Avantasia

The Metal Opera, Vol. 1

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    8
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An all-star aggregation similar in conception to Ayreon, Avantasia's The Metal Opera naturally spotlights its creator, Tobias Sammet, who wrote all the music and the involved fantasy storyline over the course of a year as a side project from his main gig with the German power metal band Edguy. Though Sammet's vocals play a major role, he recruited some of his power metal contemporaries to sing the parts of different characters in the story, tailoring his casting choices -- elves, dwarves, Druids, and other D&D-type mainstays -- to their vocal ranges. (Oddly, given the themes, there's a bit of a Christian undertone to the lyrics.) It's tempting to say that for a grandiose conceptual project like this, the scope of the ambition is more important (and entertaining) than the actual results. Everything here is painted in such sweeping colors -- the epic song lengths, the heroic themes of the narrative, the bombastic arrangements, even the brief Latin-titled interludes -- that it can be difficult to see how the album could ever achieve the heights it aims for, even if it turns out well. But no matter how over the top things get, it still takes a certain level of craft to pull off something like this convincingly. And in that sense, The Metal Opera delivers the goods. The music is derivative of its influences, but it doesn't really aim to transcend them; it's simply updated classic-style metal, full of memorable riffs, anthemic melodies, and technically accomplished singing and musicianship, and writ large with orchestrations and choral flourishes. Power metal fans generally greeted The Metal Opera as one of the best of the new millennium, and it ranks among the more satisfying listens in its field and time period.

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