Friday, December 2, 2011

Welcome to Avantasia

"Dreamers come and go, but a dream's forever/Freedom for all minds, let us go together/Neverending ways got to roam forever/Always carry on" From the Gospel of Avantasia, Book The Metal Opera Pt. II, sec. Into the Unknown

Tobias Sammet could be described as an adventurous person. After all, gathering a bunch of musicians within the power metal realm and making a huge epic spanning two albums, while dubbing it “The Metal Opera” speaks to how motivated and how creative he is. The best part is he succeeded with the concept and the combination of a cool story, great cast, and memorable songs makes this a winner. The Golden edition of these albums further adds to the aura of the epic.

The albums come in a set shaped like a book with a surface that is supposed to be weathered like one has just found a relic. Blush golden letters adorn the front, but on the inside is where the extras shine. Inside are a bunch of pages filled with Sammet commenting on all the songs found in the opera and both acts of the story written out. Furthermore, there a bunch of pictures of Sammet’s mug and also with the band, and also an extensive interview with him talking about the guest musicians and the process of making the albums. The two extra tracks are a radio edit of “Avantasia” which is pointless, but a cool live version of “Sign of the Cross” performed by Shaman with Sammet is included.

With the packaging being exemplary, the songs have to match up with it. Thankfully they do as both albums bring strong power metal that will rattle you to the bone. The first part is the strongest of the two as there a wealth of favorites. From the lighthearted, uplifting opener in “Reach Out for the Light,” to the kitschy like song with a wonderful chorus in “Farewell” there are a lot of standouts. The last song “The Tower” features some intense vocal backgrounds that flows to a wailing solo with a strategic use of the violin. It is a great closer and is the climax of the first part of the story. It is also imperative to mention how marvelous it is to hear Michael Kiske on these tracks.

While the second part is not as strong as the first; it may very well have the best song and that would be “The Seven Angels.” This 14 minute epic boasts many ebbs and flows with a strong chorus in the first part to the scolding choirs in the middle, and then they have an uplifting piano output which would not sound out of place on a Savatage record. All the vocalists can be heard on this track too from Sammet to Kiske to Kai Hansen and also Andre Matos. The most sinister riffs are featured on too with the “The Final Sacrifice” as Sammet sounds as vicious as he ever does and “Memory” also has a great driving riff that will stick in your head for days. Another song worth mentioning is “The Looking Glass” which has a cool guitar melody and sounds like you just entered an ancient temple. Unfortunately, the ballad “In Quest For” is not special, while “Neverland” and “Anywhere” fall on the generic side and do live up to how special the concept is.

In the end, the operas are full of twists and turns musically and this is essential for any power metal fan or anybody who enjoys a huge concept with thoughtful vocal lines to wrap their head around. These records are certainly pompous, self-indulgent, and pretentious, but Sammet had a huge vision and it paid off. The mysticism is added with reading the “book” the albums come in and following along as the music plays. The extras added are worth the cost and plus it looks good. So sit back, and go on an adventure to Avantasia.

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