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Avantasia: The Scarecrow

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Wednesday, February 6, 2008 @ 10:17 PM


Nuclear Blast

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Just in time for Valentine's Day comes Avantasia - a confectionary delight from Tobias Sammet, the German power-metal Bryan Adams. While his regular band, the German power-metal Edguy is taking a German power-metal break, Sammet returns with a symphonic metal opera-esque collection of songs that, stripped of their symphonic-metal opera-ness, would maybe kinda sorta probably qualify as a collection of Edguy b-sides, if only because "Germany's most beloved rock frontman" (according to his press release) is singing.

While I'm of the opinion that this sort of music is best left to aspiring "Ultimate Nightwish Tribute Band" frontwomen, and sensitive male theater majors who exist solely on low-fat Triscuits and Soy Lattes, there's no question that symphonic metal is enjoying a great deal of popularity in Europe and South America. And as Broadway musicals seem to be careening further into the realm of rock territory, the evolution (de-evolution?) from Andrew Lloyd Webber ("Jesus Christ Superstar," "Evita," "Cats") to Frank Wildhorn ("Jeckyll & Hyde," "Dracula - The Musical") combined with the omnipresence of Jim Steinman influences (Meat Loaf, Celine Dion) -- which thrive upon epic balladeering, heavy production and guitars, (Queensryche; Iced Earth; Nevermore; and to some degree, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) -- it seems that a new generation of Americans is fully embracing symphonic metal.

So like the principal male lead in a Broadway musical, Tobias Sammet imbues his Avantasia project with the requisite charisma and chops to carry the show. He's an excellent singer and that's certainly evident on "The Scarecrow." Sammet has a familiar voice which falls somewhere between Dio and Geoff Tate, favoring upper-register tenor soaring with the occasional grittier, rough-and-ready rockish posturing of Bryan Adams.

Sammet surrounds himself with an impressive cast, including (among others): Rudolf Schenker, Sascha Paeth, Eric Singer, Bob Catley, Jørn Lande, Michael Kiske, Alice Cooper, Roy Khan and Oliver Hartmann. But as a concept album, The Scarecrow lacks a cohesive story/plot which might give edge to some of the lyrical meandering nonsense; (but this is all seemingly part of a larger concept which apparently includes the previous releases: Avantasia (EP); The Metal Opera; The Metal Opera Part II; Lost in Space Part I and Lost in Space Part II). But taken separately, some of the songs are quite enjoyable...in the same way that, say, some of The Phantom of the Opera is enjoyable.

"Shelter From The Rain" is an excellent Maidenesque/Helloweenie/Edguyish rocker with plenty of wailing leads and galloping drums; and "Another Angel Down" might be an out-take from "Mindcrime II," as if Geoff Tate had written it and Dio sang. Alice Cooper singing duet on "The Master of Toys" manages to recapture the more slick pop he put out on Trash and sounds very cool. "Devil In The Belfry" is less symphonic than straight metal and there ought to be more of this, for my money. But the thing that stands out on The Scarecrow is maybe the thing that feels as if it's bringing it down: too many ballads.

But this might be Sammet's bid for (European) radio immortality. "Cry Just A Little," "Lost In Space" and especially "Carry Me Over" would not be out of place on "American Idol." I can easily hear "Carry Me Over" being covered by Rod Stewart, Daughtry, Bryan Adams... you name it.

Sammet goes for broke with this one, serving up the gooey schmaltz with a big ladle. If that's your cup of porridge, then look no further, Avantasia is serving breakfast all day. Diabetics be warned.

* * *

The Scarecrow is on sale in the KNAC.COM More Store. Click here to buy your copy now.


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