AVANTASIA – The Wicked Symphony

2841-Avantasia-The_WickedNormally, Tobias Sammet has a day job as the lead singer in German power metallers Edguy. Their biggest problem are that they play, well, German power metal, not my kind of thing. That used to be Avantasia’s problem as well. Avantasia are Sammet’s side project, a metal opera featuring a whole bunch of different singers. The two first albums, The Metal Opera (2001) and The Metal Opera Part (2002), were much in the power metal vein, but slowly things have started to change. The 2008 follow up The Scarecrow left a lot of the power metal behind and concentrated more on melodic metal and hard rock and that was the album when I discovered Avantasia for real. The album sported som fine vocalists like Bob Catley (Magnum), Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween) and even Alice Cooper, making the record a way bigger deal than its two predecessors. So when it was time for Sammet to follow that one he must have decided to take it all the way because his new opera is a huge project. When all of the music had been written he made it not one album, but two, released at the same time. Since Sammett is the sole song writer for Avantasia and since it was only two years since the release of the last album – add also to the fact that he released a record with Edguy in 2008, plus toured with both them AND Avantasia – that seems like an extremely short time. How on Earth will someone manage all of that without giving in on the quality? Since I really dug The Scarecrow, I had some big expectations on his new projects.  Some of the vocalists from The Scarecrow, like Jorn Lande and Bob Catley were kept for these albums, but some new interesting names were added, but more on them later.

”The Wicked Symphony”, the title track, opens the CD and it a monster track. Both big, epic and commercial with all it’s nine and a half minutes, the killer hooks and Russel Allen’s (Symphony X) brilliant voice makes it a stand out track and by that one, I’m convinced that this record won’t disappoint. Michael Kiske beats us blind with some amazing vocal work-out on the big punch metal track “Wastelands”  and ”Scales Of Justice”, also a big metal track with a stunning melody, is also great where Tim “Ripper” Owens (ex- Judas Priest, Iced Earth and Yngwie Malmsteen) sings better than he’s ever done. In ”Dying For An Angel”, Sammet has written a song that really should be a hit, with Klaus Meine (Scorpions) singing. This is a very radio friendly hard rock song with a chorus more contagious than a STD. “Blizzard On A Broken Mirror” comes close to Sammett’s power metal past, but is truly more melodic metal than anything else. Angra lead singer André Matos makes a brilliant performance on it. ”Runaway Train” is an eight minute power ballad, featuring Jorn, Bob Catley and Michael Kiske with a melody and hook to die for. The song is a little opera in itself and the many changes in the song makes the eight minutes pass by in no time – just bloody great. “Crestfallen” is another rocker with an amazing melody that is one of the record’s finest moments and Jorn Lande’s brilliant voice makes it even better. It’s heavy metal time with “Forever Is A Long Time”, a decent song made a lot better by Lande’s brilliant voice. “Black Wings” takes a darker and heavier mode, but still with a very memorable melody. Some dude named Ralf Zdiarstek, a guy I have no knowledge of, makes a very good performance here. Russell Allen is back to let rip on the amazing metal rocker “States Of Matter”, another catchy melody to add to the list. Sammett himself takes all the lead vocals – he do sing parts on almost every song on Avantasia’s records – on the album’s closer “The Edge”. It’s a brilliant song, a hard rocker with some amazing melodies. However, it stands clear that with all the amazing voices on Avantasia’s albums, Sammett’s own voice draws the shortest straw, he’s just not as good as any of his guests and his vibrato is really annoying.

It’s easy to state without any hesitation that Tobias Sammett have topped himself with this record. As much as I loved The Scarecrow, that album had its fillers, but this one hasn’t, it’s a great record from start to finish, the production is really good as well. There are a few interesting guests here that aren’t in the vocal department as well – Bruce Kulick (ex- Kiss, Union, Grand Funk Railroad) guests on guitar on “Runaway Train” and “The Edge” and Eric Singer (Kiss, ex- Alice Cooper, Lita Ford, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath, Badlands) plays drums on “Wastelands”, “Dying For An Angel” and “Runaway Train”. So there you go. Of course, this album is a must for any fan of melodic metal / hard rock. Let’s see if album # 2 have the same amazing quality as this one.

9/10

Tracklist:

1. The Wicked Symphony
2. Wastelands
3. Scales Of Justice
4. Dying For An Angel
5. Blizzard On A Broken Mirror
6. Runaway Train
7. Crestfallen
8. Forever Is A Long Time
9. Black Wings
10. States Of Matter
11. The Edge

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