Revolution Renaissance - Age of Aquarius 3/5
1. The age of Aquarius
2. So she wears black
3. Ixion's wheel
4. Kyrie Eleison
5. Revolution has begun
6. Sins of my beloved
7. Behind the mask
8. Ghost of fallen grace
9. Children of the future
10. The heart of all
I was fairly lukewarm on Revolution Renaissance's debut CD 'New era' which sounded like a watered down, less exciting version of Stratovarius. I have always favored Timo Tolkki's faster output from Stratovarius so I was disappointed by the overall lack of speed from 'New era', and generally felt like most of my enjoyment of that CD came from the superb guest vocalists. Well, now Revolution Renaissance is an actual band, and Stratovarius is (unthinkably) carrying on without Timo. While 'New era' was light on faster songs, this 2nd CD has no fast songs at all. Without the all star guest vocalists, this would seem like a recipe for disaster, but in actuality I think I like this CD slightly better than the debut.
The nicest surprise on this CD from my point of view is new vocalist Gus Monsanto. He's a nice metal singer - much more reigned in and even-toned than say Timo Kotipelto, and is probably my favorite (full time) singer Timo Tolkki has worked with (including Timo himself). While Gus has range he sticks mainly to the mid-range and in many ways comes off as a better version of Timo Tolkki vocally. Whereas Kotipelto would compare to the sirens of the world (like Kiske), I liken Monsanto to vocalists like Andrew McDermott of Galloglass. So, while I was expecting to miss the vocals of Kiske and Rantanen, that turned out to not be the case.
For me this CD is definitely a tale of 2 halves. The first 5 songs are all of reasonable length, and while lacking the traditional Stratovarius level of speed, the songwriting for these songs is compelling enough for me to not mind it. Again, Monsanto's vocals do a lot to keep me more interested in the songs as his charismatic voice keeps me attentive. It's hard to categorize this CD as "power metal" as the lack of speed steers this more into the category of "melodic metal". The tempo stays generally slower with enough peppier moments to keep the CD from plodding to death. "Sins of my beloved" is probably my favorite song of the first half, not due to the quick intro which is probably the closest thing to speed we get on the CD, but due to the very compelling chorus. "Behind the mask" stands out due to its short length (just under 3 minutes) and due to it being considerably heavier than anything on the CD. The riffing is probably the heaviest Timo has ever done and even Monsanto gruffs up his voice and shouts most of the vocals. It's certainly not something you would hear on a Stratovarius CD.
The 2nd half of this CD doesn't hold up quite as well. There are 3 songs in a row that clock in at 7 minutes of length and they all sound like the more epic, slower-paced material that I would typically skip back on Stratovarius CDs. I do generally like these 3 songs, but by this point I am dying for something quicker to help get me through these longer tracks. The CD does end well with "Into the future" which has a bit of (pun intended) Renaissance fair style folky melodies, which I typically enjoy.
So on the whole, much to my surprise, Timo can put out a CD with mostly slow songs and I can still enjoy it. I can see this being a big disappointment to long-time Stratovarius fans, and in fact there are times that I wonder why *I* am not more disappointed in it. But, it just goes to show you that while I can objectively prefer certain aspects of music, strong songwriting wins out over style. That's not to say that I find any of the songs to be brilliant, but at least I don't reach for the skip button too much, which even in Stratovarius' prime I did liberally. Don't look for neo-classical power metal here, but if you dig melodic metal fare, then check 'Age of Aquarius' out.
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