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Avantasia - "The Metal Opera-Part II"
AFM records 2002

Mr. Tobias Sammet of Edguy is one of many enthusiastic people who still think that old Helloween deserves at least two homage if not more. I think that it would be better to leave them in their early grave as they have became a target of many unworthy plagiators who do not care about ruining their image. But Sammet's metal opera is a different thing. He is one of few men who are doing a good job in new wave of German Metal. The first part of this metal opus received many good critics from metal magazines which agreed that this was finally a worthy successor to Helloween's legendary Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Part I. So, is the other part of this metal story as good as the previous one? The answer is so simple if I remind you that it has got the same all star squad as Part One. Along with Tobias there are once again such names on vocals as Michael Kiske (solo, ex-Helloween,), Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, ex-Helloween, ex-Iron Savior), David DeFeis (Virgin Steele), Andre Matos (Shaman, ex-Angra), Rob Rock (solo, Warrior, ex-Impelliterri, solo) and more. A new face is Bob Catley (Magnum) as Tree Of Knowledge. If that is not enough to prove you how powerful music comes from such vocal lines then watch out also for the list of instrumentalists. The main members are Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray) on guitars, Markus Grosskopf (Helloween) on bass guitar, Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody) on drums and of course Tobias Sammet (Edguy) on leadvocals and keyboards. All are known as important members of German Power Metal scene. Some solos are also played by guitar maestro Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius).

What should a dedicated fan of Power Metal expect if not perfection in every way of the genre. They sound very familiar to old Helloween, but also to the other bands of this all star squad. The only problem on the first record was the similarity of Sammet, Kiske and Matos vocals. Now this thing is solved, maybe because there are less vocal combinations than before. If you have Henjo on guitar, expect metal at its best. A lot of picking, monumental riffs and original solos. Maybe they are very close to his doing with Gamma Ray, but they have their own way as he is not the only guitarist here. A lot of influences are from old powerhouses and also from new, especially Edguy I would say. What is important when comparing to the first record is that songs are more variable now than before. They are also more heavy, especially "The Final Sacrifice", where DeFeis with his barbaric-romantic vocal comes to his big moment. "Memory" is also one of those songs that represent the difference between the first and second record. Catley also deserves a price for adding some refreshment with his original vocal line. Sure, as I said all this is nothing new but it is still the best try to seize the excitement of the old Helloween (after all, there are both, Ernie and Kai, in Avantasia).

Some words about the whole story - in short: it is a tale about a young novice Gabriel, who was searching for the truth of his life. He thought that church was the right opinion. So he respected the inquisition and believed in witchcraft, cause he trusted his teacher, old friar Jacob. One day, when he was sent to dungeon to see the witches, he discovered that among them was also his childhood friend and half-sister Anna. He was shocked, but that was just the beginning. He also discovered that his beloved teacher was reading an old and forbidden book. One night he managed to put his fingers on that book and the next day he was sent to prison for that. There he meet an old druid Lugaid Van Drooy. With his help he escaped and was sent into mystic realm of Avantasia, a spiritual world with elves, dwarves and other fantastic beings. One of them, elf Elderane, told him the sad truth, that dark forces from materialistic world are trying to destroy their peaceful and spiritual existence. If they succeed in their unholy mission, it should also mean the end of all fantasy. For that reason he must stop all three clerics (pope, bishop and friar Jacob) and defeat the beast in the tower, which was also some kind of portal. Gabriel fooled all three clerics and defeated the beast. The evil forces were sent back in our world, where they belong (sadly). He was also sent back into his world. There he finally freed Anna from prison and they escaped to Avantasia, where they happily lived ever after. Not so lame story after all, don't you think that? I think it is a short but good mix of Eccos's The Name Of The Rose and Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings. Nothing particularly new in a long line of Helloween wannabes, but a must for every real Power Metal fan. It is another worthy successor just like the first one to keepers saga, though not my favourite.

Author:   Peter

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