AVANTASIA – Angel Of Babylon

avantasia_angel-of-babylonNot since the days of 1991 when Guns N’ Roses decided on releasing two double albums at the same time have we gotten ourselves a similar treat. In Guns N’ Roses’ case, they showed us that just because you have lots and lots of music lying around does not mean that it have to be released. Use Your Illusion were two uneven albums and many of us wished that they had just reduced it to one single album, that album could have – and probably would have – been a total masterpiece. Would the same be said of Tobias Sammett’s Avantasia extravaganza? I mean, the guy is obviously an extremely talented songwriter, but here we get 22 new songs on two albums, written, produced and arranged by Sammett and not only that, there is a story behind it as well that he has written. Be that the story is a continuation of Avantasia’s last three albums, but it still needs to be put down to paper. Well, after being totally floored by the “first” album, The Wicked Symphony, I can’t say I’m worried that Angel Of Babylon could turn out as a total disaster, quite the contrary, my expectations just might be a bit too high.

This album starts out in a similar way to its sister album. “Stargazers” is a nine a and half-minute monster track and not only does it contain a monster melody, the tune is a real metal killer and for us whole love brilliant singers, it’s a little slice of Heaven. It features Jorn Lande, Russell Allen (Symphony X), Michael Kiske (ex- Helloween) and Oliver Hartmann (Hartmann, At Vance), all of them making amazing performances. The title track, ”Angel Of Babylon” is another killer, Jorn Lande sung track, a fine mix of catchy metal and hard rock. Sammett himself takes the whole vocal part for “Your Love Is Evil”, a good, but not great metal track that smells just a little too much power metal for these ears. Also, as I wrote in the last review, Sammett has some real annoying vibrato tendencies when he sings which doesn’t exactly does the song any good. Best of all, on both of the CDs is ”Death Is Just A Feeling”. Sung by Jon Oliva (Savatage, Dr Butcher, Pain, Trans Siberian Orchestra), it’s a big, powerful song with a horror-like sound and my guess is that Sammett had planned to bring Alice Cooper back for this one, but something didn’t work that way and he gave it to Oliva instead. A great move as Oliva is brilliant on it and instead of turning it into a Cooper tune, Oliva’s performance makes me think of Savatage’s greatest days – how awesome! Two Lande-sung songs follows, the first one “Rat Race” is a straight forward hard rocker with a good melody, but without being bad by any means, the song isn’t one of this album’s greats and “Down In The Dark”, a catchy, but darker sounding metal tune with some pompous undertones. “Blowing Out The Flame” is one of those ballads that just gives you the goose bumps and for the first time, I have no problem what so ever with Sammett taking the whole lead vocal himself. Brilliant. Another great piece is ”Symphony Of Life”, a big, pompous operatic thing with great vocals by one Cloudy Yang, a female German singer with Asian strain and a fabulous voice. Jorn Lande totally nails ”Alone I Remember” , a big, pompous power ballad – with the word “power” in focus and a melody that will never leave your head once it’s there. The same with “Promised Land”, a faster hard rocker with a contagious melody that Lande totally owns – splendid! The finishing ”Journey To Arcadia”, is a great song on the more symphonic side and once again the melodies are intoxicating, not only in the chorus but also in the verses, there are catchiness all over the place.

This second CD is similar to the The Wicked Symphony in both production and structure and Sammet could, in all honesty, have made this just as a double CD of them both if he had wanted to. But I do prefer things this way, two different CDs are more easily digestive than one double. On the downside we have that Sammet himself is contributing lead vocals on almost every track, understandable as it is his project, but the fact is that Sammet is a limited singer and his voice is somewhat annoying. He also handles all the bass, but that’s not a problem at all. Other musicians on the records you might have heard of before are again Eric Singer (Kiss, Alice Cooper, Badlands, Lita Ford, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore) on drums on “Rat Race”, “Blowing Out The Flame”, “Alone I Remember” and “Promised Land”, Bruce Kulick (ex Kiss, ex Union) on guitar on “Rate Race”, “Alone I Remember” and “Journey To Arcadia” and Jens Johansson (ex Yngwie Malmsteen, Stratovarius) on keyboards on the title track, amongst many others. It has been said that this is the last of the Avantasia story and that after these two albums, Avantasia will be no more, but it would be a shame if  that is the case now that Avantasia has become the great project it now is. I would certainly not say no to another round. Let’s hope for a change of hart from Sammett in the next couple of years.

9/10

Tracklist:

1. Stargazers
2. Angel Of Babylon
3. Your Love Is Evil
4. Death Is Just A Feeling
5. Rat Race
6. Down In The Dark
7. Blowing Out The Flame
8. Symphony Of Life
9. Alone I Remember
10. Promised Land
11. Journey To Arcadia

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