Avantasia // Angel of Babylon
Rating: 4.25/5.0 —Excellent (but not as good as TWS)
Label: Nuclear Blast (EU | US)
Websites: tobiassammet.com | myspace.com/tobiassammet
Release Dates: EU: 03.04.2010 | US/CA: 05.04.2010

Tobias Sammet, the voice of Edguy and mastermind behind Avantasia,  clearly doesn’t mess around when it comes to self-confidence and ambition.  Few artists would have the sheer cojones to undertake as daunting of a project as a double album with over 2 hours of music featuring no less than 19 guest musician.  That however is exactly what he serves up with The Wicked Symphony and this album, Angel of Babylon (being Parts II and III of The Scarecrow trilogy respectively).

Both halves of this double album focus on epic, symphonic and bombastic power metal and as you may or may not have noticed, I loved the companion album The Wicked SymphonyAngel of Babylon continues right where Symphony leaves off and gives you yet another whole hour of over- the- top, melodramatic metal goodness.  I will say upfront that this is the weaker of the two albums. However, that difference is minor and Angel is still chock full of amazingly conceived and executed metal anthems loaded with stellar performances by a veritable “who’s who” of the metal universe.

Look no further than the opener, “Stargazers” to see what I mean as Tobias, Jorn Lande, Russell Allen and Michael Kiske join forces to pummel and enthrall with vocal brilliance in a 9 minutes plus masterpiece of pure metal.  What makes this song work over its considerable  length is the way Tobias allows his guest vocalists to share the spotlight with him and showcase their individual vocal prowess. Of course, none of that would matter if the song itself wasn’t worth the talent involved. Fortunately, Tobias brought his best to the composing table and the overall pacing and ebb/flow of this song is perfect.  In fact, it’s over before you realize it, which is the sign of a good song.

From there we get a traditional metal gem in the title track.  This song rocks hard and rides free with a great riff line and epic dueling vocals between Tobias and Jorn Lande, who once again shows why he is considered the “voice of rock.” Quite simply, this man can shake the rafters with his gruff and powerful delivery. The Tobias/Jorn dueling duet formula works even better later on with “Promised Land,” another storming metal anthem  with a no- holds- barred vocal war being waged .

Angel shakes things up and takes more chances  than The Wicked Symphony, especially with “Death is Just a Feeling” where Tobias teams up with Jon Oliva of Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra fame, for a strange, eerie ditty that drifts back and forth between horror movie soundtrack and screaming metal powerhouse.  This song really grows on you and has some great whiskey soaked vocal work by Oliva.  Likewise, “Symphony of Life” provides another twist with its gothic, moody rock style with excellently performed vocals by German rock singer Cloudy Yang (who also provided backing vocals on Edguy’s Tinnitus Sanctus).

The album winds down with “Journey to Arcadia,” another lengthy tour de force with Tobias, Russell Allen, Jorn Lande and Bob Catley all throwing their weight around vocally.  This one builds nicely and keeps the listener onboard by continual changes in pace and power and concludes things on a high note.

Looking back over the course of the 11 tracks on display, only “Alone I Remember” failed to initially impress, but even that song improved with repeated listens.  As a longtime fan of traditional and power metal, all I can say about these two albums is, WOW! Wicked and Angel have both been in nonstop rotation in my car, iPod and home stereo and with 22 tracks, you get a ton of variety which keeps things from getting stale too quickly.  Tobias Sammet has outdone himself and truly proven himself to be a great songwriter as well as a great metal voice and he should be proud of what he has accomplished on Angel and The Wicked Symphony. I don’t envy him should he ever attempt to top this double masterpiece but I sure hope he gives it a shot.

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