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Tobias Sammet's Avantasia: The Scarecrow
Melodic Rock/Metal
Rating: 5.0/5.0

I'm a huge fan of Tobias Sammet ever since discovering Edguy many years ago. He and Edguy are the single most influential reason I rediscovered melodic metal that I thought was lost and gone since the early nineties. Mr. Sammet, besides being a top vocalist, is a keen composer of melodic metal bar none. Additionally, when he pursues his solo project Avantasia, he surrounds himself with some of the most gifted musicians in the genre. (More about that as we take a look at the songs.) We had a foretaste of what was coming on 'The Scarecrow' from last fall's 'Lost In Space, Parts I and II. 'The Scarecrow' is by far his best Avantasia project, far exceeding 'The Metal Operas Part I and II. Undeniably, Tobi is at the top of his game!

Some have noted that this is not an epic story like his previous releases. I don't think it was intended to be. The contiuity is in the style not necessarily the substance of the lyrics. Each song easily stands on its own. (And forgive me in advance for commenting on each song; this work deserves the attention.)

'Twisted Mind' begins a thoroughly enjoyable tour de force of melodic metal filled with strong vocals, brilliant arrangements, elevating guitar riffs, and a secure rhythm section. Tobi is joined by Roy Kahn (Kamelot) on vocals and Sascha Paeth (Angra, Shaaman, Rhapsody, Kamelot, After Forever, et al) on guitar on this number and they work beautifully together. The title track is one of the best songs on the album, filled with great vocal harmonies and arrangement twists. Sammet performs with Jorn Lande on vocals; Mr. Lande has never sounded better, smooth at the outset and then incredibly intense towards the end. Paeth again provides the guitar work. Michael Kiske, vocals, (Helloween), Henjo Richter, guitar (GammaRay), and Kai Hansen, guitar (Helloween, Gamma Ray) perform on 'Shelter From The Rain,' a blistering power metal number. Their enthusiasm and strength is amazing. On 'Carry Me Over' it's all Tobi Sammet on vocals, a short number nearer to melodic hard rock ballad, then metal; again Sascha Paeth appears on guitar.

As we near the midpoint, we are blessed by the vocals of singer, vocal coach, producer and choir conductor Amanda Somerville (Epica, After Forever, Edguy, Kamelot, Rhapsody, Aina and many more) on 'What Kind Of Love.' If that is not enough Kiske also returns on vocals. This a beautiful ballad of epic proportions. Ms. Somerville soothes and soars with all the skills and talent she posesses. 'Another Angel Down' appeared on 'Lost In Space, Part I.' This a hard rock/metal number that has some distinctively Edguy keyboard nuances. Jorn Lande rages again on vocals; these guys are so good together. Paeth and Richter supply the guitar work displaying once again their perception and acumen. What follows, 'The Toy Master,' is probably my favorite track for one very good reason: Alice Cooper on vocals. He doesn't quite fit in with the rest of this generally European crew, yet this song is perfect for him. It's strong, exuberant, and devilishly mysterious: all the qualities of a traditional Cooper composition. Mr. Cooper proves that he still a force to be reckoned with both in the studio and on the links. Sascha Paeth exceeds himself on guitar; his best licks on the entire album. Drummer Eric Singer (Kiss), who appears throughout, never sounded stronger.

Approaching the end, the music gets even better. 'Devil In The Belfry' has Tobias Sammet written all over it in lyric and arrangement. Lande and Richter reappear with extraordinary results. However, it's Sammet who steals the show; his vocals are as forceful and inspired as the music is strong and agressive. 'Cry Just A Little' brings in Bob Cately (Magnum) to assist on vocals. This a first class ballad laced with piano, phenomenal vocal harmonies, and a stirring, if not unusual, guitar solo from Paeth. Oliver Hartmann (At Vance, Edguy, Rhapsody, Helloween, Freedom Call) and Rudolf Schenker (Scorpions), fill out 'I Don't Believe In Your Love,' on vocals and guitars, respectively. This is essentially a melodic hard rock tune with a subtle metal edge. Again, Sammet has found a kindred spirit in Hartmann, a great match. Schenker simply kicks ass with his powerful guitar licks. The finale is 'Lost In Space,' heard previously on the EPs of the Fall. Ms. Somerville again inspires with her elegant vocals. The song is classic Tobias Sammet. You can do much better than this.

Tobias Sammet has done it again. 'The Scarecrow' is simply a brilliant work of melodic rock and metal. Compliments to his song composition and his ability to surround himself with the best of the best. Now I wonder what we can expect from the next Edguy release. Highly recommended!
  - Craig Hartranft

In Short

Tobias Sammet returns with his solo project Avantasia, a work of brilliance and quality. Actually, it's his best work ever. Again he surrounds himself with the an allstar cast to produce some of the finest melodic rock and metal going these days.

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