Timo Tolkki is a busy chap. Sure, he isn’t Vardan busy, but I don’t begrudge anyone time to enjoy of deep vacations, not even the former mastermind of Stratovarius. While maintaining his Timo Tolkki’s Avalon project and manning the writing desk for the Allen/Lande albums, you’d think the man would be all tied up. Yet he found time to team with Chilean songbird Caterina Nix to create Chaos Magic, a mega-melodic goth-metal outfit looking to horn in on the sales of Within Temptation, Sirenia and all the other rack metal denizens. Timo’s connection to Nix goes back to the second Timo Tolkki’s Avalon platter where she shared lead vocals with luminaries like Floor Jansen and Simone Simons. According to the promo blurbage, he designed Chaos Magic to “develop the vocal talent of Caterina and show a diverse side of Timo’s musical talents.” Using that rubric, I suppose he’s succeeded on both fronts, as Caterina shows she’s a legit and capable (albeit generic) crooner and the soft, poppy material is definitely something we haven’t heard from Timo before. But when using the standard AMG “should you buy this?” rubric, results may vary and mileage may differ. One thing’s for certain, you can safely judge the music by the cover in this particular case.
And that means a platter of light, inoffensive goth anthems and balladry with as little metal as can safely be added while still getting coverage on Blabbermouth and Metal Sucks. The best way to describe it is a less successful version of Within Temptation‘s The Silent Force, then I could move on to beers and brauts, but since I’m expected to blather on for 700 words, allow me to elaborate. Opener “I’m Alive” is the kind of simple, slightly symphonic music you’ve heard a million times. The rather unremarkable music is topped by the big, glossy vocals of Ms. Nix and everything is designed to be safe, easy listening with enough vocal hooks to stick. I say “vocal hooks” because no hooks whatsoever will be forthcoming from the music itself, which often reminds me of those pre-set music recorders used by street performers so they can sing along with something, anything.
This continues across the length of the album, with most songs working well enough to pass muster, but none really grabbing you. “Dangerous Game” is better than most and could definitely exist as a B-side on any recent Within Temptation platter, and “Seraphim” ups the symphonics and pretensions to arrive at something akin to Within Temptation‘s symphonic version of “Aquarius.” And while I’m at it, Within Temptation!
There’s a mild Middle Eastern theme and more bombastic presentation on “Passionflow” that makes it stand out a bit, and closer “The Point of No Return’ is as heavy as things get, approaching the hard rock/light power heard on the recent Kiske/Somerville platter. The rest of the album floats by in a hazy, ethereal fog. It’s so light weight in fact, that it’s actually startling when a metallized guitar riff opens penultimate track “Right Now.” That’s never a good sign.
The low point comes in the form of back-to-back ballads, with “Dead Memories” sounding like an Evanescence outtake, and “Please Don’t Tell Me” veering uncomfortably close to the iceberg that is Celine Dion, and you know how her heart likes to go on and on….
Ms. Nix is clearly a talented singer and she sounds good on all the songs. She has essentially the same voice as Sharon den Adel (guess who) and employs it in much the same way as she would. She doesn’t over-sing or go all crazy opera diva, which is great, but there’s little about her that stands out for the scores of similar female vocalists. Very good looking, pretty voice, classically inclined, it’s all there as usual. Though Timo handles guitar, bass and keyboards himself, as mentioned earlier, the music is unremarkable and exists solely to support the vocals. I suppose Timo deserves props for stepping aside and letting Nix run the show, but the whole thing ends up rather soulless as a result.
This is really becoming Frontiers Records niche: pairing random musicians for these hit or miss vanity projects. Well, Chaos Magic is no Allen/Lande. Heck, they’re not even Kiske/Somerville, but they aren’t terrible either, though the utter lack of surprises, moxie or metal is pretty disappointing. This is just safe, by the book gothic rock, as bright and shiny as it gets and as vanilla as possible. So very unmetal.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Frontiers Records
Websites: Too kvlt for the inter-webs… huh??
Release Dates: EU: 2015.07.3 | NA: 07.10.2015