny or Infinite, but the actual song layout mirrors "Visions". The vocal lines fall into the same traps that RR did, that I can't listen to it without thinking that it was really written for Kotipelto, and the refrain of the choruses isn't particularly interesting. On the other hand, the more uptempo sections and the solos are entertaining. Mikko Harkin does some really great stuff, and for people not willing to delve into his Christian metal projects, it will be refreshing to hear him again. Tolkki is obviously trying very hard to be power metal and epic with this song, and had he had some good creative advice, he might have cut this down by 3-4 minutes and made it a really powerful song.

So, what does this mean we should expect from the Symfonia debut? Obviously there are two lines of thought running in Tolkki's head. The first I imagine came from when he did his musical journey and listening to the entire Stratovarius discography, which apparently he doesn't actually have on CD. "Shit, I did some really interesting albums early in my career" The second is "I just assembled maybe what's the most high-profile supergroup in the history of power metal, people are expecting a massive album, and I need to embrace my role as a power metal musician". The first two Revolution Renaissance albums were a perfect example of both. New Era was very straightforward power metal, and without a consistent band or a good enough keyboard player, it was too lacking to really be effective. Age of Aquarius on the other hand was pure "Creative Tolkki", however, the full band he had at his disposal wasn't very good, and the ideas weren't executed. Look for a balance from "In Paradisium", if we have an album of well delivered unique songs, then Tolkki has absolutely succeeded.

EDIT: Had to correct some mistakes about Santiago/Pilgrim Road confusion

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