04 April 2010
by Tom Dare
There’s a band I’m not going mention in this review. In fact there’s a box with their name on it, and every time I do I have to put a quid in for the Thrash Hits Christmas party. It’s the band Timo Tolkki used to be in, and I don’t want anyone comparing Symfonia to them in any way. Why? Because Symfonia’s first album In Paradisum stands up on its own without needing the association. New band, new members, new bundle of joy. Clear? Good.
Joining the legendary axeman for this wondrous uplifting venture are ex-Angra vocal gymnast Andre Matos, ex-Helloween drummer Uli Kusch, ex-Sonata Arctica keyboard athlete Mikko Harkin and Tolkki’s long-time bandmate Jari Kainulainen on bass. With that pedigree, it shouldn’t really surprise anyone to learn that A) they’re playing power metal and B) it’s bloody fantastic.
The general feel and lyrical themes – hope when everything seems hopeless, friendship, fidelity and optimism – are both precisely what you expect and exactly what you want. Everyone involved sounds utterly delighted to be part of this new project, and the result is is the kind of record that only the most miserable of bastards can listen to without a sizeable smile on their faces.
Over and above the sheer pleasurable feel of In Paradisum is the gargantuan, infectious nature of the music. The choruses are so hook-laden that there are songs you can sing along to right from the first play, from pacey opener ‘Fields Of Avalon‘ and it’s more gentle follow-up ‘Come By The Hills‘ through the epic title track to wistful closer ‘Don’t Let Me Go‘. The quality is utterly relentless – even the sodding ballads are top drawer.
Obviously given the importance of the signature Tolkki riffage and shred on power metal – and the Finnish variety specifically – it is perhaps unsurprising that, in many ways In Paradisum sounds rather distinctively Finnish itself. However, the presence of Andre Matos does subtly but significantly affect the sound to the extent that the predictable comparison is rather wide of the mark. Symfonia feels more than just the sum of the members’ prior bands- it feels like a new breath of fresh air into the movement.
Watch an interview of Timo Tolkki talking about Symfonia here:
In Paradisum is a total triumph, a cracking array of memorable songs and positivity that is gleefully OTT. Symfonia sound like a project with vast amounts to offer, both now in the shape of this slab of bliss, and hopefully for years to come. All the pieces may have been in place for this to work brilliantly, but that the effort has come off as splendidly as this seems to speak volumes about how invigorated the ensemble is with what they’re doing- and how working with their new bandmates has stimulated them creatively.
We’ve got the real Timo Tolkki back, and how we’ve missed him.
Sounds like: Helloween, Thunderstone… fuck it, and Stratovarius
Top tracks: Come By The Hills, In Paradisum, Don’t Let Me Go
Symfonia – In Paradisum tracklisting:
Fields Of Avalon
Come By The Hills
Rhapsody In Black
I Walk In Neon
Don’t Let Me Go