After causing quite a stir in the heavy metal community with Avantasia's ambitious, two-album, guest star-packed Metal Opera in the early 2000s, vocalist Tobias Sammet publicly retired the Avantasia name and retreated to the creature comforts of his primary creative outlet, German power metal favorites Edguy. But then a pair of EPs titled Lost in Space, Vols. 1 & 2 emerged in 2007 bearing the Avantasia brand, and it didn't take much longer for Sammet's change of heart to produce yet another full Avantasia album in 2008's The Scarecrow. Though not as thematically intertwined as the preceding operas, The Scarecrow's credits certainly keep with the tradition of bursting at the seams with famous guest musicians (among them Kiss' Eric Singer, Magnum's Bob Catley, Gamma Ray's Kai Hansen, Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske, Amanda Somerville, etc.), and a few more so famous one can hardly believe their participation (the Scorpions' Rudolf Schenker and none other than Alice Cooper). That being said, The Scarecrow is indubitably Sammet's baby, and his songwriting signature dominates Avantasia, even though it affords him with the opportunity to frequently step out from the restrictive power metal umbrella he's carried most of his professional career. Right off the bat, opening song "Twisted Mind" is a traditional, but radio-friendly heavy metal anthem (at least in Europe, where metal is actually heard on the airwaves), and so, seemingly, is the highly palatable ensuing title track, until it evolves into a lengthy atmospheric passage which reveals it for the grandiloquent, eleven-minute epic it actually is. Nevertheless, it's a good epic, and even though none of the subsequent tracks approach its girth, Avantasia scores additional classic metal highlights with "Another Angel Down" (where Jorn Lande really burns the house down), "The Toy Master" (which was obviously written with guest Alice Cooper in mind), and "I Don't Believe in Your Love" (featuring highly regarded free agent singer Oliver Hartmann and guitar contributions from Schenker). Less memorable are The Scarecrow's largely formulaic power metal thrashers ("Shelter from the Rain," "Devil in the Belfry") and power ballads ("Carry Me Over," "Cry Just a Little") -- all of which are unquestionably very competently executed, but…well, either you like these styles or you don't. And try getting any self-respecting metal-head to defend Sammet's schmaltzy duet with Amanda Somerville on the Celine Dion-ready "What Kind of Love" -- it can only lead to hilarity. Oh, and we should mention that the title track from the aforementioned EPs, "Lost in Space," is tacked onto the very end of The Scarecrow, but its AOR-leaning hard rock feels distinctly out of place. At the end of the day, while it's hardly perfect, there's no denying that The Scarecrow really is an immaculately recorded project -- never mind the logistical nightmares that must have been involved -- and for that Avantasia and Sammet both deserve respect.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia