on January 9, 2002
Having been listening to all forms of heavy metal music since 1984, there are probably ten albums that I could probably refer to as 'all-time greats'. Avantasia ranks amongst those ten, and that is why it gets 5 stars here on this review.
Make no mistake, Tobias Sammet knows how to write a melody - he's unlocked the secret of knowing how to hook the listener. By combining neo-classical progressions, to galloping Steve Harris type bass lines, and fusing singing styles of operatic metal to harmonious guitar leads, Avantasia delivers the goods (and then some).
You can hear influences here from Rainbow/Blackmore and Dio, to Queen and Malmsteen, and ending up at Megadeth and Maiden. I can't honestly fault this CD. The influences are sprinkled about in abundance with no excuses - you'll hear Tangerene Dream merged with Celtic choirs, underlined by Metallica's Orion, and set to orchestrated pieces that belong in a David Lean/Ridley Scott/Stanley Kubrick-type epic.
On the other side, here is some criticism, although slightly minor: First of all, Tobias Sammet surely has to be making a concious effort to purposely sound like Bruce Dickinson - simply because he didn't sound this similar to Bruce on Vain Glory. If I was to hear this CD for the first time without knowing what it was, I would bet a million bucks that the singer was Bruce - it is that uncanny. However, it is not necessarily a bad thing since the style fits the CD nicely, and Tobias is not the only voice you hear. (Hansi Kursch is sorely missed).
Final point: you may not necessarily want to read between the lines when listening to this concept-opera because you may be offended by the religous themes. Some of it reflects a real Christian religious push (not as obvious as anything by Creed for example), and I'm still not sure if there is a sub-concious effort to sway the listener into hearing songs about 'Him' (e.g. Glory of Rome). Either way, if you can get past that and remove the subliminal religous values pushed out in the songs, you're left with a framework for something magnificent. The music alone speaks wonders.
on August 30, 2005
The Edguy-genius Tobias Sammet comes with a solo-project here. I always suspected he had a serious side too, but now he proved it on this masterful metal opera.
The first part starts with a prelude, an example of a great sense for symphony and sphere. It also gives the listener the time to read the impressive guest list. Henjo Richter, known from the famous act Gamma Ray, does the lead guitar on this album and with outstanding skill, although I think his solo's could be more varied, but they were written by master Tobias Sammet himself, so I have no reason to blame Richter. Helloween's Markus Grosskopf does the bass lines and does this very well. The drums are done by Alex Holzwarth, who's now into Rhapsody, and he really brings originality and variation into his drumming techniques.
The second song "Reach out for the light" begins immediately after "Prelude", so I first didn't realize it was the second track. It starts with a really melodic and rather happy intro with double guitar lines. Then Sammet, alias novice Gabriel, starts to complain about his imprisonment and the way things went wrong in his life. He's definitely my favourite metal-singer, because there's just no one who can overpower him in singing originally and high. Michael "Ernie" Kiske, alias druid Lugaid Vandroiy, does the vocals in the chorus and the contrast with Sammet is clear. Kiske sings slowly and melancholically and there's some kind of echo in his voice, which gives the song a new dimension. A great opener, I should say.
"Serpents in Paradise" is the next song and this one and the previous track flow perfectly into each other. This time Sammet sings more slowly and the guitars tune down to. The pre-chorus is even slower, but then the chorus takes off and the choir starts to sing in an triumphant way ("Serpents on the way to paradise"), but Sammet keeps on singing melancholically. Then there's one of the highlights of this album, when David DeFeis (Virgin Steele), alias friar Jakob, tunes in and gives the melody a totally new dimension. He joins the choir in the chorus too and he sings very wild, compared to the choir. In the part where Gabriel ask Vandroiy for answers and help, the choir shows again that they are outstanding. This song is a highlight for the choir and typical vocals.
"Malleus Malificarum" is the creepiest song I ever heard. It reminds me a bit of Cathedral's "Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)". It shows us Bailiff Falk von Kronenburg, played by Ralf Zdiarstek, who's torturing Else Vogler, who's being accused of witchery. The bailiff forces her to confess and when she doesn't give in and curses the bailiff, he commands the torturer to pull on and then we hear the machines making creepy sounds and the woman scream. The shivers ran down my spine and the contrast with the next song is rather great.
"Breaking Away" reminds me of a battle hymn and here the vocals, as well the guitar lines call for action. The two captives got to break out and you can here their belligerence and determination through the whole song. Gabriel wants to liberate his stepsister Anna Held, who's being accused of being a witch too and the next song "Farewell" tells us about their past.
"Farewell" starts with a beautiful instrumental part, where the flute has a leading part. Sammet sings about memories and becomes really nostalgic. But then the chorus comes and although the lyrics suggest sadness, it sounds rather like Gabriel has new hope and the pugnacity returns too. I never became fond of Within Tempation, but for this song (and the other one on Part II) I'll make an exception. Sharon Den Adel, here Anna Held, sings about Anna's imprisonment and she sounds like someone who accepts her fate, in this case the stake. There's sadness in her voice but also bravery. Then Sammet sings in a desperate way and the guitars underline his need to liberate Anna. One of my favourites, this one.
"The Glory of Rome" introduces us to two new characters: Bishop Johann Adam von Bicken, played by Rob Rock, and Pope Clemens IIX, done by Oliver Hartmann (who also appeared on the Aina-metal opera). They're on their way to Rome and a whole song is spent to express their respect for the city, the capital of Christianity. The glory of Rome is highly underlined and all of the Christians sing about it in the chorus. So does Gabriel, who's going to Rome too, together with Vandroiy. The pope gives us the details of his plans, bringing the seven seals together and claiming the ultimate wisdom. The guitars have something threatening in this part of the song, but the glory of Rome is a priority.
"In Nomine Patris" is an instrumental song again and there's not much to say about it. It's melted together with the next song "Avantasia". This one is the single and one of my favourites too. Avantasia is the spiritual world and all parties are heading there; the Christians by the gate and Gabriel by transcending his spirit. In the first part of the song everything is silenced and when the guitars come to full volume, it reflects the feeling that they are waking up somehow. When Sammet starts to sing he sings like's he only been up for a short time and then Vandroiy advises him how to go to Avantasia. This part is the transcending phase and Gabriel still has contact with Vandroiy in Avantasia. When transcended, we meet Gabriel back, but now in his new form in Avantasia. The glory of Avantasia and his function are explained here and in the next song "A New Dimension" we are introduced in the habits of the Avantasians.
`Cause directly after "A New Dimension" we meet Elderane the Elf and king of Avantasia, played by Andre Matos (Shaman and appearing on Aina too), and Regrin the Dwarf, done by Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray's singer), in the song "Inside". The two companions introduce us to the lore of Avantasia and then Sammet sings in a really sad way about the way he didn't experience Avantasia before. But then he comes to understand the importance of the spiritual world and the chorus takes off. A well-deserved applause too for the pianist Frank Tischer on this song. The piano lines are really sad, but well done.
"Sign of the Cross" is definitely my favourite song on this album. We hear a symphonic intro and then Pope Clemens IIX, Rob Rock, starts to sing about the whole story of gathering wisdom and so on. Most of the characters participate on this song and we can hear Regrin sing about the pathetic way in which the Christians try to destroy Avantasia forever. Elderane is sad about the way things could end and the lead guitar of Jens Ludwig (Edguy-colleague) is really great and contains one of the greates solos I ever heard. An outstanding masterpiece!
The last song and also the longest one is "The Tower". It starts with a whole instrumental part, which gives us a preview of how the singing lines will be. When they finally start, it works really surprising. The song takes of very fast then and the vocal lines are performed in a chaotic way, but everything comes together fine. The pre-chorus is again one of those atmospheric parts, as in "Reach out for the light". The chorus then reminds me of the second track too and Michael Kiske sings desperately and forces Gabriel to go to the tower. Then Gabriel does as told, and the voice in the tower, by Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius), speaks to the pope, who is being betrayed. He doesn't get all the wisdom he desired and then all start to sing "For the glory...". The song ends with friar Jakob who has lost the seal and who thinks everything is his fault. Why he does that, we'll see in the second part.
In short ways, I should say: Great music, Magnificent Vocals, Godlike Tobias Sammet!
on March 2, 2003
I stumbled across this album through my love of the band Savatage. Their high-water-mark album, Streets: A Rock Opera, has remained my favorite album of all time for almost a decade now.
When I stumbled across this album, it wasn't because of a recommendation by another Tobias Sammet lover or anything of the kind... it was because the title: "The Metal Opera" caught my eye. Similarity of title caught my curiousity!
Thank goodness! I cannot be more pleased to have discovered this album. It is a testament to the poor state of american music, and metal in particular, that this album is anonymous and you'll never, ever hear this on the radio.
There are precious few things to complain about in this album. The songs are catchy, heavy, melodic, and operatic, all at the same time. They offer depth and musical 'chops', while at the same time being 'sing-alongable'. They _are_, do not be mistaken, very Christian songs; you need only read the lyrics to know that, but the message does not distract from the music. This is an *opera*, and the message is given in the 3rd person, not a heavy-handed 1st person POV.
This album leapt in one listen-through to the tops of my all-time albums. I cannot highly recommend this album to others.
on July 10, 2005
As I begin to write this review for the Metal Opera Parts 1 and 2 I'm thinking about the good and bad parts of all of Power Metal as a genre. Good: Double-Bass drums increase the speed of the music, brilliant guitar solos, and wonderful symbolic lyrics of quests of dungeons and dragons that are a metaphor for the adventures of life. Bad: High-pitched squeaky vocalists, repetitive music, and sometimes way too cheesy lyrics. Well, if you are a fan of this genre of music, this is the perfect album for you. Because it contains most of the good and only a few of the bad. The "Metal Opera" is to Power Metal fans as "Dark side of the Moon" is to progressive rock fans or Beethoven's Ninth is to classical fans. Every genre of music has one album that stands out as the crown-achievement of all that that genre is...and the Metal Opera parts 1 and 2, hand-in-hand share that title.
Once upon a time, there was a Power Metal group called "Edguy". And the main-man of that group was named Tobias Sammet. One day, Tobias got this idea in his head. An album...or two albums worth of Power Metal that would not only mix the greatest in vocals, guitar, and drums of the genre but also carry out a successful story to go with the lyrics, and thus the Metal Opera was born. This dual concept-album is a Power Metal fan's journey through a mystical world called Avantasia and the adventures that occur. Not only is the music great, but the story that goes along with the lyrics is carefully written to blend with the lyrics and melodies of the album.
1.) Prelude-A keyboard intro...like most Power Metal openings.
2.) Reach out for the light-Starts the album off with a kick. Soaring vocals, catchy guitar work, and lyrics about not being able to turn anywhere. The catchy chorus around 1:13 continues on till about 1:40 with another drum-kick. The same pattern of guitar, more lyrics, chorus, guitar, more lyrics, and chorus continue until about 4:00 when the guitar solo shines with a glimmer of exhilaration and speed...putting a smile on the listener. Song goes back into the same pattern around 5:24, and ends at 6:32. Only to go straight into...
3.) Serpents in Paradise-Woah, this song sounds almost exactly like the last one. The guitar is great on this song, but the vocals do screech slightly...but that's to be expected with any kind of genre of metal. Very catchy chorus...will get stuck in your head for a couple of day's. Like the last song this one goes through a continuation of the same pattern of instrumental, chorus, instrumental, chorus until about 3:09 when the song changes gear and the background vocals shine more than the main vocalist. At about 4:30 another guitar solo echoes throughout your membrane, rocking you senseless with noise. The song follows the same pattern again about 5:22, and ends with a strum of a guitar.
4.) Malleus Maleficarum-Only makes sense if you'r reading the story along with the lyrics. Creepy organ-style keyboard with background noise that sounds like something from a 16th century gothic novel. Or Army of Darkness.
5.) Breaking Away-Except for the keyboard and the excellent strumming of the bass the chorus can get a tad annoying after multiple listenings...maybe it's just me.
"Breaking away! All we can do now is break away. Otherwise she will be dying
while both of us are lying here in chains." Another solo at about 3:04 also highlights the song.
6.) Farewell-Ah, a Power Metal Ballad....about an incest-relationship between a step-brother and step-sister back when they were little kids...at least that's what it sounds like. The chorus will have you head-banging in your car and the beautiful female-vocals by Sharon Del Alden will make you grab for a tissue.....maybe. The song is basically the same throughout except for a dark-chord guitar romp at about the 4:30 mark. Adds to the ballad, doesn't take it away. The chorus repeats about 10 times...a little annoying.
7.) Glory of Rome-Just another good ole Power Metal song.
8.) In Nomine Patris-A quick 1 minute segue, nothing special.
9.) Avantasia-This is probably the best song on the entire first album. Starts off fading in from a distance only to increase in volume and energy. Not the fastest song on the album but one of the strongest. The lyrics paint a descriptive picture of the world of Avantasia, the place where the majority of the interactions in the story take place. "We are the power in sight, we bring you fantasy. We are the kingdom of light and dreams. Gnosis of life, Avantasia!" At about 3:50 we offshoot for another guitar solo...which isn't as lengthy as the others but enjoyable.
10.) New Dimension-The song starts with a march-like sound with the keyboard at the helm. At about 0:48 the song unfolds to a gracious melody of sound and beauty like that of a symphony...only electronic.
11.) Inside-GRAAHRGH! Didn't like this song that much. Extremely high-pitched squealing and cheesy lyrics make this a bad, BAD Power Ballad. "You will die if I don't dream anymore." Yeah...I'll also die by listening to this song. At least it's only 2:19 long, unlike most of the songs on this album which are 5 min. plus.
12.) Sign of the Cross-The first half of this song is like that of a Power Metal march. The different vocalists on this song don't try to go over each other which makes it sound balanced. At about 3:38 the song goes from about 35mph to 60 with nice guitar riffs in the background and about 4:18 the song goes from 60-120 with one of the fastest guitar solo's I've ever heard in my existence as a power Metal fan.
13.) Tower-Almost every Power Metal album has a song that is 8 minutes plus, and for this album it's the finisher with a total time of 9:43. Starts off with a nice gentle piano melody but kicks back into heavy mode at about 0:48. Awesome sounding lyrics at about 1:08 and at about 1:40 we have the repeat of the words Hallelujah until about 2:06 with lyrics that capture the essence of the hero in any adventure story. "Never been a fighter, never been a man.
But I must help Vandroiy, he's my only friend. Nowhere to go and I know that he knows how we will get her out...
Magic of transcendence, brought me to this place.
A Vandroiy in reality lead me on my race.
Told me to bring back the seal, but still I don't know where I shall go."
The song continues with it's speed-metal like quality until about 5:19, when it goes into a narrative that only makes sense if you are reading the story. A tad cheesy...even for a Power Metal song. At 6:07 the song goes back into choir mode with the repetition of the vocalists saying the words "for the glory" until 7:05 when the guitars get a stranglehold of the recording equipment and with an interjection of the keyboards at 7:33 the song reaches it's musical climax. After that it's just another continuation of the same-old-same-old until the once again narrative ending that sounds a little bit cheesy. Great finish for a great album however...can't wait to review Part II.
on September 6, 2012
This was the first album of the project "Avantasia" which in my opinion has been one of the most powerful albums from 2000 to 2010.
This album has such a great singers, one of my favorite's Michael Kiske and Andre Matos.
This album rocks!
on November 21, 2001
Made with passion and honesty, although too much influenced by the Helloween of the early years, this is a wonderful album for power metal fans. I won't say "masterpiece" because I don't want to be blinded by the love that I have for this kind of music, but I can say that this is a superb artwork that no rocker must miss. Its production is exquisite, and not to mention the playing and singing!
This album is performed by an "all star" team. Henjo Richter (from Gamma Ray) in guitar duties does an exceptional job, even going neoclassical by times, but always imposing the power metal style with those speedy riffs and his characteristic aggressiveness. The bass (Markus Grosskopf, from Helloween) and drums (Alex Holzwarth, from Rhapsody) are also great. And vocals, well... what can be said? Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween, remember? AKA "Ernie" now ;-)) comes back to power metal better than ever; while Tobias Sammet (the leader of this project, from Edguy) is in good shape as always, with his Dickinson-like sound and his higher pitched singing. Perhaps they are the two most "visible" performers in this album, but here you'll also find some other power metal vocalists playing secondary roles, such as Kai Hansen -who is not so brilliant this time, but that decorously does his job.
However, in a less positive vein, I have to say that characters are not easily differentiable because the similarity of the performers' voices. Probably with Hansi Kursh (Blind Guardian) and Mathias Blad (Falconer) in the line-up, things could sound differently for better. In addition, backing vocals and orchestrations, although good enough to please exigent ears, probably are the weakest part of this release. That's why I think that calling this "A Metal Opera" is fairly pretentious, given the not-so-classical sound of the interludes and the lack of "mass" in choirs (Hey, if you're not agree with me in this last assertion, please listen "Nightfall In The Middle Earth" from Blind Guardian or any good release from Queen, and then come back to talk about choirs and "opera" in rock ;-)). Because of that I would say that this is rather a concept album, featured by many seasoned musicians, than an "opera".
Talking now about songwriting, Tobias Sammet has demonstrated that he is able to write smarter lyrics than the average found in the genre. Lyrics are good and far less ridiculous than what you listen over there (Well... I think that Rhapsody is a good example of poor and kitschy poetry, as well as Falconer, aren't they?). Sammet tells us a story that contains all the ingredients needed to catch power metal fans, but without being too much silly. I sincerely admire this, and I think that he's a very capable musician and a great songwriter in spite of his age and his BIG ego. He is also able to write catchy melodies, which needs more talent than what you would need to write complex(ified ;-)) themes.
In few words: this is a great album, a tad pretentious but that succeeds in giving us the sound of power metal as we use to like it. I give to it four stars because it is not innovative at all, but I think that this is anyway one of the bests releases of the year for its fine quality. I strongly recommend this CD. I'll be looking forward to purchasing Part II, and in the meanwhile I'll be listening this. Good work, Mr. Sammet!
on April 1, 2002
The talent is unmistakable. Yngwie meets Queensryche is as close of a comparison as I can get. A very well written and produced piece, I have not been able to take it out of my cd player at all! This metal opera is cultural metal at its finest! This kind of talent (except for Megadeth) doesn't come out of LA!
on February 14, 2008
I have to be honest and upfront in saying that I am not a huge fan of Edguy, and when I got this album, I approached it with caution (due to the fact that it has Tobias Sammet's name on it)... And, for something with an enormous title like 'The Metal Opera', I had some pretty high expectations going in. Upon the first few listens, I wasn't extremely disappointed, but I also wasn't that blown away.
The first thing that I thought was kind of a let down was that there were so many guest musicians involved on this album, but it didn't really seem like they were given much of an opportunity to throw their ideas into the mix. There are some solid tracks here, but they all have a similar style/feel to them, which makes me think that Sammet held firmly onto the reigns during the song writing process. Is that a fair judgement? Probably not, since it is HIS project. But I felt that it limited the scope a bit...
The most notable guest appearance for me on this album was Rob Rock, especially on the Glory of Rome track. He has an amazing voice, and his performance is superb. He actually invited Tobias Sammet to be a guest vocalist on the closing track of his own 'Holy Hell' album (which is pretty cool).
After I listened to 'The Metal Opera' a few times, it started sounding like the power metal version of a Disney movie soundtrack to me. It's something that I haven't been able to shake off, either. I can see how Sammet wanted to create a massive and magnificent concept album, but the purpose is lost in the exaggerated and turgid theatrics.
The bottom line is that once I got over the whole name and idea behind this album, and just enjoyed it as I would any other power metal album, it became really good. The songs are tight - there is definitely a sense of progression and variety. Sammet is a strong songwriter, and managed to incorporate a lot of different themes and ideas into the tracks. I would certainly recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the genre, and it is probably a real gem for any Edguy fans out there.
on August 31, 2004
If you are a fan of the European power metal scene, then boy, is this album for you! The Avantasia project, formed by none other than Tobias Sammet (Edguy), features some of the most talented members of the European power metal scene and puts them all on one CD. On this, the first of 2 albums by this incredible project, we have the following singers/characters:
Tobias Sammet (Edguy) as Novice Gabriel Laymann
Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween) as Druid Lugaid Vandroiy
David DeFeis (Virgin Steele) as Friar Jakob
Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) as Anna Held
Rob Rock (Warrior) as Bishop Johann Adam Von Bicken
Ralf Zdiarstek (ex-Kane) as Bishop Falk Von Kronberg
Oliver Hartmann (At Vance) as Pope Clements VIII
Andre Matos (ex-Angra, Shaman) as Elderane the Elf
Kai Hansen (ex-Helloween, Gamma Ray) as Regrin the Dwarf
Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius) as the voice in the tower
Overall, though Gabriel has the most lines on the album, all the other characters get to be in at least one song. And now, about the backing band. First off, in addition to playing the lead, Tobias Sammet also provides the orchestration and plays Keyboard and Piano, which shows that he can do more than just sing very well. Guitarist Henjo Richter is in Gamma Ray, his style is really very recognizable, particularly in his solos. Bassist Markus Grosskopf (Helloween) may be the greatest bassist power metal has ever seen. Drummer Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody) is very good at the double bass drumming technique, and is really quite skilled. In addition to these four, there are a few guest musicians. Jens Ludwig (Edguy) supplies additional guitar on tracks "Sign Of The Cross" and "The Tower." There are also a couple of additional musicians I know nothing about. Frank Tischer plays the piano on the song "Inside," which is very reminiscent of Queen. And Norman Meiritz plays acoustic guitar on the one track on which we hear female vocals, "Farewell." Overall, the album is incredible, and the little orchestral interludes really add depth to the album. Highly recommended for fans of all the bands the singers and instrumentalists come from.
on February 28, 2004
If you are expecting a metal "opera" with this release, forget about it. Don't be put down though as this is an enjoyable and bombastic power metal album, with many vocalists and some interesting surprises.
Edguy vocalist Tobias Sammet, created the concept behind this album, wrote the songs and invited musicians Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray/guitars), Markus Grosskopf (Helloween/bass) and Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody Of Fire/drums) to form the Avantasia project.
In addition to the musicians, there are eight different guest vocalists appearing on this album! Andre Matos (ex-Angra), Kai Hansen (ex-Helloween, Gamma Ray), Rob Rock (Impellitteri), David Defeis (Virgin Steele), Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation), Oliver Hartmann (At Vance) and Ralf Zdiarstek. All guests do a good job, but The Metal Opera's biggest surprise is the return of legendary ex-Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske! The charismatic vocalist is a definite highlight and his performances on "The Tower" and "Farewell" are truly awe-inspiring. (On the booklet he is listed under the nickname Ernie)
The songwriting is satisfying and enjoyable but doesn't offer something new to the scene. The songs follow the typical power metal formula and carry influences from both Helloween and Edguy. Thankfully there are some exceptions to that rule, such as some symphonic parts in the double-bass driven opener "Reach Out For The Light", the theatrical "Sign of the Cross" and the atmospheric power ballad "Farewell". The highlights of the album are the aforementioned songs, together with the epic "The Tower" and the catchy self-titled track. There are several bombastic and memorable choruses on offer, but a couple of weaker songs as well. Grosskopf's bass playing is excellent throughout the album. Richter's guitar riffing is great and he occasionally manages to come up with some interesting leads and remarkable guitar solos. Holzwarth uses the typical power metal drumming technique, but achieves to mix things up with some outstanding fills and drum breaks. The story and lyrical theme mainly follows the fantasy-epic direction and involves several different characters, portrayed by the various vocalists.
Although the music on the album is strong and well executed, it is basically European power metal with 80's influences. Another negative aspect is the fact that most of the lead vocals are done by Tobias Sammet, leaving little room for the other performers.
This is a commendable attempt of bringing all these musicians together, in order to create this power metal epic. There are some very strong songs and interesting musical themes that truly shine throughout the album. The Metal Opera at part shines and offers excellent use of vocals, especially by Michael Kiske and Tobias Sammet, but suffers a little from luck of originality. If the guest singers got bigger parts and if there were better choirs and more musical twists on offer, then this could have been regarded as a Metal Opera.
In conclusion, this is surely a power metal album that is worth checking out and an overall strong release, when compared to the generic modern power metal music out there.
(Part II of this project is not worth purchasing, it features only 3 highlights)
(Part II of this project is not worth purchasing, it features only 3 highlights)