Review Summary: Well-composed, but cheesy as all fuck...2 of 4 thought this review was well written
Tobias Sammet is a busy man. Mainman and leader of infamous German cheese-metallers (well, all right: power metallers), in 2000 he started his Avantasia project, which aimed to make a Metal Opera (I'm surprised nobody trademarked this) and assemble a cast of supporting guest vocalists, much in the vein of Ayreon. The only difference being that Tobias Sammet doesn't play guitar or drums or keyboards anymore... only handling some of the lead vocals and bass duties. He had originally announced earlier that after the two Operas, he would quit this project, but in 2007 the bug must have hit him again, as he released the two-part Lost In Space EP, and now 2008 is graced with the full-length, called The Scarecrow
Of course, the new full-length features another full set of guest musicians and vocalists, some of whom we know from previous Avantasia records, or from Ayreon, or other projects. There's Jorn Lande (yes, that guy always seems to pop up for these projects), Bob Catley (Magnum), "I don't like metal but these guys pay me for it and I need the money" ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske, Kamelot mainman Roy Khan, and more. For this disc, Tobias has even managed to get the most infamous of infamous hard rock musicians, Alice Cooper, to do a guest spot on this record. That alone should tell you something about the ace vocal lineup.
So, what about the music Tobias puts behind it? Well, it's a good mix of speedy power metal anthems (Shelter In The Rain, Devil in the Belfry), longer epic songs (title track), and the obligatory Bon Jovi ballad moments. In fact, if I'd had to categorise this, it would fall somewhere between Kamelot, Bon Jovi, Queensryche and Iron Maiden. The longer, speedier power metally tracks sound more symphonic, and opener "Twisted Mind" opens with a grinding, dirty riff that could have come straight off The Black Halo. It's probably the darkest piece of music on the record, despite that it's still rather fluffy, and the Kamelot mirage is only enhanced by Khan who shares lead vocals on this track.
However, after the grinding opening track and the epic number in second, things begin to fluff up a bit. It seems like the album shot its load of epic a little bit too early, and though there's still a nice speedy anthem for Shelter in the Rain, we get two subdued 80s rock songs in a row. Whereas Carry Me Over seems to still take from the harder, "rockier" aspect of Bon Jovi, channeling something similar to It's My Life, the next track is a ballad with female vocals, 80s style. If you thought the first four songs were cheesy German tripe, get a load of this song: it never seems to pick up with powerful guitars, the main melody resembles the ***ing Lion King soundtrack and the female vocals make it sound like we're witnessing the ascension of Simba. Note to T.S.: I thought you made music for grown-ups, not ten year old prepubescent children. Though it might be a good idea to play it to your little sister or mother to show them what "metal sounds like", it's overall a pretty pathetic idea.
Unfortunately we're not spared this for the rest of the album. "Cry Just a Little" would score big on a hit list if Bon Jovi or AC/DC had put their names behind it rather than Avantasia, and Lost in Space should have been a cool speed-metal tune, but what we get is a formulaic hard rock song that sounds far too generic and watered-down to belong on a metal album.
Lucky the end of the record has some bright spots too. The Toy Master is a pretty ***ing excellent song, a cool epic tune with Alice Cooper on vocals. Devil in the Belfry has that epic power metal feel, and Jorn Lande is a big catalyst for the song's driving chorus. Another Angel Down is a pretty formulaic "kind of sounds like later Sonata Arctica" power metal tune, but it has Jorn Lande on it, and though a listener would pretty much be done with the sympho-flowery bull*** by then, it's worth listening to for the vocals alone. Oh and the penultimate track has Rudolph Schenker doing a guitar solo! Scorpions lovers unite!
So, what's the verdict? Well, it's a very fluffy and accessible disc, despite sounding so grand and pompous. It's catchy, instant gratification music that is well written and composed. If you're into Edguy, Kamelot and friends, you'll love this too. But the biggest issue is that it comes with the worst of power metal cliches, and that is the grand, grand, grand amount of cheese, not to mention the overt AOR influences. The album's tracklisting becomes rather patchy thanks to this. I guess this boils down to another status quo power metal album: like the thing, you will like this. Dislike power metal, stay far away from it. If you're in doubt, you've got better options than this, but you'll probably like a bunch of tunes depending which side of the musical fence you're on. And I guess that always counts in a band's favour, so this record is redeemable after all.