By Jason Wellwood
Timo is going to run in to some resistance from the metal faithful on this one, but I don’t think he much cares. For the most part, Saana: Warrior of Light Pt. 1 eschews the trappings of metal and sticks to a more traditional operatic approach. There is very little guitar here, and what little there is doesn’t follow the shredding power metal feel that you would expect from the former main songwriter of Stratovarius. Saana: Warrior of Light Pt. 1 is one long song broken up into 16 movements, filled with some terrific, moody classical pieces with all of the dynamics and nuances you’d expect in a traditional opera. The ‘rock’ on this rock opera really comes from two of the voices chosen: Janette Sainio (Revolution Renaissance) and Heikki Poyha (Twilightning) who provide the heavier moments vocally, instead of having a shredding guitar solo. The opera part definitely comes from the pure soprano vocals of the main character portrayed by Jennifer Sowle. For me, her vocals were actually the highlight of the album, giving it an incredibly authentic feel.
Tolkki has made a serious attempt at creating something special with this album. Playing almost all the instruments himself he’s kept the creative control he strived for in Stratovarius and managed to up the symphonic ante without having to worry about pleasing the metal masses at the same time. He’s managed to create the classical pieces he was pushing Stratovarius to embrace without any of the pompousness that resulted in previous attempts. Admittedly, I would have preferred he used an actual orchestra instead of a keyboard created one, but overall the effect is still quite positive. It’s hard to pick stand out tracks as everything flows together here but Saino’s performance on ‘3 at 7’ could certainly lend itself to being a single if such a thing is needed here. I personally would recommend listening to the album as it was intended though, as a whole.
Metal it ain’t but as far as music and letting your artistic side loose, Timo Tolkki has done a fantastic job with this album. It really is beautiful.