Symfonia - 'In Paradisum'

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Symfonia - 'In Paradisum'

A bit of a monster that by rights should put them all back where their talents belong ... on top!

Something of a closely guarded secret until relatively recently, Scandinavian based symphonic power metaller's Symfonia will almost certainly make a few headlines in coming weeks for the simple reason that they're arguably the biggest 'supergroup' this particular branch of the ever more diverse rock and metal tree has produced since ... well, Masterplan at the very least. Think I'm kidding? ... well, when you hear names like Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius), Andre Matos (Angra), Uli Kusch (Helloween), Jari Kainulainen (Stratovarius) and Mikko Harkin (Kenziner / Sonata Arctica) you'll see that for once I'm actually deadly serious.

Written primarily by Tolkki and Matos (although it won't take Einstein to work out whose fingerprints are the more prominent) and produced by the one time Stratovarius guitar guru, debut album 'In Paradisum' is both reassuringly familiar, yet at the same time has a few tasty little surprises up its sleeve. The neo-classically infused symphonic power metal sound pioneered by the likes of Stratovarius and Angra back in the 90's forms the backbone of the Symfonia attack for the most part – blistering guitar/keyboards battles as much an attention grabber as the inimitable vocals of Matos – but there's also a haunting undercurrent which surfaces from time to time to pay homage to the trailblazing genius of Ritchie Blackmore, as well as the odd hint of the seductive South American rhythms that made Angra stand out from the crowd add even a soupcon of Celtic flair (prophetically appropriate given the recent sad loss of the great Gary Moore).

So, given the undeniable pedigree of all those involved (both as musicians and writers, not to mention Tolkki's obvious prowess in the studio), you'd expect a certain level of quality ... and boy would you be right! Coming atcha like a rabid bitch on heat, the stirring mix of pulsating rhythms and classical refrains harks back to that mid to late 90's time when Stratovarius and Angra reigned supreme. For sure much of this is played on the gallop, but the intricately interwoven themes and melodies are surprisingly strong and distinct all the way through, and there's more than enough tempo variation to offer a respite from the kerosene fuelled riffs which makes things even more interesting.

For starters the soaring title track 'In Paradisum' is just awesome; exactly the kind of brooding, emotionally turbocharged epic that Tolkki has always excelled at ... utterly compelling from beginning to end! I have to say that I do hear more Tolkki than Matos (as I alluded to earlier) in the songs, but as a huge Stratovarius fan of many years standing; believe me that's meant as a genuine and heartfelt compliment! Listening to tracks like 'Rhapsody In Black', 'Forevemore' (no, not a Whitesnake cover!), 'Fields Of Avalon', 'Alayna' and 'Santiago' I'm constantly reminded of how this kind of music can move you on so many emotional levels when it's done properly.

I can only hope and pray that the egos involved don't destroy Symfonia before it's even started, because with 'In Paradisum' they've created a bit of a monster that by rights should put them all back where their talents belong ... on top!

Dave Cockett

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