Tolkki started playing guitar at the age of seven. As a young teenager, it was not uncommon for him to practice eight hours a day. Before joining Stratovarius in 1984, he had played with the bandsAntidote, Thunder and Road Block. At the beginning of his career with Stratovarius, he served as vocalist as well as handling all lead and rhythm guitars, and at times bass guitar (until JariKainulainen's arrival in 1993). After the band's third album, Dreamspace (1994), Tolkki handed over vocal duties to Timo Kotipelto, who took over from Fourth Dimension (1995) onwards. This was largely due toTolkki's desire to evolve the overall musical direction of the band and concentrate on his guitarwork. Further changes were made after Dreamspace, including the departure of the remaining originalmembers of the band, keyboardist Antti Ikonen and drummer Tuomo Lassila.
In 1994, Tolkki released his first solo album, Classical Variations and Themes, which had at the time been one of hislongtime ambitions. The album was similar to his work with Stratovarius, but with more focus on primarily instrumental compositions. His second solo album, Hymn to Life (2002) showed a more personal side,dealing with such emotional issues as his relationship with God and his late father.
He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2004, following a nervous breakdown which occurred some months afterStratovarius acrimoniously disbanded. After a period of rehabilitation, he went on to make a full recovery later that year and subsequently opened his own recording studio, named Goldenworks MixingSuite. A final album with Stratovarius was released in 2005, after which he announced his departure from the band in 2008. Upon leaving he decided to waive the legal rights to the name, allowing the bandto continue as Stratovarius.
Tolkki's next project was an album labelled as a rock opera, named Saana – Warrior of Light Pt 1. It was released on 14 March 2008, and featured a number of guest...
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