|Review: Avantasia - The Scarecrow|
Label: Nuclear Blast
Year released: 2008
Genre: Melodic Heavy Metal
Review online: February 1, 2008
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
Rated 3.81/5 (76.25%) (32 Votes)
Risks are seldom taken in the music business these days. In going back to the well, Edguy's Tobias Sammet has taken a major risk, and I applaud him for it, because if it wasn't for his incredible desire to create, we wouldn't have "The Scarecrow", the dubious third release from Sammet's collective album project, Avantasia. Those familiar with Sammet and his work with Power Metal heroes Edguy will be pleased to hear that "The Scarecrow" is actually a well crafted piece of marksmanship than will most likely be subject to tremendous excoriation from the media due to its assorted collection of styles. As we all know, the first two albums in this project - the mighty "Metal Opera" parts I and II - were amongst the finest Power Metal albums to date, featuring contributions from practically every big name in the genre, each playing a character of varying aesthetics in a role-playing fantasy melee. In the years between those glorious tomes of overblown whimsy and their dark follow up, Sammet has grown both as a person and a songwriter, and his selection of influences on "The Scarecrow" is more extensive than an ASDA meat counter.
First things first, the production is far thicker and more encompassing, giving each instrument more space to breathe and connect with the atmosphere. The aura of single responsibility lends the songs a personal air, despite the lyrical concept running throughout the songs. The guitars and keyboards are equally lit in a room with little furnishing, and that hollow ire produces a tight, almost suffocating environment. Sammet himself has become more aggressive in his delivery, aiming for those higher notes with an unbridled fury. The songs tend to fluctuate between styles, with some being of the Speed/Power Metal variety ("Shelter from the Rain") and others of a Hard Rock persuasion ("I Don't Believe In Your Love"). Surprisingly, this works. Often to a great degree. In fact where the album plays best is when the styles accumulate, weaving a melodic tapestry of screaming guitars, epic orchestration, and unforgettable hooks. The title track, for this very reason, is perhaps the best piece Sammet has ever composed, and its folk-flavored ideology harkens back to the theatrical nature of Avantasia's first incarnation.
Some tracks dare to push the commercialism a touch further, and on rare occasions it fulfills its obligation with aplomb. "Carry Me Over" is possibly the closest Sammet has ever come to penning a fully fledged pop song, and without its monstrous chorus, that's all it would be. The coiling serpentine that is opener "Twisted Mind" on the other hand, could have been taken from a recent Kamelot album - Roy Khan delivers the lead vocal as a calculating psychiatrist - and the up- tempo "Devil In the Belfry" is 100% old-school Edguy, offering the strongest chorus on the album with its sing-along melodies and humongous choirs. The tender ballad "What Kind Of Love" featuring Amanda Somerville is an excellent tonic to the blasting metal assault of "Another Angel Down", and even lead single "Lost in Space" leads us nicely into what could be the second - or fourth - chapter of the Avantasia saga.
Some might say a missed opportunity, I say one well taken. "The Scarecrow" is certainly a grower, but you'll get more mileage out of it than the first two innocuous episodes, and I for one would like to see Sammet spread his creative wings thusly in the future. Despite the terrible new haircut.
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