Sunday, March 13, 2011

Avantasia - The Scarecrow (2008)

The pride of Germany, Tobias Sammet, is not short on ideas and imagination. After all, you don't come up with the idea for a duo of albums titled "The Metal Opera" without a true concept in mind. So, for the Edguy frontman and rock superhero, Avantasia was a way to showcase his vision. And The Scarecrow is a masterpiece for the ages.

Featuring a laundry list of guest appearances, from the likes of Alice Cooper to Michael Kiske (formerly of power metal masters Helloween), Eric Singer (Kiss) to Amanda Somerville (female frontwoman extraordinaire), this is truly a fantasy come to life. The album delivers more variety than the "Metal Opera" series, straying from the all-out symphonic power metal, and delving into many different arrangements.

"Twisted Mind," the albums opening track is the perfect appetizer. It is a sampler plate of everything that is to come. Layers of sound coming together, creating a sonic assault. The song pushes forward with numerous tempo changes, all the while adorned with a great vocal presence from Sammet and Kamelot frontman Roy Khan.

The title track, "The Scarecrow," is the 11 minute epic that fans of the genre are expecting, this time seeing Sammet share the microphone with the aforementioned Kiske, as well as Jorn Lande. It becomes a challenge to try not to sing along. The orchestration is simply mind blowing, adding in strings, keys and horns. All too soon, the track ends, giving way to high speed "Shelter From The Rain," a showcase of the musical prowess of the all-star backing band.

"Carry Me Over" serves as a "ballad before the ballad". The tempo slows and Sammet handles the song on his own. Perhaps this track is the one that lets you enjoy his lyrical genius. "And now I might as well be the man on the moon/I am watching but you don't seem aware." All else fades, as Tobias delivers one last line, and you are now fully immersed in one of the most beautiful ballads you may come to hear in metal, "What Kind Of Love." Amanda Somerville and Sammet weave their vocals together, on top of a beautiful arrangement of strings and percussion.

"Another Angel Down" kicks in with a fury, full speed ahead. Empowering and awe inspiring, it begs for you to chant along with the chorus-leading line "We rock the ball!" It leads to a noticeable turn in the albums sound. The Alice Cooper fronted "The Toy Master" has a darker tone. Cooper is at his creepy best, bringing back memories of his "Welcome To My Nightmare" performance of the early nineties.

"Devil In The Belfry," another uptempo rock track, provides some of the albums best guitar work. Sascha Paeth, guitar virtuoso, shines throughout. Secondary ballad, "Cry Just A Little," follows as a breather of sorts, allowing you to have one last somber moment before all hell breaks loose. Bob Catley (Magnum) lends his voice to the piano-laden love song.

"I Don't Believe In Your Love" delivers a signature Sammet moment. He manages to sing the word "fuck" in an almost acceptable way. He makes it sound like a word we should all be using all the time. And it all leads into the closing masterpiece, "Lost In Space," which had been released as a two part CD single almost a year before the album emerged. Signature Avantasia, it gives you a little bit of everything. Musically and lyrically, it finishes the story, driving it all home.

This album, which is later joined by "The Wicked Symphony" and "The Angel Of Babylon" to form what has been dubbed "The Wicked Trilogy," is almost too good to be true. Tobias Sammet has brought his vision to life, all with a little help from his friends.


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