Released: 2008, Nuclear Blast Records
Tobias Sammet’s first Avantasia release, THE METAL OPERA, was a monumental power metal opus, featuring an all star lineup of guest stars. By the time the follow up came out, though, it felt rather bland and predictable with the exception of the opening track, “The Seven Angels.” Since that time, Tobias’s main band has been going through some stylistic changes, resulting in a more hard rock oriented last album, ROCKET RIDE, that was for some a disappointment due to its lack of traditional power metal elements. For those becoming disenfranchised with his present day writing style, the new Avantasia release, THE SCARECROW, will probably be a disappointment also. For every other listener with an open mind, though, this will likely be one of the highlights of releases coming in 2008.
He has certainly pulled together another outstanding cast of guest stars, including Roy Khan, Michael Kiske, Bob Catley, Jorn Lande, and even Alice Cooper. On top of that the main players on the album are none other than Eric Singer on drums and Sascha Paeth and Henjo Richter on guitars, with a track added by Kai Hanswen. One of the best things about the album is that the vocalist choices for each track are perfect, enabling each of the guest vocalists to truly own the songs that they are in. For instance, when you hear Roy Khan’s vocal begin the album opener, “Twisted Mind,” you are immediately put in mind of one of the more mid-tempo Kamelot tracks from one of their last few releases. The Bob Catley track has an unmistakable Magnum vibe to it. But perhaps more than any other track, the Alice Cooper track, “The Toy Master,” really feels like an Alice Cooper song up until the Broadway musical styled change about halfway through it. This is not to say that these tracks feel like mimicry as they are all unmistakably modern Tobias Sammet compositions.
Where the album really succeeds is in its flow and variety. There are a few traditional speedy, power metal songs, like “Shelter From The Rain,” ironically sung by Michael Kiske, who has such open disdain for power metal, and “Another Angel Down,” which is carried by Jorn Lande predominantly. There are several, more hard rock oriented songs, such as “Carry Me Over,” which feels like it would not be out of place on a recent Bon Jovi album, and the album’s first single and album closer, “Lost in Space.” The title track is an epic, complete with a beautiful orchestrated breakdown. And there are a few slower, ballad-like tracks, like “Cry Just A Little,” and “What Kind of Love,” the only real clunker on the album, which is just so slow and tedious and lacking in any movement that falls flat. This variety is presented with perfect pacing as there is no moment on the album where similarly styled songs are placed together so you never get bored with the album’s progress, making this one of the most enjoyable listens to come out in a quite awhile.
In a making of the album segment, Sammet has said he does not want his music to be labeled. He does not want to be pigeonholed into metal or hard rock, but wants to present a variety of musical styles that he enjoys through his work. With THE SCARECROW, he has succeeded greatly in accomplishing this goal, proving once again that he may be one of the most talented and diverse songwriters producing music in the metal (or hard rock) scene right now. Power metal purists may turn their nose up at these more direct, memorable, and highly catchy songs due to the lack of overwhelming speed, but everyone else should grab this release immediately.