Avantasia - Angel of Babylon/The Wicked Symphony
Released: April 3 Genre: Power metal Label: Nuclear Blast
I absolutely despise double albums. They take twice as long to get through, plus the vast majority of them would be twice as good/acceptable should they lose the double-part. But no-one forced me to check out Tobias Sammet's latest creations, so I have no one to blame but myself.
Obviously this review will be a bit more general than most (again: double albums are bad) due to the two-or-so-hours of music we're treated to. Avantasia is basically Tobias Sammet's project and it's a veritable who's-who of power metal, as he chooses to work with guest vocalists, guitarists and so on, rather than sticking to the same four or five guys for everything. The formula isn't to fault, as sometimes it works beautifully and sometimes it is just plain boring. I've understood that you can buy these albums by themselves, or as a double album/boxed set. Thus I can tell you right away that you have two possible outcomes: you buy one (or two) good/very good albums, or you buy a good double album. Either way works and I guess the only factor is how much pseudo-symphonic power metal you want in your life.
Despite the great amount of musicians involved in the albums, they still sound like a) they belong together and b) they sound coherent. Obviously a) is helped by the fact that it's part 2 and 3 in the Scarecrow saga, and b) is especially thankful as otherwise it could've ended up as those horrendous cover albums where you get a dozen bands doing a dozen songs but you end up with fourteen awful yet mutually exclusive tones.
Angel of Babylon/The Wicked Symphony are fairly similar albums, the only difference is where they dip. Angel.. dips in the middle but pulls it together in the end, while Symphony... gets a bit dreary over the final 10-15 minutes. Structure-wise there's not much to distinguish them and both albums have a handful great tracks, complete with all the things that makes power metal great.
Rhapsody Of Fire - The Frozen Tears of Angels
Released: April 30 Genre: Symphonic power metal Label: Nuclear Blast
Before Christopher Lee decided to release his own metal album, I was of the opinion that any album that featured Mr Lee's narrative voice was an automatic 10/10. OK, not really, but it at least made it a lot more entertaining. Now, I'm not so sure and it's somewhat sad to see Christopher Lee being less and less exclusive.
Jokes aside, it's been awhile since our favorite over-the-top power metal warriors from Italy released an album. After a lengthy legal battle with Joey DeMaio (which surely must've been epic) they finally got the green light to record the third part to The Dark Secret Saga. Is it over-the-top? Yes. Is the theme ridiculous? Absolutely. But it isn't all that bad, nor is it very good. It's not hilariously bad, as Nostradamus, but it's also about as eventful and exciting as tumbleweed in a western film.
The Frozen Tears of Angels sounds like an album that desperately wants to be like the Avantasia albums reviewed above, but for whatever reason it doesn't have the sonical depth nor the quality in the songs to pull it off.
Periphery - Periphery
Released: April 20 Genre: Progressive/experimental metal Label: Sumerian
Periphery's self-titled debut is an album of extremes. Extremes in the sense that I am at times digging it like mad, and at times find it to be really, really bad. Have they got their chops down? Absolutely, and they're all immensely talented musicians. Do I still find it to be pretty generic? Yes, the -core portions of the album stand out in the bad way, much because of Spencer Sotelo's vocals. I am not familiar with Periphery pre-Sotelo, but the dude is a mediocre screamer who fortunately has some good pipes, as his clean style is pretty enjoyable. Sotelo isn't the problem, but his generic screaming accentuates it.
On the other hand, there're plenty of spots where Periphery is an incredibly pleasing album, where the guitars play off eachother beautifully and don't engage in breakdown-centric riffing. While I find everything about this album to be somewhat blown out of proportion, both the positive and the negative, I still end up with a feeling that this on the whole is pretty average due to the uneven quality of the sections.
The Ocean - Heliocentric
Released: April 13 Genre: Post-rock/progressive/experimental metal Label: Metal Blade
Just like with my attempt at making a decent summary of the genres that make up The Ocean's sound, it takes quite awhile until you get to the metal when you listen to Heliocentric. The Ocean-fanboys will run amok if I get this wrong, but from what I've gathered, Heliocentric is one ambitious concept that covers a millennia of Christianity and from the heliocentric view up until Darwin. And then the next album, Anthropocentric, will apparently deal with modern creationism. Now that's a concept.
As lame as I may sound, this album and it's metal elements are just like the ocean. A good portion of the album is not unlike a wave, in the sense that you experience a huge mellow build-up before you reach the crushing metal section. I'll try to lay off the water-metaphors, but the core of Heliocentric depends heavily on the ebb and flow they manage to create. It's not the type of album where you cherry-pick tracks, but I'd still argue that the opening half has the strongest cuts. Would I have liked a heavier album? Yes. Is Heliocentric still a very good album? It most certainly is. Any band attempting such an ambitious scope should be applauded, and in large The Ocean manage to deliver a solid, enjoyable album with tons of depth and layers.
News and tidbits from the past month:
That's all for this month, thanks for reading and as always you can recommend/suggest albums for the coming months by dropping me a message.