Review Summary: Where do we go when the world gets in the way? The Wicked Symphony of course!
As we have all come to know, a lot of people hate Power Metal. Quite frankly I understand why they do, but I get a little irritated when no one gives it a fair chance and just judge off bands like Dragonforce or Blind Guardian; both bands are fabulous by the way. Over the past decade or so, a lot of these power metal bands have abandoned the roots of the genre: the melodic harmonizing guitars and soaring vocals, to create a bunch of forced and uninteresting material. The addition of synthesizers revolutionized the genre by adding another element to the music, and even bringing in orchestras either builds a musical genius of a record, or makes it fall flat on its face. Too much bombasticism (yes I just made that up) also shuns people from checking out power metal. For those who don’t know, Avantasia is a side project by Edguy frontman Tobias Sammet. Now I am not a huge fan of Edguy, but was intrigued by this side project because I saw that Roy Khan from Kamelot fame sang a song on the previous record entitled The Scarecrow
. After giving that one a spin, checking out the first two albums by this band was a must. So, where does Avantasia’s second part of the Scarecrow trilogy land? Well, it’s just the best power metal album to come out since Blind Guardian’s A Twist in the Myth.
Everything I just described above certainly fits The Wicked Symphony
. It’s epic, bombastic, over the top, whatever you want to call it, and it does not fall flat on its face for the hour duration. First off, let me talk about the actual instrumentation of the record. Tobias has been able to grab some amazing individuals to perform for Avantasia and it does not stop here. He has pulled together musicians from established power metal bands such as Rhapsody of Fire, Kamelot, and Edguy. He even got some people that have played with KISS and Alice Cooper. The drums and bass are quite exceptional for an album coming from the power metal genre. Standout tracks such as “Forever is a Long Time” and “Scales of Justice” gives the album the punch it needs to show people that this is indeed a metal album.
Sadly though, the punch never shows up on the guitar side. The majority of the time it plays what I call the post-2003 Emppu Vuorinen style; it is being overshadowed by all that is going around it and is unable to stand out on its own. There are moments where it is able to give all guitar lovers the headbanging and wankings they need, especially in “Scales of Justice,” and just about every solo for the wanking part. Sometimes these bands just need to tone down the mixing of the orchestral things and let the guitars share some of the spotlight, although this is a METAL OPERA!!!
Come to think of it though, the spotlight isn’t on the guitars, drums, or orchestra; it lies solely on the vocals. When you have an album that features vocalists like Tobias Sammet, Jorn Lande, Russell Allen, Michael Kiske, and Tim “Ripper” Owens, they better damn be the highlight of the album. Tobias has outdone himself for getting some of the best vocalists on the planet to sing on this album and they outdo every other Avantasia album. Starting off with the title track, which is arguably the song of this still young 2010, we get essentially ten minutes of Tobias, Allen, and Lande trading off vocals to create one of the best vocal performances ever in power metal. It’s cheesy, over the top, and layered beyond no reason, but when they sing that chorus it’s truly one of the most epic things I’ve heard in a very long time. After I finished listening to the song I went to myself “Holy crap! That was just the first song.” It didn’t take long for my jaw to get stuck on the ground again however. “Scales of Justice” reminds me why Ripper Owens is a metal god. His wails are as good as anyone not named Daniel Heiman and his singing voice is vulnerable but powerful at the same time. For the first three minutes of the song we get him at his best, but when the whole tone of the song changes in the middle we get a more badass Axl Rose. That minute of weirdness was totally unexpected and kind of hampers one of the strongest songs on the disc.
The praise of the vocals cannot stop at just one paragraph. While Edguy may be a somewhat boring band, Tobias Sammett is an extremely talented vocalist and he gives himself that opportunity. Songs like “The Wicked Symphony,” and “Runaway Train” is where he lets his pipes free the most. The unfortunate part about it is that he has to share the songs with Jorn Lande. This guy makes already epic choruses more epic and gives the best individual vocal outing in “Forever is a Long Time.” So even though Tobias wails on a great level, the rougher crooning of Lande is what truly makes this album worth a listen.
The Wicked Symphony
officially begins what I feel is going be an amazing year for power metal. After the disappointments of the new Dream Evil and the generic offering of Gamma Ray, I can look forward to new outputs by Kamelot, Blind Guardian, Firewind, and Symphony X. Great production, epic orchestral lines, groovy bass lines and drum fills, and some insane vocals make this the slim leader of Album of the Year. A couple uninteresting songs: “Crestfallen” and “The Edge” to go along with some uninteresting bits of songs bring the rating down a bit. The lack of emphasis on the guitar when it comes to riffs is just a little nitpick, but it would have been nice to hear some more shredding. Overall, this is still the best power metal album in years and totally outshines both Metal Operas and The Scarecrow