Tobias Sammet's Avantasia - The Scarecrow

Nuclear Blast
Produced by Sascha Paeth

After nearly six years Edguy vocalist Tobias Sammet has finally completed his most ambitious record to date under the Avantasia project with a stellar line-up of guests.

The first two Avantasia albums, The Metal Opera and The Metal Opera Part II, featured near enough the same line-up of singers and musicians all playing characters in a story, and while one or two have returned for this third record (most notably former Helloween singer Michael Kiske), some new names bring a promise of more diversity than before - and there's no discernable story. Sammet of course sings on every track, and plays most of the bass guitar, while lead guitar is shared between producer Sascha Paeth and Gamma Ray guitarist Henjo Richter. Eric Singer from KISS/Alice Cooper provides drums throughout.

Opener Twisted Mind features Kamelot's Roy Kahn in a rather subdued performance singing the verses while Sammet wails the choruses and it's probably the most 'metal' track on the album. Clearly written to accommodate Kahn's voice it starts very heavy, then drops to the kind of soft, eerie verse that Kahn sings so well for Kamelot, before a heavier (and perhaps more generic) chorus for Sammet to sing. Later Kahn gets to exert himself a little more with a slower, heavier passage sung in harmony.

Then magnificent epic title track leads with a celtic/medieval melody and later drops hints of Judas Priest, Queen and of course Edguy thoughout its eleven-minute length. There's plenty of brilliant lead playing from Paeth and the first of three vocal performances from former Masterplan (and many others) singer Jorn Lande. The highlight comes eight minutes in with a simply outstanding groove and both vocalists singing quickfire lines back and forth.

Shelter From The Rain is basically an Edguy track and is the first sign of weakness. This could fit anywhere on the previous two albums and, unsurprisingly, has Michael Kiske and Magnum's Bob Catley (also on the other albums) singing alongside Sammet and lead guitar coming from Richter and Gamma Ray front-man Kai Hansen (both on the previous albums).

Singles Lost In Space and Carry Me Over (the latter being the better) both don't feature any guests (besides Sascha Paeth on Carry Me Over) and are fairly obviously geared towards single-territory, although as Tobias has pointed out, for him to write a song to be played on the radio would be futile because it doesn't matter how radio-friendly it is, Avantasia is never going to be played on the radio. He has a point. Carry Me Over precedes the album's best vocal performance. Amanda Somerville is astonishing on What Kind of Love and the passionate, slower pace seems to bring the best out of Tobias as well, while Michael Kiske plays a background role. Obviously a ballad, but an exceptional finely wrought one.

The second half of the album is unfortunately a little weaker and less memorable than the first with the exception of the suitably creepy, heavy, dark and brooding The Toy Master featuring Alice Cooper and a blistering Henjo Richter/Sascha Paeth double act. This is bracketed by two stock power metal moments in Another Angel Down and Devil In The Belfry, both featuring Lande and Richter, before delicate (and rather stale) acoustic/piano ballad Cry Just A Little with Bob Catley, Scorpions-isms galore on I Don't Believe In Your Love with Oliver Hartmann and, probably no-so-coincidentally, Scorpions guitarist Rudolph Schenker, and weaker single Lost In Space.

In places this is easily the best of the Avantasia records. It's certainly the least generic. Tobias has finally discovered his own identity for the project, and it's a diverse one, but I still don't think this is the best he's capable of. With a line-up of guests comprising some of the most stereotypical power metal artists around (Rob Rock, Kai Hansen, Bob Catley) the first two albums came out as very standard power metal albums and really could easily have been Edguy albums. This time the likes of Cooper, Kahn and Somerville counter-balance Catley, Kiske and to some extents Lande to give the album a lot more variety, which is a definite improvement.

“ more diversity ”

Tracklist: Twisted Mind / The Scarecrow / Shelter From The Rain / Carry Me Over / What Kind of Love / Another Angel Down / The Toy Master / Devil In The Belfry / Cry Just A Little / I Don't Believe In Your Love / Lost In Space

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2008, Albums, Heavy Metal, Power Metal, ,

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