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Track Listing
1. The Seven Angels (14:15)
2. No Return (4:28)
3. The Looking Glass (4:48)
4. In Quest For (3:52)
5. The Final Sacrifice (5:00)
6. Neverland (4:57)
7. Anywhere (5:26)
8. Chalice of Agony (6:00)
9. Memory (5:39)
10. Into the Unknown (4:24)

AFM/Painful Lust 2002

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More Releases by Tobias Sammet:
Avantasia - The Metal Opera Pt I (2001)
Edguy - Mandrake (2001)
Edguy - Theatre of Salvation (1999)
Edguy - Vain Glory Opera (1997)
Related Releases (multi vocalist releases):
Beto Vasquez - Infinity (2002)
Missa Mercuria (2002)
Ayreon - The Final Experiment (1997)
Nikolo Kotzev's Nostradamus (2001)


Tobias Sammet recieves nothing but love from me. His unique voice with the slight German accent sets him apart from the rest, for there is truly no one that captures the spirit of Tobi than well, Tobi. He manages to smoke all other relative newcomers to the power metal genre to the point where they seem like apparitions of themselves. He's that good. Range, talent, and a depth that just opens with decadent richness makes every song he sings spring into life with lush vibrance. The mudane is suddenly special just because he's singing it, and his songwriting skills are equally impressive. His main band Edguy has been nothing but hitmakers since they fluttered onto the scene and got it together backed by a bigger production budget with their third disc, the smashing "Vain Glory Opera" and its even more exciting followup "Theatre of Salvation".

The first Avantasia release was met with unabashed delight from power fans across the globe in early 2001 for the genre has dwindled on a fast track to stagnation since all the third rate Hammerfall knockoffs came out of the box and infested the scene like a pox on the genre. A mixture of top of the line vocalists showed up to help out with the theatrical opera-like atmosphere. The only blemish on the otherwise spotless piece of powered excellence was the fact the vocalists all tried to sound like Tobias (with the notable and obvious exception of David DeFeis and Sharon Den Adel). Later that year came a full length Edguy disc, "Mandrake", and despite raves (myself included) in retrospect it just didn't cut it as the same kind of delictable classic as Tobi's benchmark, "Theatre of Salvation". All roads lead to an artist's shining moment of glory thus everything Sammet's attempted since has circled back around to the inevitable "Salvation" comparision. "Mandrake" was just too simplistic and straightforward to not be crushed under the sizable weight of "Salvation" and many feared he had simply stretched himself too thin. One can only be so prolific before the inspiration fades out and begin affecting the written material.

"Avantasia: The Metal Opera Part II" may very well have enough fantastic elements to knock the former champion off its throne. Stuffed with complex arrangements, sweeping Savatage-ish pompous theatrics that thrill the soul to its metal core, glorious nods to vast medieval epics, and thunderously explosive examples of speed metal's finest...Tobias has compacted it all into one blazing album of terrible beauty and tragic wonder. Many will be blown away by its massive scope and careful attention to detail. From start to finish the disc is a treasure box, you never know what rare piece you will discover next that will dazzle your senses and stun your eardrums. Magnificence that stands unparalleled in the genre today.

What a mixed party we have here, its almost like the gathering of an AD&D campaign. Religious figures, the standard fantastic races and even a talking (err singing) tree. Kudos go to Tobi for the clever casting. Kai Hansen's gruff aggressive voice is perfectly suited to his character with his dwarfish nature and Andre Matos, flying solo and free from his ex-band Brazil's beloved Angra, carries the higher pitch tone and passive elegance of a tree hugging elf. David DeFeis is as commanding as always, standing apart from the crowd with his booming pipes and their not-so subtle inflections of power. Michael Kiske reprises his spot as the druid, this time recieving proper billing after the 'mysterious' appearance on The Metal Opera Pt. I last year. He doesn't make too many appearances outside his Christian solo works but still earns points for mass appeal simply for being such a huge part of Helloween in their 80s glory days. Luckily his voice is still intact as well. The other singers include Ralf Zdiarstek, Oliver Hartmann, the ever lovable Rob Rock who is probably still floating on cloud 9 after his successful solo outing a year or two back, the under utilized Within Temptation beauty, Sharon Den Adel who's light and feathery voice should have been showcased more often, and finally a genius new addition for the grand finale of this fairy tale opera, Bob Catley. Bob Cat plays the Tree of Knowledge and manages to sound both worldly, wizened and glowing with supressed power. The man is a vocal marvel and the distinct voice is truly a diamond amongst the gems of the all star cast. With such a glut of people packed into one ten song release, there's not much time for excessive showboating (other than Tobias, he's doesn't miss a song). Ten people, ten songs, you do the math. Seven people have been shoved into the opening epic alone. Which is not a bad thing at all, it only leaves one wishing that there were more singers teaming up to play off of each other. The fourteen minute opener does a decent job of this, but the others are basically Tobias, and whoever happens to be tacked on that particular track along with him. Which realistically, despite all the fanlike fawning and sparkle heart love heaped on the disc, is a problem in the land of Avantasia. With such a gaggle of great musicians and vocalists assembled, their talents are more often than not, sadly underused. A shame really, for having so many unique voices involved in one project could have been mindblowing. Sharon's role was whittled down to nothing more than a brief cameo, but Tobi is in every song. A little egotistical perhaps, but then again this is his project and being AFM's premier artist (and top seller), I'm sure the record company didn't quibble with him. It is his album, a vehicle to spread the gospel of the greatness of Tobi. He's the star, and this is not a problem because he's a delightful singer and personality, and hearing him outside of his main band Edguy is a treat indeed.

Then there's the problem with the story itself. Avantasia is your standard Dungeons and Dragons crossed with Tolkien's Middle Earth type fare with a dreamworking loop thrown in. Every element that makes a good generic fantasy story, from varied takes on the human race such as elves and dwarves to the damsel in distress.


01.] "The Seven Angels"
Staggering. The composition and scope of this is absolutely surprising, even when its well known that Tobias is a certain new master of the progressing power epic, hefted up to the pedestal on the strength of his Edguy offerings and Avantasia's Chapter One opening. Throughout fourteen minutes and some change the open minded listener will experience none other than the rare and precious state of metal bliss. Starting carefully slow, almost to the point of enducing pain and building from there, they begin switching through a kaliedscope of voices and sounds, changing times frequently from a gigantic epic feel a'la the title track from Edguy's "Theatre of Salvation" to slow Meat Loaf-ish moments, to periods of pure hybrid power/progressiveness. Hook after hook is presented, herding the listener with breakneck speed from one groove to another, on a whirlwind journey across the seven outstanding periods of the song. Axeman Timo Tolkki's lead guitar antics often blends in with the song but there are a few moments that border on neo-classical type shredding brilliance where his true talents that have been honed to a fine edge in Stratovarius, are permitted to be unleashed.  The quiet moments of instrumental medieval faire majesty allow a midpoint breather from the on the edge of your seat theatrics the song races through, but with silky smooth transitions intact. David DeFeis steals the show around the four minute mark with his biting voice that sizzles with pure fury. If only he was allowed to sing a bit longer! It leaves one starving for more, and brings us to a valid point of comparision between Part I and Part II. The seperation between vocal styles is much more prominent than on the previous Avantasia outing, adding another level of delight to the proceedings. And who can deny the addictiveness of the distraughtfully lines of relief filled ectasy, "Holy Lord its OVER!" from around the beginning, or the blossoming choral parts that serve as the bridge between the reflective instrumental area in the song's softer middle and the dizzying electric guitar solo that comes directly afterward. Then there's Tobias' vocal emotional breakdown that wraps around either side of the already mentioned nod to Meat Loaf and his "I'd Do Anything For Love". Kai Hansen and Andre Matos also deliver their fare share of vocal sensitivity and beauty on the song's Zak Steven's era Savatage-like closure. It steals your soul and shatters your breath away with its ever changing layers of peeks into heaven-like paradise, both sides, the powerful glory and the ethereal magnificence...

02.] "No Return"
The first sprinting racehorse type track of the album, an enduring piece that conjures dreams of Helloween in more ways than one.  First off, Michael Kiske is on board after warming up a little during the "The Seven Angels" extravaganza, that's an instant likening to Helloween right there, having their legendary ex-vocalist bringing his voice to the table.  Also tossed into the mix is Andre Matos, the high pitched Angra elf which guarantees a screech fest, since both of these fellows have the range to really belt their parts with rock solid high octave success.  Good stuff overall that prepares the listener for the next track which is sure to blow you away...       

03.] "The Looking Glass"
...by taking a more melodic direction, the drums may be pure power fare but the choruses are jaw droppingly majestic. To sum this ditty up, its AbFab: absolutely fabulous! Bob Catley and Tobias singing together just proves that...dreams do come true! The contrast between their vocal flavours is perfect and not a teamup that was ever really expected. The contrasts here between the fresh vibrant youth and the talented smooth voiced veteran are not so extreme that its jarring, but not so similiar that they blend together either. They are pepper and salt, sugar and spice, the kind of complimenting mixture that has the sense that they just belong. It fits together like a glorious piece of puzzle that had fallen between the cracks.  What a terrific feeling and atmosphere to draw inspiration from, and the melody rich music suits the magnificence and wonder the song easily projects.  And the first time I heard Catley sweep in it drove me to tears, the beauty and emotional twist was just that overwhelming. But the showcase of the tune is the sweeping chorus itself, packed to the brink of exploding with bursting melody and flowing ease.

04.] "In Quest For"
The second and sadly, last time Catley is heard on Avantasia is in this ballad-esque song that has its bard-like qualities and a sense that the journey must go on. Which unfortunately the theme is beaten over the head with the too often repeated chorus that sees Bob going on to Gabriel (uhm, Tobias): "your quest is your purpose"... over and over again. Well composed overall with hints of breathtaking instrumentation and emotional subtlety, it simply suffers from this one little difficulty that mars the surface of an otherwise beautiful track that has been described as a classic epic ballad of Magnum-esque porportions and pompousness.

05.] "The Final Sacrifice"
"Get ready for the brimstone!" David DeFeis is never content to stand on the sidelines and watch the parade go by, but with his unique and powerful pipes, he doesn't have to. Leaving no doubt about who is in command for this hurricane-like slamming piece, which doubles as perhaps the heaviest slab of metal on the album, the entire thing smokes with aggressive performances by both David and Tobi alike attempting to outdo one another on the vicious scale. Of course DeFeis has the upper hand here, managing to sound adorably wrapped up into sheer anger, each word falling, shredded with burning ire. A suitable compliment to the galloping speedy nature of the composition, only the quite addictive chorus gives a breather, even if on an equal plane with the sleek, honed nature that makes up the meat of the track. If "No Return" was a racehorse, this is a Triple Crown winning thoroughbred.  One of the finer moments of Avantasia and definitely the best straightforward power metal song of the year thanks to the two voices that shove it into near classic status.  Take notes all you power wannabes, they just wrote the book on how to pump out a classic that adheres to the standards but breaks a few rules along the way.  Its so many lightyears superior to all the half-assed Blind Guardian knockoffs, this will urge you to burn your Pandaemonium and Languard discs in the "Final Sacrifice" bonfire.  

06.] "Neverland"
After the delightfully thick bottom ended vicious spewing power workout of "The Final Sacrifice", this keeps the breakneck pacing but throws in some Rob Rock for good measure, who manages to go toe to toe with Sammet without getting lost in the shuffle. He sounds quite a bit different from his solo bit, and doesn't blend in like a chameleon as he did on the first Avantasia outing. Its a screech-off til the end, with some tasteful musical bits thrown in for kicks. Not as attention snapping as some of the prior songs, but it fits like a comfortable worn glove and makes a respectable bridge into the next track...

07.] "Anywhere"
...which is the lovely heartbreaker of the album. Tobias is flying solo lamenting the seperation from his love yet the inner resounding will to go on with the quest despite his feelings and all the odds against him. Ah how heroic! And how touching he can be. Even I, with all my love given to his tender heartbroken cries of lost love from previous albums past such as the startling "The Scarlet Rose" and the quietly resounding "The Sands of Time", had forgotten how wonderful he can be when not belting your more typical power type fare. This all comes to realization during this one point of the song, near its beginning where there is this quiet moment when he's not over emoting. The music is so sparse in this little lush valley of the ballad, it is mostly piano and then his voice, sounding uncharacteristically small and vulnerable, easing across the mostly silent soundscape like a fluttering sorrowful whisper like a drop of blood shed from the bleeding wings of a dove that just rips everything apart, gripping the heart and squeezing with a painfully depressive force. Its as if his entire being is is uncovered and unobscured for this one raw glimpse right to the core of the soul and the center of emotion. Perhaps an afterthought but so much is revealed in the time's blink of one line that the remainder of the song... no matter how epically or dramatically structured, built to drain the listener and sink them down into this well of sadness... pales drastically to that one shining moment when the world is shown upon such delicate fallen wings, feathers spread from the loss of life and desperation of parting.

08.] "Chalice of Agony"
More tales from the side of thunder, this one sports a lightning spiced spiffy chorus that sparkles rather brightly with all sorts of little flourishes and of course the return appearance of both Andre Matos  in his third pop up as Elderane the elf and Kai Hansen as the gravel flecked sounding Regrin the dwarf. Unfortunately they are both underutilized and with some tweaking to the script and songs themselves it could have been a smasher but instead they both play their parts respectably which were written far too small with not enough room to breathe for either one of them. Andre has a lovely voice and Kai... well... he *can* sing, and fits the part amazingly well (I can't imagine too many dwarves would be four octave opera type singers) but he's not exactly gifted with the range of some of these other belters. "Chalice" sizzles despite the talent being underplayed as a cooly concocted slice of metal on the power side, theatrics intact.

09.] "Memory"
A finely honed track that uncovers quite a few surprises... mainly the sheer delight waiting to be found in vocalist Ralf Zdiarstek who hands over a showstopping performance as the bailiff Falk.  The guitars saunter in with grit and spice, an excerise in contained fury that sizzles along waiting for the spark to ignite them into a towering inferno of flame.  Ralf then bursts upon the scene, the anger can be heard just rippling within his voice which is on the lower side of things, a sharp jagged edge roar, biting off some words with a temper flare most vile.  Then without warning he races up the scale, insantly combusting into a high pitched screech of Halford-ish porportions.  The song itself packs a wallop with verses that are a cool cross between "Methods to Madness" Obsession and Banshee's more Iron Maiden mimicking moments.  Toss in a barbarian chorus that is pure pompous Edguy at their heftiest finest and you have one recipe for success. But wait, there's more... just when the listener is settled down and thinks he has everything figured out, the band unleashes a little something different right in the midst of the full fledged chaos.  A trip induced section that takes a page out of the book of 70's substance enhanced progressive psychedlica a'la the most obvious acid washed performers, Pink Floyd.  Its unique, strange and comes completely without fair warning.  Its the kind of thing that turns the average into the mindbendingly memorable. Awesome stuff indeed! 

10.] "Into the Unknown"
All the star musicians turn out for the finale including Stratovarius stringer Timo Tolkki, ex-KISSer skin pounder Eric Singer, rhythm guitarist Norman Meiritz, and of course Tobi himself plucking the bass.  Sharon Den Adel is in the vocal guest spot for her sole appearance on Avantasia, reprising her role as the object of affection, Anna Held, her voice as femininely rich and rounding as ever, but unfortunately she's been chained to only the soft fluttery string filled opening that has its heart in the classical theatrical essence of opera.  This is swept away as the curtains open to reveal the actual nature of the song. That style being pure 100% Edguy, unaltered and in perfect form.  The chorus is to die for, soaring to heavenly heights and weaving its spellbinding magic as it mines the substance of dreams with what is now one of my favorite lyrical bits from the cd:  "Dreamers come and go, but dreams are forever."   This leaves some nagging doubt about whether this is really the end of the Avantasia saga.  Originally it was scheduled to be only two discs but yet there is a world more that could be done with the storyline and the characters and I suppose time will tell if Tobi wants to pursue juggling another concept album set as a follow up chapter in his own personal fantasy world.  Not too many individuals have had the opportunity to write and star in their own land of make believe with this kind of control over the project's outcome, so I can imagine the temptation would be great for Sammet to revisit his dreamy creation.    


While it may not be quite on the level of 'masterpiece', and a few minor problems marring what could have been a slice of pure perfection, Avantasia "The Metal Opera Pt II" still stands as the greatest power metal release of 2002 thus far.  Maybe the best since the first Avantasia disc debuted in 2001.  In a genre that is quickly stagnating and being smothered to a premature death by bands flooding the airwaves in continous pathetic attempts to halfheartedly duplicate the handful of bands that have unique styles, Tobias' project is a breath of fresh air with its mammoth scope, inspired atmospheres, and with its star studded cast -  its a relative who's who of the genre.  This disc is packed with everything one would want or dream of from a power release, Helloween-esque speed tracks, grand songs based around a melodic core, delicate dreamyhearted ballads, the superb epic opener, and a wonderful cast of musicians.  The production is solid, the song writing perhaps a little typical at times but bursting with the melody of life, and the performances are all one could hope for.  If power is your cup of tea and you are disillusioned by the state of rock, then this is tailor made for you...

Songs - 9.0, Performance - 9.7, Production - 9.0, Lyrics - 8.5

Hot Spots: "The Seven Angels", "The Looking Glass", "The Final Sacrifice"
Bottom Line: The second and final part of the Avantasia saga that doubles as the best power metal release thus far of 2002.

Review by Alanna Evans -

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