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Tobias Sammet's flagship band Edguy have released a lot of music over the past twenty years, and doing so has elevated the project to a similar level of exposure (if not respect) as Germany's other power metal legends-- Helloween and Gamma Ray amongst them. I've occasionally sought out Edguy whenever I'm looking for looking for a fix of fun, goofy power metal tunes, and the experience has usually been worth my time. All the same; Edguy have never made music to be taken particularly seriously, much less music that fully exploited the talents of their leading man. There are those who dismiss Avantasia's Metal Opera duology on the grounds of silliness and cheese; one look at the covers or hint at the fantastical narrative and they find it impossible to fathom that it might actually be a serious attempt at elevating the existing threads in Edguy to legitimate, serious art. And yet that's truly what Avantasia is; even keeping the elves, wizards and melodic bombast in mind, The Metal Opera saw Tobias Sammet assuming the mantle of a true composer and mastermind. It's nearly tragic that he lost his touch with Avantasia with the project's subsequent material; paired with its direct sequel, The Metal Opera is one of the most memorable power metal debuts ever made.
There is something immediately compelling about Sammet having called his magnum opus The Metal Opera. It brings to mind a thousand expectations: an epic narrative, a cast of vocalists, a strong presence of classical music, and helpings of bombast to go around. The Metal Opera hits all of these marks and more, and while it wouldn't be fair to call this an opera in the traditional sense, it is clear that Sammet has envisioned to be digested as a single monolith of art. Although there are echoes of that impression in some of his past work with Edguy (I'm thinking Vain Glory Opera in particular) there's no doubt that the bulk of his experience hinged on crafting four minute melodic powerhouses. Although most of these ingredients were already in Sammet's kitchen before his work started with Avantasia, The Metal Opera amplified them all to an unprecedented level of ambition. And if you ask me, I don't think anything he's done since has ever matched it.
Integral symphonic orchestrations meticulous vocal overdubs and a classical arranger's approach to composition are all here, which is why it's surprising that so much of Sammet's tact with conventional songwriting and melody still comes to bear on The Metal Opera. Outside of a handful of narrative-driving interludes (which are pretty superfluous even by power metal standards) all of these songs could be plucked from their context and fully enjoyed on their own. "Reach Out for the Light" and "Serpents in Paradise" are two incredible examples of Sammet's ability to successfully merge memorable songwriting with a composer's elegance. If I wanted to bring up an example of that combination working perfectly, it would be the use of choral counterpoint in the pre-chorus of "Reach for the Light". There are some immense things happening in the musical arrangement, and listeners should keep their ears open for those added layers of depth, but they can also just as easily sit back and take in the music for the fantastic songwriting that it is. Really, how many bands can you think of that really manage to be complex arrangers and effective songwriters simultaneously? In all but the best cases, an artist can usually hope to be really good at one of the two, and even then it's still not very common.
"Reach Out for the Light" and "Serpents in Paradise" are two of the best songs to ever emerge from Tobias Sammet's pen; they're fast, epic and intelligent-- everything ideal power metal should be. Although I could easily refer to the song "Farewell" as the album's mandatory power ballad, it's actually my favourite song on the album; Tobias Sammet's voice sounds particularly warm when paired up with Sharon den Adel (from Within Temptation) and goes to show how powerful and woefully underused his (relatively) lower-register vocals are. There is a melancholic sweetness to the song that amplifies a hundredfold when fuelled by Toby's classical composer ambitions. Come to think of it, there are a lot of power ballads (in power metal and elsewhere) that try to make their ballads more tender with a superfluous string section or padded arrangement. In most cases, the padding makes the music sound flimsy and emotionally distant. As a tangential sidenote to any bands who may want to go this route in the future-- if you want to use a string section, pianist or whoever else in your sappy ballad, at least write a part that's worth their fucking time to play! Back on track; "Farewell" is an incredible piece of music; in the field of ballads, it is a lamentably rare gem amidst a sea of diabetes-inducing rocks.
I would be suspicious of anyone who didn't list "The Tower" as one of their favourites off this album. Overall, I do think the fact that it is overshadowed by "The Seven Angels" (off Part II) is partially justified, but for the life of me I can't think of a more impressive way for this album to have ended. All of the threads held throughout the album come together brilliantly, not least of all the boldly-sculpted choral arrangements and biting classical integration. An epic longform composition like "The Tower" confirms any inklings one might have about Tobias Sammet's writing craft. I've already stated that Avantasia excels due to his mastery of both songwriting and arrangement, so it's only natural that The Metal Opera offers fantastic four-minute tunes and epic suites alike.
I've read a fair amount of criticism as to the narrative of The Metal Opera, both from people who took the bloody time to listen to it, and people who reeled back in horror when they saw a pointy-eared creature on the cover of Part II that wasn't a Vulcan. I've owned this album for years now, and I'm honestly still not entirely sure what's going on with this opera. The lyrics alone aren't much help in cracking it, although the booklet aids a bit in elucidating the plot. Without dwelling on the particulars too much, it involves a disillusioned monk travelling to a magical world to thwart a tyrannical pope and save his sister accused of witchcraft. I personally think it's a really creative premise, and gives Tobias ample room to continue his lyrical exploration and criticism of religion as seen in Edguy. What's less impressive is the way the narrative goes from there. The guest vocalists (the immortal Michael Kiske of Helloween fame not least among them!) are painfully underused, and the plot never really delivers on any of its promises. If I can have no problem with Rhapsody's indecipherable 'dragon tales' gimmick, I shouldn't hold a failure of storytelling against Avantasia, but if Tobias Sammet was intent on bringing so many other great vocalists to the fold, it may have done him well to give them a stronger spotlight.
Contrary to the surface-level comparisons, Avantasia has little in common with the prog metal operas of Ayreon. Avantasia earns the metal opera label in a different way, but deserves it just as much. What's more, The Metal Opera is a rare example of a talented musician making art by exploiting his abilities to their very limits. The things I've liked most about his work with Edguy are here, but they are forge with a weight and seriousness that's kept the album feeling fresh to me for years. Although I would argue The Metal Opera is superior to its second half, the difference in quality is ever so slight, and the two should be digested as a whole. Put together, they make one the most ambitious undertakings ever attempted in power metal, even if a few criticisms may have spawned forth over the course of a hundred well-enjoyed listens.
The metal opera is certainly an opera - it is driven by vocals and unified orchestration of instruments. The vocals are the strong point of the album. The rest of it just falls into the background as the album stretches to nearly an hour in length.
The vocals are good on the surface, they're at the front of all the music, almost always the center of attention. There is very little variation from the constantly soaring melodies and soaring melodies and aaaiiiiiiiihhhhh! The singing is artificially glassy, throughout the album is apparent that each line is edited together from different takes, with very little coloration most of the time, almost removing the human feeling. Sterile perfection for plastic power.
The orchestration is well arranged, and all of the instrumentation is well done and perfectly tight. That's the flaw - it's completely sterile. There are hardly any guitar riffs, just chords filling out with the symphonic backing while the vocals take the lead. Everything is polished and in perfect unison. The sterile perfection makes it feel more like pop music than metal. The real killer is that there are no guitar riffs. No riffs, no power. The vocals can carry the music somewhat, but like most pop music, it doesn't sustain well for an hour. It doesn't help that it's an hour long and it's pure cheesy, cookie cutter, symphonic power metal without straying from the formula.
The novelty of majestic symphonies of orchestrations over guitars, led by a pristine power metal singer may be captivating at first, but it's really superficial. The production of polished to the point of being painfully sterile. There are hardly any guitar riffs and there's no power behind them, a really bad contrast to Sammet's work with Edguy. The ridiculous overproduction of the vocals really kills it, since the vocal lead the music. The vocals almost lack a vocal quality, they're just immaculately phrased and pitch perfect every time, polished but lacking power. Every note begins on point and lacks the natural fluctuation of a human voice. It's an hour long, it's inhuman, and there's no power behind it, this album is boring.
Avantasia are surely one of the more interesting so called super groups and I have to admire Tobias Sammet for what he has done on this first album. Let's not forget that his main band Edguy wasn't that well known back when this album came out, they were still rather known in the underground scene and had only gained further attention with the last albums "Vain glory opera" and "Theatre of salvation". Let's not forget that Tobias Sammet was only 23 years old when this project came to life. Let's not forget that he has German roots that it's not easy to create a whole and credible conceptual album in a foreign language at such a young age. Let's not forget that most of the guest musicians on this record are really famous stars of the genre and it was a surprise for me that this courageous young German guy has been able to attract names such as Michael Kiske, Timo Tolkki or Rob Rock. No matter if you like the whole project, you must admit that Tobias Sammet has been able to create something very creative and surprising at his young age and he owes my entire respect for that.
Now, isn't it a little bit exaggerated to talk about a metal "opera"? Is this young guy megalomaniac? Does he think he is the Händel, Verdi or Mozart? Yes, I don't think that we can't talk about an "opera" in here as there are only very few orchestral elements, the songs are not that complex and the main style always quite stays the same and doesn't vary that much. Bands like Therion could say that they are doing a metal "opera", bands such as Nightwish or maybe even Apocalyptica would do a metal "symphony". What we really have here with Avantasia is a metal "musical" with many diversified characters in an interesting fantasy story that is easy to follow but still interesting and intellectual enough to take a look beneath the surface of the music and at the lyrics. I must underline this because the concept of the first two Avantasia albums is much more important, present and also interesting than the story around the three latest records of the band. Tobias Sammet has really written a beautiful story about friendship and faith. The story reminds me of Friedrich Schiller's drama masterpiece "Don Karlos". I mean that it's incredible to mention the names of Schiller and Sammet in one sentence, isn't it? There truly is a lot to discover in here.
Let's talk about the music itself. The album sound really coherent and has a core. Even though there are many guest musicians, the album and its style don't get lost. What Sammet delivers us is traditional power metal with some epic songs, instrumental interludes and ballads. Though the power metal songs on this record don't sound that much unique and clearly honour German bands such as "Helloween" or "Gamma Ray", those songs sound fresh and are overall enjoyable. I must underline that "Reach out for the light" marks the return of Michael Kiske to the metal scene and he delivers his best performance since the infamous "Keeper of the seven keys Part II" album in here. This is a very strong track and perfectly fitting album opener. Let's say that songs such as "Serpents in paradise", "Breaking away" and "The glory of Rome" all sound quite the same but keep the high level of the opener. The songs are fast and melodic, the choruses epic and extremely catchy. The band hymn "Avantasia" is a little bit slower and more keyboard orientated but as catchy and reminds a little bit of Edguy's "Vain glory opera". This song has already a typical Sammet sound and is very unique. It's a good idea to choose such a song as the band hymn and Edguy have often performed this song live and they still do which shows us that it fits to the band.
Concerning the ballads, Sammet delivered a true gem with the heartbreaking "Farewell". This is easily the best ballad of the year. It has a very epic and slightly folk touch. Sammet is delivering his most emotional vocal performance of the whole album on this track. I would even simply say that this is easily his best performance on the first two albums. Sharon den Adel usually makes rather faceless gothic pop with her main band Within Temptation, but in this song, she sounds simply beautiful. Michael Kiske only gets in at the very end of the song but he sings with such a conviction and a power that it almost makes me cry. "No farewell could be the last one. If you long to meet again..." This is not a philosopher that has written those lyrics, it's the young metal fan Tobias Sammet. Those lyrics are simply amazing. I want to admit that I never really admired Michael Kiske as I have grown up with Andi Deris being in Helloween and always thought that Kiske sung too high pitched and eccentrically and that he was a metal hating lunatic. It's the song "Farewell" that really opened my eyes and made me begin to appreciate the talents of Michael Kiske and to adore the earlier Helloween albums. Nevertheless, I still think that those two little sentences are the best one Michael Kiske has ever sung. It's pure magic. Let's not forget the other ballad of the album, "Inside", a rather calm and mostly acoustic ballad that shows us how powerful pure tranquility can be.
The interludes are all very well worked out and fit to the concept even if they are not outstanding. I would have liked to have a few more spoken word passages in those interludes to add even something more to the story itself but that's only a detail or personal suggestion.
The epic songs, "Sign of the Cross" and "The Tower" are amongst the highlights of the album along side with "Farewell" and "Reach out for the light". Many great musicians make their appearances in here and they all deliver an excellent job and focus their efforts to create something truly unique. Even though there are so many singers and musicians and so much to tell, the songs are catchy and have memorable choruses. The complex and the simple, the progressive and the catchy get into a fusion in here. In those two last songs, we could maybe pretend to talk about a metal "opera". One realizes that Sammet is not a megalomaniac and that it wasn't an idea of the record label to sell more copies of the album when they chose to call this project a metal "opera". When one listens to the last two songs, one understands what Sammet means by calling this an "opera" and even if I can't agree with him, I must admit that he comes really close to create something operatic.
The only negative things I can find on this record are the facts that there ia little bit too much traditional power metal worship on it and that there is still some place for more creativity. But this album is already something really big and surprising and it's enjoyable to listen to it. It's a true highlight for any power metal maniac, I would even say for anybody out there who likes melodic metal or rock music. This is a brilliant metal musical and an album for the ages without any weak song on it. Stop to think about it and simply purchase this album and listen to it over and over again as it hasn't lost anything of its magic after one decade.
The Metal Opera part 1 was actually not as operatic as I expected. I enjoyed this one more than the sequel because this actually has the right to be called a metal opera, even for its flaws. The choruses are more interesting than standard Edguy work and the instrumentation is intricate, with an electric, metallic sound. Also, this part of the Metal Opera has a story that the listener can follow without having to read eight pages of information in the CD booklet. But don’t worry if you have ADD—the book still has that information for you to read.
This is still essentially an Edguy album with a host of guest singers. None of them bring anything new to the table. Because the music was written by Sammet, they are all singing in his style. Their voices may sound different, but they left behind their unique styles to sing the way Sammet does. The amount of guest singers makes this more operatic than a standard Edguy album, but it doesn’t qualify as a full Metal Opera to my ears. It would be more diverse if it were truly operatic, and it is possible to achieve that without sacrificing accessibilty. There was no need to dumb down the other talented singers in this music. Sammet could have incorporated other power metal bands’ sounds here to build a gorgeous and unprecedented masterpiece. Farewell is probably the best example of this for its folk elements, putting it on another level from the rest of the album.
When Hansi from Blind Guardian guested on Vain Glory Opera you could hear a unique addition to Edguy’s standard sound, but perhaps that’s why Sammet didn’t have him work on the Avantasia Operas. His name is smeared all over this work. While it holds up very well against other power metal albums, it doesn’t sound as unique as it could. I’m not talking about going overboard like Rhapsody with narrations and such, but it could have been a more interesting work of art if Sammet had not smothered it.
Now, I usually try not to freak out about an album and just yell 'It's awesome!', because there's always something bad. While that is of course also true in this case, it really doesn't matter that much because this album IS incredibly awesome!
I'll be the first to admit that power metal has never been my favourite genre of all - I find most of it a bit silly.. But godDAMN my views on power metal changed with this!
Avantasia is largely the brainchild of Tobias Sammet of Edguy-fame, and one can get to wonder how it is possible for one man to pour out a seemingly endless stream of beautiful music and fascinating lyrics.
The Metal Opera: Part I is a truly epic adventure which unfolds itself in a great storytelling. Think King Diamond as power metal. The story is about Gabriel (Sammet), a novice cleric (I think), and his quest to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart Anna, while he starts to lose faith in the catholic church that he is meant to serve.
The album features brilliant, I repeat, brilliant vocals from several of the greatest vocalists of power metal, including Michael Kiske of Helloween as Gabriels guide - the druid Vandroiy, Sharon Den Adel of Within Temptation as Anna, and even Oliver Hartmann as the Pope.
Even though the flow of the story is nice most of the time, and will keep you focused on the story, the ending track, The Tower, is confusing and probably the weakest track on the album (and, unfortunately, also the longest one). Even more annoying is the fact that the story ends on a cliffhanger, and leaves you begging for a continuation of the story (which comes on Part II, that I unfortunately haven't heard yet... dammit!).
There's not much to say about the instruments other than that they work really great, with great power guitar solos and all, although on this album it's all about the vocals.
Standout trakcs include Reach Out for the Light, Serpens in Paradise, Glory of Rome, Inside and the most awesome Farewell and Avantasia. Well, pretty much the whole album!
If you're into epic power metal and love a good story and great vocal performances, buy this!
Being that the new Avantasia EPs are almost upon us, I decided to take the waiting period to go back and review Mr. Sammet's previous efforts with his rather ambitious, ornate little side project. This seemed to have been hyped right up to the heavens by Sammet himself, the label, and power metal fans in general, but I have to say it's really not as good as all that. Sammet is obviously proud of Avantasia, and it might get hailed as visionary and creative, but really it's just more of the same glorious, operatic power metal we had come to expect from his main band Edguy, being especially reminiscent of the Theater of Salvation era. The choruses are big and happy, the double bass drums are set to "overdrive," the keys churn out fluttery, infectious melody lines, and the solos are high-flying and majestic - just like Edguy was way back when. It's still a generic formula, but hell, power metal never needed to be original to be good; so if you happen to be a fan of this style of poppy, melodic, catchy power metal, than Avantasia will likely not disappoint. There is some sort of story here, but from a passing glance it seems pretty generic, so I won't bother to go into depth with it.
A controversial topic here is the fact that Sammet has basically taken a handful of esteemed power metal vocalists and tossed them into a gigantic melting pot along with his aforementioned generic-power-metal-done-right formula. We have easily recognizable names such as Kai Hansen, Timo Tolkki, Sharon del Adel, Andre Matos and Michael Kiske (listed as Ernie to avoid publicity), but Sammet still takes the lion's share of the verses and choruses, only allowing the others to come out of his shadow every now and then. Kiske gets a relatively large (in comparison to the others) platter of the vocal work here, and Hansen sings some of the verses on "Sign of the Cross," but overall the potential here wasn't reached; it just feels like a glorified Edguy album with a few extra vocalists, rather than a full-fledged "opera." Oh, and the production, too - it's very clear and crystalline, but where are the guitars? This could definitely use a thicker, more muscular guitar tone, as this thin, papery cardboard sound will not cut it at all. The drums are also too high in the mix, with the double bass clicking away for just about the entire hour you'll spend listening to this, and of course the vocals are right at the front of the mix, typical of Tobias.
Despite the numerous gripes, this still remains, as I said, a solid power metal album through and through. Not every song hits you right between the eyes, but there are no clinkers here and nothing you want to skip, save for those little interludes that pop up a few times throughout the album's duration. "Reach Out for the Light" blows open the gates, a speedy, rather generic power metal tune that's done so well that you barely notice, segueing into "Serpents in Paradise" which is another speedy and derivative power metal tune, except this time with a bombastic, explosive chorus that will knock you out of your seat, and a cool slower part towards the middle, plus some operatic chanting that spices things up. Other standouts here include the absolutely killer "Sign of the Cross," which might be the best song Sammet has written thus far for Avantasia, with a catchy medieval keyboard melody carrying it, as well as a great solo from Edguy guitarist Jens Ludwig, and the heartfelt little ballad "Inside," which lets loose a tidal wave of emotion that will weaken the knees of even the toughest metal warrior. To conclude, this might not be as fantastic as Sammet promised, but it is a good old album of happy-clappy Euro power metal that fans of that genre will eat up.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
As a fan of fantasy, I am not too concerned when metal bands dip into the genre and produce concept albums based off of a world of elves, dwarves, magicians, and their ilk. When it is done properly, the listener is temporarily taken on their own personal adventure through the artists mind for a unique experience that can break the monotony of album after album of blasts and growls. As such, these albums should be enjoyed in moderation, as they are not strong enough to stand on their own as a genre, but are quiet enjoyable as an alternative every once in a while. Blind Guardian’s Nightfall in Middle Earth and Iced Earth’s The Dark Saga are two well known fantasy albums that do the genre justice, and Avantasia’s The Metal Opera Pt.1 should be considered as one of the solid releases in the genre as well. Avantasia is the brainchild of Edguy vocalist Tobias Sammet, and he really went all out in an effort to create an entertaining album full of adventure and cheese. All of the elements are present for an epic power metal album: catchy choruses, manhood defying vocals, a cheesy storyline, and an assortment of mythical creatures represented by a collection of power metal vocalists, most notably my personal favorite Michael Kiske.
The album clocks in at just less than one hour, and for the most part that hour goes by relatively quickly. The pace of the album is nicely balanced, and this helps make for a varied listening experience. The story is given in the album booklet, and is broken up into acts and scenes. There is even a back story provided, and although the grammar is less that ideal, reading the story and following the lyrics really adds to the experience of the album. The story and the lyrics are not groundbreaking by any means, but they definitely make for a fun listen.
The music itself is strong enough to stand on its own regardless of the opera concept, and there are a few moments that really stand out. One of these moments occurs in the song Serpents in Paradise when Gabriel (Sammet) appeals to the druid Vandroiy (Kiske) for help. As a chorus chants “Vandroiy!” Sammet begs for help, giving a very epic feel to the situation. Although this type of passage may not appeal to everyone, the ones that can appreciate it for what it is will definitely have it stuck in their head for a day or two. A second example of the music accentuating the story nicely can be found in the song Breaking Away. The drums sound frantic, the keyboards and guitars demonstrate an air of escape, and the vocals in the chorus accentuate this mood.
That is not to say that there are no flaws to be found on this album however. The most notable complaint people have regarding this album is the disproportionate use of Tobias Sammet’s vocals in comparison to the other singers. Although this album is his own project and he does play the protagonist, it would be nice if the parts he wrote for the other vocalists were deeper in their scope. Another complaint that is commonly expressed by critics of this album is that the cheese-o-meter occasionally reaches epic proportions. Cheese often goes hand in hand with power metal (not all power metal, but there is no denying the two are often joined at the hip), so the knowledgeable listener should know what to expect going in. Just the name of the album conjures images of rich dukes and countesses observing the stage pompously through monocles. But I digress.
Should you decide to purchase this album, you should not be disappointed, as long as you understand the purpose of the album and listen with a light heart. Twenty years from now we will not be comparing The Metal Opera to Helloween’s Walls of Jericho or Judas Priest’s Painkiller, but there will always be a small nostalgic niche in my metal collection for this release. So go out there and give this album a listen, and remember, a little cheese never hurt anyone, unless of course you are lactose intolerant.
Recommended Songs: Serpents in Paradise, The Tower
The fact that artists generally have an extremely high opinion of their little person isn’t really new. Actually, it must be as old as art itself. It’s well-known for instance Picasso hardly considered there could exist a greater human being than him on Earth. Closer to us, the metal realm abounds in monstrous egos as well, from the infamous Yngwie Malmsteen to Dave Mustaine – and, of course, Mr Tobias Sammet.
Seriously, there can’t be a more rational explanation for this work. It’s obvious as soon as you read the title: because, sir, it’s not Avantasia, but TOBIAS SAMMET’S AVANTASIA. Just in case it would have stayed unnoticed, you know. Then read the little self-flattering comments from the man himself inside the booklet, it’s simply edifying. Now, all those gimmicks would certainly have been annoying, but nonetheless still tolerable, if the music had lived up to the expectations. Had it? It’s questionable.
For sure, the guests list is impressive. Avantasia is one of those fashionable “metal operas”, which means tons of more or less prestigious guest singers gathered around a usually far-fetched, and completely uninteresting, story. So the story here is, as expected, far-fetched and uninteresting, apart for Mr Tobias Sammet who wrote it and must consider it as the ultimate forgotten Shakespearian play. Coming to the prestigious guests, those include our beloved traitor-to-metal Michael Kiske (under the name of Ernie here, who knows why), Kai Hansen as voiceless as usual, high-pitched vocals god André Matos, without forgetting the most underrated power metal vocalist ever – Oliver Hartmann, of course. But prepare to be disappointed, because YOU WON’T HEAR THEM VERY MUCH.
That’s where the listener feels cheated a first time. The aforementioned singers all do a very solid performance, and make honour to their name, there’s no doubt about it. But apart from Michael Kiske, their part is extremely reduced. Matos and Hartmann only punctually appear on the second half of the album, and Hansen’s part is even more anecdotic. The rest consists in average singers – have you ever heard of Ralf Zdiarstek before? I personally haven’t – or, worse, by Mr Sammet himself! Exactly, Tobias Sammet had presented his work as a “metal opera”, but he forgot to say it was an opera which was in vast majority sung by him, by him only. Not that he’s a bad singer by any mean, let’s face it. His tremolo may be particularly nerve-breaking, but for the rest he still shows a remarkable power and ease when it comes to high-pitched notes. He certainly isn’t Bruce Dickinson either, in spite of what he seems to claim, but bitching too much about his vocal abilities would be dishonest. The actual problem is, the whole “opera” concept more or less fails in such conditions, and, considering it was supposed to be the main interest of this album, we may well be perplexed.
Now, opera or not, the songwriting is decent, but the listener may feel a tad cheated as well, for the second time. Concept albums are always an excuse for a bunch of useless orchestral transitions which every time harm the rhythm and coherence of the work: here, there are not less than four of them, all being equally shitty. This point being made, the remaining nine tracks of genuine music are for the most part high-paced, lively and overall well-crafted power metal in the vein of Edguy when they were still a good band – quite logical, isn’t it? – but the album however carries its handful of crappy moments. About Farewell I’ll just tell two things: 1) It’s a ballad written by Tobias Sammet and 2) Sharon den Adel of Suckin’ Temptation fame sings on it. Everyone must figure now how atrocious it must be. Then, Inside is another of those ignoble piano-driven ballads only Tobias Sammet has the ability to write, fortunately. Even the poor André Matos can’t redeem it a single bit, only managing to make an ass of himself (coming to Tobias Sammet he already made an ass of himself long ago, so little risk remains). And, of course, there’s the title track, this horrible radio-calibrated tune oscillating between shitty hard-rock and pop, but not really surprising when studied at the light of what Edguy is releasing nowadays.
Actually the best tracks are on the second half of the album, when this one expands further than what had been until then more or less a dialogue between Mr Tobias Sammet and Michael Kiske backed by agreeable, but not very imaginative melodic power metal. Eventually with The Glory of Rome we can assist to a genuine play between different voices and, this has to be underlined, WITHOUT Tobias Sammet. And finally, at the end of the track arrives Oliver Hartmann, the man who could turn the crappiest tune into a decent song, with its medium-pitched, deep and slightly raspy voice, even if his part is still limited. The same could be said about the two long closing tracks, the mid-tempo Sign of the Cross and the epic The Tower: more different talented singers, a more discrete Tobias Sammet, more imaginative songwriting (song structures finally going further than verse/chorus), and Oliver Hartmann – to sum up better songs on every direction you may look at.
Those tracks eventually redeem a lot a release which would have otherwise been nothing more than an average power metal solo album from one of the most pretentious morons on this Earth (the fact he’s pretentious has been sufficiently proven here I guess, and on the fact he’s a moron just throw an eye on his jokes to be convinced). But the man wasn’t still content with it: unfortunately, he recorded a second part.
Highlights: The Glory of Rome, Sign of the Cross, The Tower
From the year 1998 to 2000 there was an explosion of new metal bands with amazing releases, in addition to phenomenal albums created by veterans of the metal scene going all the way back to the late 80s. From this explosion came something truly amazing, a collaboration between a large number of these musicians on a rather massive project, all concieved by one single mind (Sammet) with the will to bring together the best of the Power Metal scene.
Rounding out the permanent band of musicians as credited in the CD are Rhapsody drummer Alex Holzwarth, Helloween bassist Marcus Grosskopf, Gamma Ray axeman Henjo Richter, and Edguy vocalist/songwriter/frontman Tobias Sammet (who also does a good deal of the keyboard work). Every one of these amazing musicians deliver stellar performances, particularly Henjo Richter's amazing lead playing and rhythm riffs.
Amongst the various guest performers the ones whom truly shine are David Defeis and Michael Kiske, both of whom sing not only well, but with enough emotion that they dwarf most of the other characters. The closing to "Farewell" showcases Kiske's amazing range, and Defeis' harsh growls are one full display in "Serpents in Paradise". Bear in mind though, all of the performers give amazing performances, another noteworthy one being Kai Hansen's part in "Sign of the Cross".
There are also some brilliant guest musicias on here who give us yet more treats for our ears. The two solos played by Jens Ludwig of Edguy on "Sign of the Cross" and "The Tower" are spectacular. Also noteworthy is Frank Tischer's piano work on "Inside", although this one track will pale in comparison the the lines he bangs out on Avantasia Part 2.
One thing that makes this album a bit different from the following one is the 3 instrumental sections and the 1 narration that are present. These function primarily as links between the various important points in the story, and give it a bit more of an "Opera" feel than the one present on Part 2. In the case of "Malleus Maleficarum" it highly accents the drama of the Opera and highly empowers the track that follows it "Breaking Away".
In conclusion, although there are some differences between Part 1 and Part 2 here, they are equally matched in terms of content and musicianship. They underscore the brilliance of the metal scene at the time between 1997 and 2002, a luster which seems to be dying down a bit in recent years, but one that may again show life with the right kind of bands stepping forth and releasing the right kind of albums.
If you are expecting a metal 'opera' with this release, forget about it. Don't be put down though; this is a pleasant and bombastic power metal album, with some interesting surprises.
Vocalist Tobias Sammet of Edguy, came up with the idea for this project, wrote the songs and invited musicians Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray/guitars),Markus Grosskopf (Helloween/bass) and Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody Of Fire/drums) to form the Avantasia band.
Besides the talented musicians, there are 8 guest vocalists appearing on this album! All guests do a good job and in particular Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation), David Defeis (Virgin Steele) and Rob Rock (Impellitteri) stand out. The only disappointment is the fact that most of the lead vocals are done by Tobias Sammet, leaving little room for the other performers.
The biggest surprise of The Metal Opera is the return of legendary ex-Helloween vocalist 'Michael Kiske', on the role of druid Lugaid Vandroiy!! The charismatic and greatly talented Kiske, can be heard hitting some of the high notes that gave fans the chills during the 80's. Kiske's voice is in great shape and sounds mature, more controlled and powerful. He is a definite highlight and his performances on 'The Tower' and 'Farewell' surely amaze. (On the cd-booklet he is listed under the nickname Ernie)
As for the songwriting...satisfying, but without offering something new to the scene. The songs follow the typical power metal formula and their atmosphere occasionally reminds of Edguy. Thankfully there are some exceptions to that rule, such as some symphonic parts in the fast paced opener "Reach Out For The Light", the theatrical "Sign of the Cross" and the ballad "Farewell". The highlights of the album are the aforementioned songs together with the epic "The Tower". Grosskopf's bass playing is excellent throughout the album. Henjo Richter's guitar riffing is great and he occasionally manages to come up with some interesting leads and remarkable guitar solos. Holzwarth uses the typical power metal double-bass drumming technique, but achieves to mix things up with some outstanding fills and drum breaks. I can't say much about the story behind Avantasia's lyrics, but it generally follows the fantasy-epic direction.
Although the music on the album is strong and well executed, it is basically Melodic Power Metal with 80's influences. If the guest singers got bigger parts and if there were more complex guitar orchestrations and better backing vocals or choirs, then this could be regarded as a Metal Opera.
This is an overall good attempt of bringing all these famous musicians together, in order to create this power metal epic. There are some very strong musical themes, that truly shine throughout the album, but they are not placed together very wisely. Excellent use of vocals, especially by Michael Kiske and Tobias Sammet, but luck in originality.
Nevertheless, The Metal Opera is surely a power metal album that is worth checking out and an overall strong release, when compared to the generic, modern power metal music out there.
(Part II of this project is not worth purchasing, it features only 3 highlights)
What went wrong with this album is not a lack of ambition. Tobias Sammet seems to have had plenty of that. His vision of a powermetal album with a large number of famous and big singers, a metal opera if you will, has become reality. But ambition is part of the problem.
The problem is the problem of having an idea, and putting that idea to work. The idea is to tell the story of Avantasia, and using 10 relatively to very talented vocalists to do it. The story is detailed in 7 1/2(!) pages of the booklet, telling the story the album tries to tell in painfully explicit terms and horribly broken english. They do make the lyrics a lot more intelligible though.
The story is then, in the fragmentary moment-recordings that are the lyrics, translated to power metal. For power metal, the music is far above average. The tempo is kept high in most of the tracks, and it's played with audible enthousiasm by a collection of very talented musicians from an impressive array of bands that are huge in power metal. Even I think the music is relatively varied, and I have a tendency to consider power metal bands bland if they're not top-notch. Of course the solos seem sparse, and that's because most of them don't deserve to be called solos, but that is more than made up for in the solidness of the melodies and guitarwork. It is my personal opinion that innovation in power metal is much too rare, and that this album exemplifies that in several respects, but for power metal, it's pretty enjoyable.
The problem comes when you consider this a metal opera. Note: 'A' metal opera, not 'THE' like the subtitle of the album implies. I hope mr Sammet didn't think he was the first to put out a metal opera (see: Savatage), or a metal opera featuring a lineup of big singers (see: Ayreon).
But that aside, while the album may be adequate for a power metal album, for a metal opera it is not. Like a certain reviewer once said: 'It's not about the message you try to bring, but it's how you bring it'. The story about a pious monk, accused of heresy by a corrupt centralised church in the context of seeing his step-sister accused of witchery, although not entirely breath-taking, holds out possibilities. When the story involves being transported to a spiritual world where the forces of good clash with the forces of the narrow-minded pope and the main character must save the day, there's a chance it gets good. However, it does most definitely not.
The aforementioned backstory, and it's message of 'Centralised church power is bad, mmmkay?' is way too explicit for that. There's a complete lack of subtlety. Compare for example Trainspotting with 'Don't do drugs'-adds. Which do you think is more convincing?
Sammet is not a talented story writer. He might have a wild imagination, but when trying to tell a story, he seems to come no further than a simple linear story-arc.
Compare it to Wild Wild West. Talented actors, interesting setting, and a big budget. How could anyone go wrong with those ingredients? You start off, pretty excited by what may come, but slowly and steadily it becomes obvious that this is not meant for greatness, as it crawls painfully to it's insipid and predictable end. Ok, maybe the comparison doesn't completely translate, as the story isn't all-important and it's not completely bad in the case of Avantasia. I can tell Sammet did a tiny bit of research and tried to incorporate it into the album. But the message is clear: Sammet had all this at his disposal, and he did little of real and lasting worth with it. One thing I miss for example, is how the music reflects the story he tries to tell. It just seems like random power metal, only some songs slightly more upbeat or pompous than the next.
Speaking of pompous, this album really could've done with the overly repeated over-pompous refrains; they grow really annoying after a while.
So: is this a full-blown metal opera, incorporating multiple themes into an over-arcing grande story? No.
Does the album hold up to the other metal/rock operas produced so far? Nope.
Is this a slightly above average power metal album, where having a big lineup of talented singers is the best selling-gimmick? Yes.
Am I dissapointed? Yup.
Are others going to rave wild about it because they have little discerning taste, and/or have little experience with better implementations? ...
PS: Why are the 4 photo's of Tobias Sammet in the booklet (5 if you count the promo for his single on which he features pontifically), and none of the other collaborators have a picture?
There’s not much that I could say that hasn’t been said in the previous reviews, but here I go anyway.
This has to be one of the best power metal albums of its time. It is just so well done. The instrument work is not anything groundbreaking, but it goes really well with the music. The guitars are nothing special and the bass is just a bit too audible. But the instruments don’t really matter that much in this album. It’s the vocals that make you love it so much. After all, how could you NOT like an album that has all these power metal greats on it? Just having Michael Kiske alone on this album makes it worthwhile, but then you add people like Andre Matos, Timo Tolkki and Kai Hansen, and you can’t go wrong. All the vocal performances on this album are great. You can just tell that every single person is trying their best to make this album kick ass, and they succeeded.
I remember listening to this album for the first time. The first track would start and then shortly finish after. I was so disappointed, and hoped that the rest of the album was nothing like that, hoping that it was just an intro.
Well, I was right. Right when the second track starts, you know you’re going to love this album. Reach out for the Light is such a great track, and the album stays great from then on.
In conclusion, this album is awesome and a MUST HAVE for any power metal fans, anyone trying to get into the genre or anyone trying to get into metal in general (It helped me a lot).
Cheesedicks of the world unite--this one is just for you.
As Savantage has shown us, the concept of metal and opera is not at all impossible to pull off. If you do it right, you could easily have a classic concept album that will absolutely be required listening for the fans of the genre that is being catered to. If done incorrectly, however, you could end up with a steaming, rancid pile of shit far bigger and deeper than any normal album could possibly imagine (with the notable exception of St. Anger, I suppose).
Led by the immortal Tobias "Holy Shit, Those Vocals Are Annoying" Sammet, Avantasia doesn't completely fuck it up, but they haven't created a masterpiece, either. The guitar playing is solid, although somebody definitely needs to find the ol' volume button--I can't make out individual riffs and such little neccessities. The bass playing is a bit overdone, as Power Metal tends to do. The drumming is typical Rhapsody material and screams "Fantasy!" the same way a man falling off a cliff screams "Help Me!". The keyboards are distinctly Edguy in origin, and I wouldn't call them out of place on an Angra album, either (this is not neccessarily a good thing). The vocals are the most distinctive feature, obviously--after all, they're trying to tell a story here. Sometimes the over-emphasized nature of your typical Scandinavian accent or just simple mush-mouthing gets in the way of what the vocals are saying, but in general you can pick up on the gist of what's going on.
The real surprise here is the talent Sammet seems to have recruited for this little project. Rob Rock, Kai Hansen, Timo Tolkki, Markus Grosskopf, Michael Kiske (who cleverly avoids any hope of serious publicity or credit for his work by being listed as "Ernie") . . . these are some of the biggest names in Power Metal, and they certainly overshadow Mr. Sammet's rather unknown reputation. On the other hand, there are some unknowns on here, too (Ralf Zdiarstek? Wasn't he a viking warrior?), making for a balanced talent selection vocally and otherwise.
In general, the problems here revolve around the central issue: the sound is just not powerful at all. This is partially because the guitar is WAY too soft, whereas the bass is quite loud and nearly covers up the riffs. The vocals are soft enough as it is, and when you add it to the generally slower-paced music and the fantasy-based lyrics, you most certainly do not get a package-bursting Power Metal epic.
Nothing here is really worth mentioning as a highlight, as none of the songs, with the powssible exception of The Glory of Rome, reach out, grab you by the balls and shake you around like a rag doll. Instead, the overall effect of the album is the important feature of the band. This album is worth a purchase if you're an avid Edguy/Rhapsody fan, if you're REALLY into cheesy Power Metal or if you absoltely must own EVERY SINGLE THING that Kai Hansen has ever done (you people know who you are). Otherwise, this probably won't ring your chime.
Oh, and by the way, anyone who makes the following rhyme . . .:
"I was your knight,
Holding you tight."
. . . should be shot without trial. Period.