Avantasia – The Metal Opera Pt. II

     Out of the two Metal Opera releases by Avantasia, Part II starts off strong and continues throughout. I can understand the shakiness of the first album; you’re trying to get a story started and ideas are racing around your head, the excitement of the moment. Whereas Part I was built around story, Part II finds Avantasia more relaxed and knowing which direction they are trying to take this thing musically. In other words, the music becomes a central part to the vocals and lyrics.
     The inlay card of Part I had the story entire (well, almost). It reads like a first draft but again, the lyrics might be what a character is thinking or a part left out in the written story. Part II has no story written out for you. Instead it is just music and lyrics.

     Part II begins with the nearly fifteen minute long epic, The Seven Angels. If one needed to be introduced to Avantasia and/or Tobias Sammat, this is the song to do it with in my opinion. It has a bit of everything in it. Choir vocals, majestic symphonic sounds, booming drums, shredding guitar leads, melodic guitar leads (Timmo Tolki is off the fuckin’ chain), ambiant whispers, a piano solo (a bridge actually), eight seperate lead vocalists, and one hell of a catchy chorus.
     Like The Seven Angel’s, the music continues in a more PowerMetal vein with only three slower songs (Tobias seems to like to temper the PowerMetal with PowerBallads. He does this in Edguy‘s releases too).
     Tobias is joined on a couple songs by fellow Edguydian (I think I just made up a word!) Jens Ludwig, whose guitar lead on The Final Sacrifice is dirty and powerful and fits nicely with David Defeis‘ very Metal vocal delivery.

     The lineup is close to the same as on The Metal Opera Pt. I with a few exceptions:
Eric Singer – (Kiss, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper) drums on Into The Unknown
Tobias Sammat – (Edguy) Bass on Into The Unknown
Jens Ludwig (Edguy) Guitars on The Final Sacrifice and Memory
Timo Tolkki (ex-Stratovarius, ex-Revolution Renaissance, Symfonia) lead guitar on The seven Angels (2nd lead break) and Into The Unknown 
Michael Kiske – (ex-Helloween, ex-Place Vendome, Unisonic
) is no longer known only as “Ernie” but uses his real name.

Track listing for The Metal Opera Pt. II:
01: The Seven Angels
02: No Return
03: The Looking Glass
04: In Quest For
05: The Final Sacrifice
06: Neverland
07: Anywhere
08: Chalice Of Agony
09: Memory
10: Into The Unknown

     Together the albums make up an epic, fantastical story that mixes fantasy with reality. Avantasia has released three albums since The Metal Opera‘s and all are great, but, vision-wise, the original releases are nothing short of musical magic.
     There have been two small tours by the band The Scarecrow World Tour (The Scarecrow trilogy) in 2008 and The Metal Opera Comes To Town Tour 2010, however, none of the releases have been done in their entirety.

     Right after this release, Edguy released Hellfire Club. The opening song on Hellfire Club, titled Mysteria, has lyrics that are reminiscent of Avantasia‘s Metal Opera storyline. The song has always seemed to me to have been written for Avantasia but some of the lyrics got in the way.


Edguy – Rocket Ride

     Rocket Ride is a good example of a band having fun with music and damn what anyone but them think. There are two songs that delve back into their PowerMetal past but aside from that this album is straight out rock and hard rock.
     Edguy has never been a band that bent to what fans wanted. The have always put out releases and hoped you liked them as much as they did. If not, oh well, maybe next time. Rocket Ride is this sort of album tenfold.
     There are ultra-cheesy lyrics that are not meant to be taken seriously, some of the goofiest voice effects used in Metal, keyboard sounds that were new to the ears in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and one of the sappiest ballad’s ever written. But, it sounded fresh to the ears because no-one was doing music like this anymore. Some fans detested the album and some loved the daringness of it. Whatever the case is, it is still well written music fined tuned with the ears of a band that can write and compose as good as, and better than, most.

     Edguy has always struck me as a band that would have been huge had they been around in the 1980’s. There music, while even when trying for a darker sound, is fairly upbeat. Like fellow German rockers, Scorpions, Edguy has an Americanized sound. Even their earlier PowerMetal releases had this element underlying within the music.
     Their are PowerMetal fans who like nothing but PowerMetal. Any straying from the distinct sound is reason enough to ex-communicate themselves from the band and decry them as sellouts – but true Edguy fans know that Edguy are not sellouts. Hell, they didn’t even buy in. What they are is a group of guys who like their music to be fun and they want you to have fun listening to it. Then again, Within Temptation has dramatically changed their sound too and people are loving it. So why not give Edguy credit for having the cajones to alienate their fans rather than making Mandrake part II.

     As far as Rocket Ride is concerned… Yeah, it’s ultra cheesy at times and there is nothing, musically, new being done here either, but give it a chance to grow on you. If anything, put it on at a party and just let go and have a damn good time.

Track listing for Rocket Ride:
01: Sacrifice
02: Rocket Ride
03: Wasted Time
04: Matrix
05: Return To The Tribe
06: The Asylum
07: Save Me
08: Catch Of The Century
09: Out Of Vogue
10: Superheroes
11: Trinidad
12: Fucking With Fire (Hair Force One)
13: Land Of The Miracle (Live in Brazil)*

* limited edition bonus track on all releases

Edguy – Hellfire Club

Hellfire Club is the beginning of Edguy’s turn from the PowerMetal realm to a more hard rock/pop metal sound. Upon hearing the album’s opening song you would not believe this, but please, continue listening…

Hellfire Club is not a bad album, it is, actually, a very consistant album. 
   Tobias Sammat, vocals and chief songwriter of the band had just come from writing and recording three PowerMetal albums back to back: 2001’s Edguy: Mandrake and his side project Avantasia: The Metal Opera and 2002’s Avantasia: The Metal Opera Part II. Plus, before all this, the band re-recorded their first album (demo) Savage Poetry (retitled: The Savage Poetry) in 2000 and did summer festival shows in support of it.
   Hellfire Club was released in 2004 and, if you haven’t guessed already, was written right after Tobias’s four albums in three years, PowerMetal extravaganza or purging, if you will. The direction could not be anything but different from what everyone expected Edguy to do.

Although not too different, there was still the double bass kicking and mini-epic songs on the album, many of the shorter duration songs were metal in sound yet contained a more accessible, sometimes pop-metal tinged sound. The lyrics, however, became more terse which clashed nicely with the 80’s metal sound. When they lyrics weren’t to-the-point they were humor laden raunch – Another homage to the 1980’s metal sound. I should mention the ballad, Forever, straight out sappy lyrics; 80’s all the way.

Track Listing:
01: Mysteria
02: The Piper Never Dies
03: We Don’t Need A Hero
04: Down To The Devil
05: King Of Fools
06: Forever
07: Under The Moon
08: Lavatory Love Machine
09: Rise Of The Morning Glory
10: Lucifer In Love
11: Navigator
12: The Spirit Will Remain
13: Children Of Steel
14: Mysteria (w/ Mille Pettrozza from Kreator)

Love ’em or hate ’em, Edguy is a band that knows how to put a song together and can play many different styles of music. They do not change with what is popular at the moment. They do not bow down before critics and write their music with hopes their fans will like it, if the fans do not – six in one hand, half-a-dozen in the other.

Anger Vs. Balance

There has been angry music around since the 1960’s Vietnam War era. There is nothing wrong with music that is angry. It is expression of an intense emotion that can overwhelm if kept bottled up inside a person; it is better to get it out through music than to take it out on another person.

When I was younger I was angry in a way that went beyond the “anger of youth”. Just so many things happened in my life that I kept my feelings and emotions inside to fester into rage. It wasn’t until just over a decade of years ago that I realized had to stop being angry all the time. Call it growing up or whatever but I came to the conclusion that there were a significant number of petty things I did that made me angry, or, at least, kept me simmering below the surface.
At the same time I discovered poetry, melody, and harmony again through a band that in the 1980’s was known as Savatage and went on to become Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) in the 1990’s. The “NEW” sub-genre of Heavy Metal became known as “Symphonic Metal” in that the band recorded with either a keyboard player using the synth to replicate orchestra instruments and create a symphony or they recorded using a real orchestra. TSO does both. It didn’t matter that it was Christmas music, I listened to it whenever the mood struck me. It was a respite from the angst ridden music that permeated the “Metal” radio stations.
I do not dislike the “Nu-Metal” bands. I will be going to see Korn, Disturbed, Sevendust, Stillwell, and In This Moment when they play here in Missoula, and I am going to see Cradle Of Filth on the Creatures From The Black Abyss tour in Spokane, Washington. But like the Nine Inch Nails album “The Downward Spiral” (an extremely intense album musically and lyrically) I find that after a few songs it becomes a bit too much. It is not the intensity overall but the added anger within the music and lyrics. Then again, intensely happy music gets me to the same place. It gets ridiculous after a while.

Every once in a while I can listen to the music I grew up with in the 1980’s. Every couple of years I have to sit back and have a “Mighty Maiden Moment” where I will listen to every song Iron Maiden has recorded and then I’m good for another two years. I only listen to Too Fast For Love and Shout At The Devil by The Crue. Rarely listen to Ozzy. Hear Slayer once in a while but don’t really listen… Unlike the people I grew-up with, I don’t listen to that music but on rare occasions. I respect those bands; they’re still recording and touring and more power to them for it. My tastes have changed.
One of the last CD’s I purchased was Pachelbel “Kanon in D” and other composers of the Baroque Period (Bach, Handel, Vivaldi). At the same instance I purchased Kamelot “Poetry For The Poisoned” and, because I wore out the last copy, another CD of Tarja Turunen’s (Tarja) “My Winter Storm”. I own CD’s from many genre’s including Dan Reed Network, Cradle Of Filth, Angelspit, and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult – that’s funky rock metal, gothic black? metal, CyberIndustialPunk, and, well, the Thrill Kill Kult is what they is (hard to place them within a genre). I listen to Johnny Cash and Dwight Yoakum, am a fan of Christina Aguilera’s vocal prowess, can listen to “Ode To Joy” and never tire of it (Beethoven composed that). I have a wide range of musical taste.

The bands I will be focusing on here are those that should, but do not, get the recognition they deserve in the United States.
I saw Edguy perform in Portland, Oregon on the Rocket Ride World Tour. Here is a band that is well-respected and has been voted best live performance many times over in Europe, a band that plays in front of thousands of people at one show yet they cannot get a club that can only hold 250 people to sell out?* Why? Because Mtv hasn’t played music in years and radio in the U.S. ignores them for the next one-hit, or no-hit-wonder Korn-Klone. Clear Channel, your programming is tired and old.

Symphonic Metal and all its subs. The next post I will tell you about Nightwish and maybe review an album or two at the same time or between time.

*At that show there was maybe 25 people and I do mean maybe. I felt bad for them but they continue to return to Portland to play.