Jon over at Heavy Metal Saloon recently wrote a great review of Avantasia's new album, The Wicked Symphony, which inspired me to do the same.
And, just to say, I am nowhere near as great a CD reviewer as Jon is, so I encourage you to go and read his site, too, because he's bloody brilliant at this stuff!
Now, I really loved The Scarecrow. I love that Alice Cooper is on it, I love the ballad "What Kind of Love," I love the catchiness. I love the album art. But there were some really weak tracks, "Lost in Space" being one of them. As for Tobias Sammet's Metal Opera duology, all I can say about that is painful! The only remotely listenable parts of it to me were the all too short sections where Sharon den Adel contributed her vocals.
Now, The Wicked Symphony is actually part two of a trilogy that started with The Scarecrow, and concludes with Angel of Babylon, which was released at the same time as TWS. I have not listened to Angel of Babylon yet, but I hope to get at it soon. Now that I am aware this is a trilogy, I have to say that the overall concept is a bit lost on me. What am I missing here? Will it become clearer that mud when I listen to Angel of Babylon? I wonder.
My initial reaction to TWS was meh. First of all, it seemed to me to lack the emotion and variety of The Scarecrow, and there is one glaring difference: no female vocals! One of the things I loved about The Scarecrow was Amanda Somerville's contribution in "What Kind of Love." I also felt this had a more commercial, almost generic sound to it than The Scarecrow.
Upon my second listen to TWS, my opinion is changing, only somewhat, to the positive side than the negative. Despite there being no female vocalist guesting here, the album is not without some notable guest vocalists. Klaus Meine of The Scorpions is one of them, and he sounds great with Sammet on "Dying for an Angel," which is one of my favourite tracks so far. Also up there on my favourites list is "Crestfallen," a dark and kind of creepy but heavy song. "Runaway Train" is also a great track. I also like "Black Wings" and "The Edge." The intro to the first track, "The Wicked Symphony," sounds dead ringer for Hans Zimmer, and overall it's a good piece. "Blizzard on a Broken Mirror" has great drive at the beginning, but seems to fall apart for me the farther along it goes. Songs I'm even less stoked on are "Scales of Justice," "States of Matter, and"Forever is a Long Time," which is kind of blah.
So, this is sort of growing on me, but I don't think it's nearly having the impact on me that The Scarecrow had, and I'm a tad bit disappointed. There seem to be a lot more symphonic elements in this release, but they fail to capture my imagination. It's not a bad album at all, but although there are a lot of catchy, dramatic choruses, it's just not gripping me the way The Scarecrow did. We'll see how Angel of Babylon goes.
Horns up or down? I don't know yet. I just don't know. I'm kind of on the fence.