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Timo Tolkki | Hymn To Life | Stratovarious | review | metal | Lollipop

Timo Tolkki

Hymn To Life (Nuclear Blast)
by Scott Hefflon

Timo Tolkki is the guitarist for the gold-selling classic heavy metal band Stratovarious, and Hymn to Life is his second solo outing. The last, Classical Variation and Other Themes, is much like this one only in that the title states exactly what it is. Hymn to Life is, well, it's the soundtrack to Tolkki's life, and that's sometimes a sweet thing, sometimes pretty dark and angry, sometimes thoughtful or lonely or wistful or whatever mood he was in at the time. But if you know anything of modern heavy metal (the term used properly, for a change, not as a catch-all to "describe" everything from Marilyn Manson to Tool cuz newspaper journalists know mom & dad don't know the difference anyway - this is often falsetto-belted out, guitar-melody-led soaring and charging over the plains and across the skies heavy fuckin' metal, like Helloween and Stratovarious and Gamma Ray and Hammerfall and all their peers in most every country but America, where "metal" brings to mind the grunting of the weightroom rather than the lofty aspirations of practicing until your fingers cramp, and writing lyrics questioning the validity of God, what it'd be like to be Alexander the Great, and yeah, plenty of Dungeons & Dragons silliness as well: Keys and swords and signs and paths taken and maidens to save from yucky monsters and mead to swill with long-hair brothers-in-metal and all that shit that just doesn't fly 'round these parts) you know this is artful. Beautiful and touching, soaring and sad, and, uh, long. 12 songs in 60 minutes, many songs combining multiple stages, like moods throughout a day.
Of particular note is the lumbering, fearsome "Father," which combines violent, hateful howls of "you drunken fuck, you killed my innocence" and the like in a tormented "Black Sabbath" way, though maybe the dark, heavy guitarwork of Pink Floyd's The Wall could also bring about the proper unease... (And hints in the delicate "It's Christmas Morning" bring up the bitterness again, but the song ends in triumph.) And what kind of solo outing would it be without guest spots? Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel offers her powerful, angelic voice to "Are You The One?" I can't help but think of a drippy love scene in some cheesey movie, but, well, that's not to say it's not a potent love song... Maybe. But the gem is "Key to the Universe" - the opener after the scream called "Intro" - sung by one of my favorite singers, Michael Kiske, of Helloween during their Keeper of the Seven Keys I and II heyday. I get shivers, man. In a just universe, this song and Ozzy's "Dreamer" would become new slow dance favorites at high school dances instead of some Britney or Backstreet abomination.

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