1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear – Finnish metal shredder goes way offbeam!


1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

#59: Timo Tolkki – Saana Warrior Of Light Part One, Journey To Crystal Island (2008)

MATT KELLY discovers that power metal shredder Timo Tolkki went way off-beam with his swiftly-buried solo debut.

STRATOVARIUS! Lords of Finnish power metal, creators of such genre favourites as Episode and Visions! When golden figured guitar shredder Timo Tolkki left the band to work on his solo career, the fanbase couldn’t wait. Surely an Yngwie Malmsteen-worthy cornucopia of hard-hitting heavy metal delights was on the cards. And not, say, a full-on genre change into new age music with an embarrassingly earnest cod-fantasy storyline delivered through spoken word sections. Until you see that “thirteen-year-old writes a fantasy novel” title.


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On the one hand, you have to applaud Tolkki for the courage to stray so far from what was expected of him. On the other, as you sit through the treacle slow ‘Sadness Of The World’ which features some extraordinarily poor vocals, it’s impossible not to get the giggles. Male vocalist Heikki Pöyhiä begins the song by droning tunelessly in “How on earth could this have been the best take?” fashion before soaring hilariously sky-high at the end with a glass-threatening shriek.

Fortunately, the female vocalist is much better, but she can’t escape the syrupy, gloopy instrumentation that makes Enya sound hardcore. And if you notice I’m not calling her by name, it’s because credits for this are hard to find, as there seems to have been some effort to bury it – the record was a crushing failure and Part Two was never made. A shame because I really would have liked to see the full cycle:

Part Two: Voyage To The Porcelain Peninsula

Part Three: Sojourn To The Ceramic Archipelago

Part Four: Fieldtrip To The Stoneware Isthmus

Part Five: Passage To The Pottery Barn


You can argue that the wonderfully acronymed SWOLPOJTTC is not bad, but was simply misunderstood by a heavy metal audience that didn’t want it. I’m going to argue that it is bad.

Being open to New Age doesn’t save it- I like Mike Oldfield, Alice Coltrane and Loreena McKennitt but not this. See, the key to New Age is often dignity – when you’re crafting a mystical, magical, meditative soundscape, it is important that nothing punctures or deflates it. SWOLPOJTTC, by contrast, has a good dollop of unintentional comedy in it such as one song ending with a character prosaically asking, “Would you like to come over for a cup of coffee?” and there being an entire, incredibly sincere song about the significance of the numbers assigned to the lakeside cabins the characters are staying in.

It’s just so slow and can’t rise above its own cheesiness – even when the female vocalist manages some stunning high notes on ‘Silence Of The Night’, the maudlin nature of the album makes it amusing.

It’s brave and interesting when a musician breaks new ground and refuses to rely on what has made them successful – Tolkki does no shredding at all here – but not relying on your strengths comes with the great risk of falling back on your weaknesses, and such is the case with SWOLPOJTTC.

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Matthew Kelly is the most important person in the music industry – the type of obsessive nerd without whom it would have no reason to produce box sets and nine-hour long documentaries.

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