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The Scarecrow

Nuclear Blast (2008)
Rating: 8/10

Avantasia is the side project of Edguy mainman Tobias Sammett. The band (consisting primarily of Sammett and a host of guest musicians, as is the case here as well) recorded two successful albums that were released as The Metal Opera, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 in 2001 and 2002 respectively. Hailed by critics as heirs to Helloween’s Keeper Of The Seven Keys throne, Sammett failed to capitalize on the momentum, leaving the Avantasia project dormant until now. The Scarecrow is Sammett’s latest opus; a million miles from his more recent work with Edguy, yet not entirely unfamiliar.

The guest list for this album is astounding. It includes Sascha Paeth, Eric Singer (Kiss), Roy Khan (Kamelot), Jørn Lande, Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween), Bob Catley (Magnum), Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray), Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray / ex-Helloween), Amanda Somerville, Alice Cooper, Oliver Hartmann (ex-At Vance) and Rudolf Schenker (Scorpions). The review could probably end here as it would take a major ass to even be capable of screwing up an album with so many of rock and metal’s premier artists. The ass is absent thankfully as The Scarecrow turns out exceptionally well.

I wasn’t really a fan of The Metal Opera albums in all truthfulness. I found them to be disjointed and over-indulgent, everything that this album is not. The Scarecrow is a powerhouse of a hard rock album, crossing the line into metal here and there. It is tremendously song oriented, allowing the individual works and the contributors to shine in ways not possible on the previous works. Additionally, the combination of big voiced singers gives the album a constant feel but flavours each track differently enough that you can’t help but get sucked in as each new journey begins.

As you likely suspect, highlights abound on this album. The true killers come as a mid-album triad. First, the soaring ballad ‘What Kind Of Love’ (enhanced greatly by Amanda Somerville’s gorgeous voice) overtakes you slowly but surely. Next, ‘Another Angel Down’ kicks you into high gear and reminds you that this man is also responsible for Edguy as it is the most similar of all the tracks. Closing out the triad is the Alice Cooper-stamped ‘The Toy Master’, an appropriately creepy track that reminds me a lot of Cooper’s intriguing work on the massively underrated The Last Temptation (1994) album. Other highlights include the heavily melodic and Celtic influence of the title track and the radio friendly mid-tempo rocker ‘Lost In Space’.

This album has been quite a pleasant surprise to say the least. Tobias Sammett is on his way to becoming one of the most important figures in hard rock and metal of his generation. Avantasia shows his songwriting prowess in a different light and provides solid evidence that he is far from a one trick pony. If you are greatly looking forward to the next Edguy album I dare offer that Avantasia may just pacify you for a good while. There is a lot to sink your teeth into and wrap your mind around on The Scarecrow, so don’t underestimate it.

Mark Fisher

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