M. Worden

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Last Active 01-01-70 12:00 am
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Mars Ranks: Avantasia

As January closes and with it my incessant deep diving, I figure I'd do another ranking of a "comfort band" for me. Let's get it going!
1Dark Moor
The Gates of Oblivion

Before we begin, a disclaimer: much like Blue October, Avantasia hold a special place in my heart. They're a bit of a blindspot act for me in a similar regard, which means most of the records I'm going to discuss are at least a 4.0 or a very generous 3.5 (a spiritual 4 of sorts). Tobi's ability to make cheesy, entertaining power metal is unrivaled, and it's always a joy whenever his supergroup project debuts a new release. However, some stand above others, and some deserve some criticism.
2Dark Moor
The Gates of Oblivion

This is one of the few bands I've ever been able to share with people outside of an online setting; my dad has become obsessed (maybe even more than me!) with all things Avantasia ever since I introduced the group to him. So all these words come from love! Also, you should probably check them all. Anyways, let's get it started here!
A Paranormal Evening With the Moonflower Society

9. This release is still relatively fresh, so I won't toss out the idea that it may grow in time. However, for perhaps the first time, this album truly gives the sense of Tobi and the project as a whole simply treading water. It was a concern that first sprouted from the release of the guest vocalists list, which was... disappointing, to say the least. Part of the enjoyment factor of Avantasia is wondering "Oh, who's gonna join next?" and the unpredictability of the vocal parts. Lately, Tobi has grown comfortable working with the same array of Kiske/Lande/Atkins/Martin/Tate/Catley, which is a STACKED roster don't get me wrong, but knowing they're guaranteed a slot (usually multiple) removes any semblance of surprise. Sammet has a talent for writing music that can perfectly suit the guest vocalist it's designed for without becoming too close to source material, but with the same handful of personnel involved, it's hard to ignore the lack of inspiration creeping into arrangements. Unlike
A Paranormal Evening With the Moonflower Society

... its predecessor, A Paranormal Evening brings no new ideas to the table, it fails to tweak the formula, and its epic moments don't have the same weight behind them; the build ups aren't constructed well and feel somewhat forced for the sake of a payoff. It's sadly cheap at times despite the addicting quality of the majority of the compositions. The aforementioned lack of powerhouse guests contributes to this; only two newcomers (Floor Jansen and Ralf Scheepers) appear, and while Ralf especially makes a mark with his unique screeching tenor vocals, it's not enough to distinguish the record overall. This is basically Tobi and the gang going through the motions, offering the trademark speedmetal Kiske song, the obligatory Catley* jam, and so on and so on. Granted, it's still fun as fuck to hear those songs, but the novelty is beginning to wear thin. Bit of a letdown when, again, Moonglow had some tricks up its sleeve that made it a welcome addition to the discography.
A Paranormal Evening With the Moonflower Society

Recommended Tracks:
"The Wicked Rule the Night"
"Kill the Pain Away"
"The Moonflower Society"

*ADDITIONAL disclaimer: Bob Catley is the one Avantasia guest that 100% should always be around, we treasure his sage voice and his hippie energy, and the fact Tobi gets to tour with and write songs with his idol all the time is adorable. Jam some Magnum albums.
Angel of Babylon

8. Angel shares a similar problem to Paranormal Evening: there is very little vocal variety here, which is part of the appeal of the Avantasia project. Jorn Lande is ALL over this thing and dwarfs any other contributor. Thankfully, he is Jorn Lande and he has one of the best power metal voices active nowadays, but it can definitely hamper a listening experience. It's unfortunate when considering Jon Oliva of Savatage fame is on the roster this go around and brings such a unique flair to the one feature he gets. Russell Allen, who returns from Wicked Symphony, is criminally underutilized, and Cloudy Yang (one of the only two newcomers alongside Oliva) is similarly sidelined when she's got potential to be far more important to the record. In a separate manner from Paranormal Evening, I wouldn't consider the variety to impact the songwriting nearly as much; the issues in that department can be considered separate. Rather than power metal, the record feels a bit more like a rock venture
Angel of Babylon

... which causes some tracks to noticeably lag behind others. It's not nearly as offensive as it may sound at its base premise, and it actually cranks out bangers pretty reliably, ranging from the epic "Stargazers," the powerful "Promised Land," and the wonderfully 80's rocker "Your Love is Evil." Oliva's performance on "Death is Just a Feeling" is delightfully sinister, and Tobi wisely lets him dominate the majority of the tune. Overall, Angel is far from a bad album, but when stacked to the best Avantasia can offer, it feels rather lackluster in comparison, especially when concerning the potential that's lurking under the surface. Lande can salvage much with his inimitable pipes, but at a certain point, a tune like "Alone I Remember" becomes a dud. Even Michael Kiske feels oddly sidelined on this effort! That is unusual and it's not helping out anything here. Too much of this lives in the shadow of its massive opening number, the previously described "Stargazers."
Angel of Babylon

Recommended Tracks:
"Your Love is Evil"
"Death is Just a Feeling"
"Rat Race"
"Promised Land"
The Metal Opera Pt. II

7. What?! Part 2 *this* low? Yes, it is a 4.0 and a beautiful album, but let's be clear: "The Seven Angels" carries its reputation hard. It's arguably the best song Tobi has ever written, and is generally regarded as the consummate Avantasia song. The interplay between the different singers, the incredible vocal parts, the impressive cohesion, and the absolutely gorgeous, anthemic finale are incredible to behold as it unravels across its 14 minute duration. However, it's a drop in quality after that, which is perhaps expected but not excusable. Much of what Pt. II does was done better on Pt. I, and it also has a penchant for getting bogged down in ballads that are not nearly as well constructed. The pacing is off from track to track, which ruins the climax of the album and, as an extension, the overarching story. Unlike other Avantasia efforts, The Metal Opera had much more of a narrative at play, and the rushed conclusion here ruins a lot of the groundwork leading up to it. The lack
The Metal Opera Pt. II

... of story notes for Pt. II compared to Pt. I is probably emblematic of that occurrence, demonstrating how the plot really became immaterial at that point. Sure, it's a silly power metal album and stories can be silly, but if your emotional payoffs reside in its progression, it's important to make the journey worthwhile and consistent (Kamelot's Black Halo and Seventh Wonder's Mercy Falls both pull this off, for examples). I've been harsh so far, but only because I kinda want to knock it off its pedestal; Tobi has done much better than this, and if any record is going to overshadow his discog, this one ain't it. Plenty of delicious melodies, rollicking guitars, BOB CATLEY'S INTRODUCTION WOO, etc etc. Not a bad album, an EXCELLENT album, but not a peak. I do appreciate how this can get surprisingly heavy if the moment calls for it, such as the ripping (and almost thrashy?!) "The Final Sacrifice," and the underrated Ralf Zdiarstek gets to absolutely fucking dominate on his own track.
The Metal Opera Pt. II

Recommended Tracks:
"The Seven Angels"
"The Final Sacrifice"
"Chalice of Agony"
"Memory" (I still do not know who Ralf is but he conquers this tune, such an interesting raspy voice)

6. Do you come to Avantasia for album flow? If not, this is an album for you! In all seriousness, this record is a lot of fun and has some incredible late career highlights, but golly does it feel rather scattered and occasionally far too brief; it feels as though it races ahead in its middle portion, and suddenly ope the record is over... on a cover of "Maniac"?! Bold choice, and credit where it's due, the cover is hilariously entertaining, but having it as the concluding statement of the disc is not the way to go. I've been too negative on these write up's thus far, so let's instead mention how "Ghost in the Moon" is one of the best Avantasia songs and a wonderful opener. When it fades away, only to gradually build back up momentum, the ensuing climax feels massive, and Tobi's vocals are divine throughout. Afterwards is the powerhouse that is "Book of Shallows," which not only features the long awaited arrival of Blind Guardian's Hansi Kursch to the project, but also MILLE PETROZZA.

Yeah, halfway through the tune, Tobi doesn't hint at thrash metal and instead fully plunges into it, letting Mille take control of proceedings and add an adrenaline rush of heaviness. It's a brilliant move, adding weight to the climactic reprise of the song's chorus, and ushering in a faster tempo that truly drives forward the aggression of the track. Further down the way is the epic "Raven Child," the underrated "Piper at the Gates of Dawn," and... well, those are the highlights. Everything else, even if it's not as engaging in terms of songwriting, matches the energy of those songs, such as the vibrant synth line of "Starlight" or the gorgeous bombast of "Alchemy." I still wish the vocal variety was amped up more, as "Book of Shallows" sets the bar very high with its thrilling vocal interplay. Mille only has that one appearance, and while it's absolutely golden, I feel more risks could have been taken in order to make Moonglow even more fresh than it already is.

Recommended Tracks:
"Ghost in the Moon"
"Book of Shallows"
"The Raven Child"
"The Piper at the Gates of Dawn"
The Scarecrow

5. Let's clear something up: the ballads on this album are really not *that* bad. "What Kind of Love" is a dud, okay. "Cry Just a Little" is cheesy as hell, but remember, we are in an Avantasia album. And sure, "Carry Me Over" is basically radio rock, but Tobi has a wonderful voice and it's catchy. Beyond that, "I Don't Believe in Your Love" has a horrible chorus. I won't lie and say that those tunes don't knock this down entirely, as Tobi has performed better ballads and softer numbers, but they aren't a massive detraction against this release. I'd contend it's rather underrated; too many peak "The Scarecrow" (as they should, it's stunning) and "Twisted Mind," but there are some killer hits layered throughout, bringing plenty of aggression and addicting refrains. Concert staple "Shelter from the Rain" is one of the best Kiske features Tobi has penned, "Another Angel Down" presents a spellbinding guitar and synth harmony, and "Devil in the Belfry" has an monstrous melody. The vocal
The Scarecrow

... variety is also a treat; Scarecrow marks the initial Avantasia outing for now-mainstay Jorn Lande, simultaneously bringing on Amanda Somerville, Kamelot's Roy Khan, and THE Alice Cooper, who's given free reign over "The Toy Master"--a track beautifully constructed to illustrate Cooper's aesthetic. Khan sadly has a bit of a minute role in the grand scheme of things, but his crystal clear, yet slightly raspy tone spices up "Twisted Mind," although that iconic riff (yes, I'm calling it iconic) is a strong enough lead as is. This is an album that gets a worse reputation than Metal Opera Pt. II despite having an epic that's just as worthwhile to check (title track) and, when going head to head, it has far more bangers in store. The highlights are many, and the lowlights are not nearly offensive enough to justify this having such a criminally low average rating. I promise y'all will be okay with a ballad or two, this is power metal, if your conscience is weak then I dunno what to tell ya
The Scarecrow

Recommended Tracks:
"Twisted Mind"
"The Scarecrow"
"Shelter from the Rain"
"Another Angel Down"
"Devil in the Belfry"
"Lost in Space" (radio Avantasia at its peak imo)
The Wicked Symphony

4. Of the so-called "Wicked Trilogy," Symphony stands the test of time as the superior outing. Unlike Scarecrow, it doesn't possess any hiccups with regards to pacing or clunky ballads. Interestingly enough, unless one counts ending number "The Edge," there's not a single ballad here; the album is dominating by Avantasia rocking out and compiling one banger after the other, not stops, no slow-downs, just 80's cheese and power metal bombast. Along for the ride are newcomers Russell Allen (who thankfully gets a song to himself!), Tim "Ripper" Owens of Judas Priest fame, and Klaus Meine of Scorpion, whose distinctive pipes ultimately assist in crafting probably the most definitive Avantasia single "Dying for an Angel." The album can be guilty of Jorn Lande overload in much the same way as Angel of Baylon, but since we are again dealing with Jorn Lande, this is OK. This is especially OK when he's a part of the dark, unconventional "Crestfallen," which is a surprising highlight on an album
The Wicked Symphony

... stocked to the brim with them. The winding epic of "Runaway Train" has a gorgeous chorus, the underrated "Blizzard on a Broken Mirror" has a very compelling progression, "Black Wings" reunites Tobi with Ralf Zdiarstek from the banger that was "Memory," and the list goes on. There's not a single weak link here, even if "The Edge" leaves a bit to be desired as a climax of a full LP. I still love exploring this and taking in all the entertaining soundscapes. Really, the only reason it's here and not higher is based mostly on preference, as I believe Tobi succeeded elsewhere with what was already amazing here. Definitely worth the dive for the singles and the incredible songwriting overall; there's little to complain about for both power metal and Avantasia fans. It still has an epic scale (see the title track) while also being somewhat grounded compared to other outings by the project. It feels pretty unique in the discog in that regard.
The Wicked Symphony

Recommended Tracks:
"The Wicked Symphony"
"Dying for an Angel"
"Blizzard on a Broken Mirror" (the last Avantasia song to feature the treasure Andre Matos. RIP.)
"Runaway Train"
"States of Matter"
The Mystery Of Time

3. It feels as though Mystery of Time is commonly forgotten about in Avantasia's discog. Nobody discusses it, nobody mentions it; nobody really seems to have strong feelings at all. It just sort of... exists. Those same people will decry Tobi for never advancing his project, even though he certainly did so here: this is almost a prog. rock epic as opposed to power metal, which is assisted by the inclusion of a live orchestra. The addition of old school vocalists Biff Byford (Saxon) and Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple, Rainbow) contributes to this atmosphere of wonderment; their voices, while aged, still retain power, and the slight strain and smokiness to them (is that the right descriptor?) are a welcome change of pace from the usual selection of power metal heavyweights. The arrangements don't suffer whatsoever and instead capitalize on this new direction, employing the orchestra to buttress riffs and augment the scope of tunes, such as the shockingly heavy melody of "Black Orchid" or
The Mystery Of Time

... the mysterious aura the strings craft around "Spectres." The record is anchored by two large forays--centerpiece "Savior in the Clockwork" and ending entry "The Great Mystery"--that server as the emotional core of the album's loose story and subsequent emotional conclusion. The progressive tendencies make each individual song a joy to experience, as Tobi pulls a few more tricks as the audience follows along, unsure of where exactly a tune is going, although ultimately knowing it's going to explode into some extravagant guitar melodies and/or soaring vocals. It's still catchy as hell and still leans into power metal romps, such as the racing "Where Clock Hands Freeze" or the upbeat "Invoke the Machine." Mystery of Time also has the distinction of featuring what I regard as some of Tobi's greatest ballads, with "Sleepwalking" and it's beautiful vocal harmonies and the resounding refrain of "What's Left of Me." The flow and overall cohesion aid the record greatly.
The Mystery Of Time

Oops, ran out of space. Bottom line: Mystery of Time is the most underrated Avantasia album and might be a 4.5. I'll see you in the thread, BUMP IT.

Recommended Tracks:
honestly all of them, this album doesn't get enough appreciation for its successes.

2. Now that you've seen this, you know what's number one, so uh, there goes *that* surprise. But let me explain why I think this is probably the best intro to Avantasia and the most friendly to anyone not often into power metal. All told, this is likely the most consistent and best flowing record Tobi has crafted under the Avantasia banner. It ebbs and flows from atmospheric numbers, ballads, power metal escapades, reserved moments and sweeping choruses with ease, navigating cliches with such grace and surprising subtlety that it's possible to forget they're even there. The guest list leaps off the page: Sharon den Adel returns after having a minimal role on the Metal Opera albums, and she leaves much more of an impression here. Dee Snider of Twisted Sister turns in a fantastic performance, Herbie Langhans brings an outstanding bass voice to the show, Geoff Tate joins the madness (his first of now three Avantasia appearances), and Robert Mason (Lynch Mob, among other bands) has

a robust baritone to offer. Returning members Lande, Kiske, Catley, an Atkins are also in pitch-perfect form throughout, with Lande in particular helping to deliver top tier tunes in the form of "Let the Storm Descend Upon You" and the striking "Lucifer" (which is why we forgive Lande overload; the dude is maybe the most talented and novel voice in the core Avantasia roster). I could gush about this more, but beyond that, this album is heavily nostalgic for me. I remember waiting eagerly for it to drop, then playing the shit out of it in car rides, to hype myself up, at the gym, just relaxing... I loved this little thing. It's as perfectly cheesy as Avantasia always are, but it's lovingly created and just has a sublime smoothness to it that makes it easy to dive into regardless of mood. As alluded to previously, that smoothness makes this rather accessible, and the variety tames power metal's excess. I'd always recommend anyone to start here first before checking elsewhere.

It's worth noting that album opener "Mystery of a Blood Red Rose" was originally intended for Meat Loaf to sing, but his management declined. It's hard for me to envision how this would sound with him instead of Tobi; Sammet 100% rocks that tune and demonstrates why he's such a respected vocalist.

Recommended Tracks:
whole fuckin' thing; you've made it this far, so like, just listen you fool!
The Metal Opera

1. Is it unfair to put the first album and most critically acclaimed album first? Well... kinda, but it's not my fault Tobi lit the power metal world on fire on his first try at a rock opera. I mean, even calling it THE Metal Opera is bold as fuck and demonstrates some serious confidence. In reality, Tobi had no idea if the record would pan out; it was a pretty risky move for a guy who, at that point, had not broken even while pursuing music professionally. Part I was a resounding success, and it's hard not to appreciate the ambition it took to make it happen; this is the most loaded the Avantasia vocal roster has ever been. With the added context of Michael Kiske being vocally tired and done with metal music as the time, his appearance alone was a shock, especially when he jumped in and immediately started kicking ass. The screaming tenor harmony to open "Reach Out for the Light" is peak power metal and a beautiful moment in an album that has plenty more to showcase. Beyond Kiske, who
The Metal Opera

... would proceed to grant his voice to every subsequent Avantasia LP, Tobi collaborates with Andre Matos, Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray, Robb Rock of Impelliterri, David DeFeis of Virgin Steele, and Timo Tolkki of Stratovarius fame. Everyone contributes their unique pipes, everybody shines, and most importantly, the vocal interplay is impeccable; you truly get the sense that this is a fantasy epic with characters interacting with each other in different settings. By no coincidence is this the most detailed and comprehensible story Tobi has written, allowing the audience to easily understand the stakes and get emotionally invested. Despite its continued critical reception as one of the finest power metal albums of all time, parts of it seem to be underrated or at least not talked about enough, with songs as as "The Tower" usually forgotten when talking the best Avantasia songs. It has some stiff competition from this album alone, which only speaks to how high the bar of quality is here.
The Metal Opera

Recommended Tracks:
OK seriously "The Tower" is peak power metal, if you need to check one track right now, that's what you do.

That's all folks, I'm tired, I am spent, I have worn out my writing hands, GOODNIGHT CLEVELAND and remember to drink your water.
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