Avantasia: Angel of Babylon

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Avantasia: Angel of Babylon
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Avantasia: Angel of Babylong
Symphonic Power Metal
Nuclear Blast Records
January 11th, 2011
Release length: 58:54
Myspace
Website
Avantasia is the solo project of Tobias Sammet, the voice of the well known and respected Power Metal act, Edguy. He started the band in 2000, and composed a two piece metal opera of the band name, and didn’t return to the Avantasia namesake for about five years, issuing a new single entitled “Lost in Space”, spawning two EPs and a compilation for that one song, followed by another new single and the release of The Scarecrow a year later. Eventually, The Scarecrow became the first part to a trilogy he refers to as “The Wicked Trilogy”, which is also the title of the second album of the trilogy. Originally released alongside Angel of Babylon overseas, the States didn’t see this album until much, much later in 2011. No matter how you look at it, for whatever reasons there were, this delay was pointless, and more then likely hurt the sales of the album, as fans probably imported the album, and those who couldn’t afford it downloaded it illegally, and now are probably not going to go out and buy the domestic release. With all that said, is it even worth getting worked up over this release at this point?

Sadly, much of the novelty factor of the two albums being released side by side to close out the trilogy, which probably was never actually meant to be a trilogy, has been lost, and was more then likely why many Avantasia fans picked up this release. But, while the novelty factor was a nice touch, the album is about what you would expect, especially if you had heard The Scarecrow. Tobias manages to keep the album within the general musical outline of that album, as well as The Wicked Symphony, and for the most part it continues the story along nicely. But, the main issue with this release still stands: It sounds like a more epic-designed Edguy, and it really hurts because it’s just nothing all that new. While it feels like it’s meant to be a more epic sound in comparison, the music doesn’t even have that epic a feel to it, and while it’s often good, just sounds pretty generic. The main saving grace are the guest vocals that appear throughout the recording, as well as Tobias Sammet’s own over-the-top vocals, as well as a few out of the originary moments.

The perfect example is the song “Death is Just a Feeling”, which features former Savatage mastermind Jon Oliva in a good chunk of the song, and the music just sounds insanely twisted. This rather demented track really makesw the song sound more epic and like what a true metal opera should sound like. The man also has the ability to just sound really creepy when needed in his performances, and he does that perfectly here, and really steals the show. The music even changes from the traditional Power Metal feels to rub off on the listener like it’s a brand new Jon Oliva’s Pain track with Tobias Sammet being the guest vocalist. Outside this shining gem, there are other vocal appearances that sound great, such as Jorn Lande and russell Allen, though Russell only appears on “Stargazers” momentarily and really sounds powerful, stealing the spotlight away from Sammet a bit. The guest musicians on here, such as Jens Johansson and Oliver Hartmann, also really make a nice impact and are often the main reasons why the music has the more epic sound to it, which takes away from the over-the-top type of musical performance that is common with Avantasia, and feels really lacking on this release.

While some of the material on this release does come off as a little generic and nothing new thanks to it’s Edguy similarities, there’s no denying there are still some solid tracks that are very catchy. “Rat Race” is more along the lines of a Hard Rock song mixed nicely with Sammet’s traditional Power Metal compositions, and it sounds great, being very upbeat with a nice tempo, great guitar hooks, well paced drumming, and vocals that suit all of this without going over-the-top at all, working together to make the track very infectious. “Blowing Out the Flame” is a nice ballad piece too that has an atmosphere set up by the piano, but the crystal clear digital quality of the recording seems to take away some of the impact that the other instruments give the recording and make that atmosphere very thin. Other then that drawback, it’s another song that doesn’t go over-the-top, and actually feels beautiful in many ways, aided nicely by the female background supporting vocals that add a little more power to the performance. The following track “Symphony of Life” is another dark song like “Death is Just a Feeling”, though not as twisted, and again has a different vocalist throughout the whole thing, replacing Tobias Sammet completely. Yet again, the music on this track is fantastic and stands out nicely, especially the more Operatic style vocals that sound beautiful closer to the end of the song, being a very strong performance by the female singer named Cloudy Yang.

And yes, it’s a little odd that the songs without a heavy input vocally from Tobias are the songs that really stand out, and that’s because the material on these tracks are typically a lot darker and seem to step away from the story line’s character that he plays. For him, the music often comes across as ambitious and often light hearted, exploratory in a sense, and that’s the whole point of the album. This is the conclusion of a trilogy about a writer trying to discover himself pretty much, so those songs are meant to be that way. The problem is that the crystal clear production often hinders the album and it’s bite, which is why some of these songs feel a little more bland then anything, though that blandness isn’t helped any by some of the more stereotypical music on here. “Your Love is Evil” is a nice song that shows the talents of Sammet and the actual members of Avantasia nicely, and as said, “Rat Race” is an infectiously catchy song. “Alone I Remember” is another good song that again braces a more Hard Rock feeling with some slightly southern sounding riffs here and there, but it’s just the right mixture of an over-the-top sound, guest vocalist, and just well done solid Rock meets Metal.

The biggest gripe of the album is that it never really reaches a proper climax. The album carries the same momentum throughout from start to finish with two songs that just feel darker, and that’s it. For a conceptual piece, there’s no real climactic ending that leaves the listener feeling complete. Sure, “Journey to Arcadia” has the typical epic build up final song to a musical, but even musicals have a climactic point where everything builds up and then reaches a resolution before the farewell epic song begins. This doesn’t have it, and instead just slams into that very same epic conclusion track that actually just comes off as part of the journey experienced throughout the release, leaving the feeling that there may very well be a fourth part to this in the end, even though it’s meant to be the closing release to the trilogy.

In the end, Angel of Babylon is a decent album, but fails to deliver all that is expected of a closing chapter. The music seems to typically just go nowhere, but rather stays in place for much of the release, and the closing song isn’t even all that impressive. It’s sad to say, but true. It’s obvious this album does take inspirations from various Rock Opera’s throughout the course of the recording, as there are plenty of Rock moments throughout that seem to really work in favor of the release, but the production quality and tamer music mixed with over-the-top vocals just really leaves the material sounding rather bland. Hopefully this is the last part of the trilogy, and there really won’t be a final part, as the music on this release is far less genuinely epic and catchy as the first, The Scarecrow, and that’s not how the climax of a saga is supposed to be. In the end, for the States, it just was not worth the wait at all, though for those like myself who didn’t import or bootleg this album, it was nice to finally hear it come to an end.

01. Stargazers – 9:33
02. Angel of Babylon – 5:29
03. Your Love is Evil – 3:53
04. Death is Just a Feeling – 5:21
05. Rat Race – 4:07
06. Down in the Dark – 4:23
07. Blowing Out the Flame – 4:51
08. Symphony of Life – 4:30
09. Alone I Remember – 4:48
10. Promised Land – 4:47
11. Journey To Arcadia – 7:12
Overall Score: 7/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.