I was scrolling through my music library last week (over 35,000 songs and counting) looking for something I've heard before but not in a long time and I stumbled upon Avantasia. About two years ago I whipped my hard drive clean and had to re-upload all of my music (from my external) which reset all of the song listen counters. From that time I have not listened to any Avantasia except their newest release, The Scarecrow. I decided to rectify this situation and gave the entire discography a listen.
The interesting thing about Avantasia is that there is only one real member of the band, Tobias Sammet, who plays various instruments and the majority of the vocals for all the releases. This requires Avantasia to have an ever-revolving cast of players, with upwards of more than ten vocalists for each album, with several different session instrumentalists - often times not for more than one song. It gives the group a very unique feel and tendency into the unknown.
One problem I have with this group, which is a problem I have with almost all the 'Project Bands' (bands with no real set cast or crew) is that every album is significantly different than the one before it. Sometimes this works, The Metal Operas are pretty damn good, and sometimes this doesn't, The next full-length release, The Scarecrow, sounds like a completely different band, it all is seemingly random.
The first release of the project, spanning so much time and people that it was split into two parts (which is why I'm reviewing them together). This album(s) is a concept album telling the story of a young man, Gabriel Laymann, during the 17th century witch trials in Germany, who begins to doubt the church when his sister is brought up on charges of being a witch. For questioning the church Gabriel is imprisoned, where he meets an old man who tells him of another dimension called Avantasia, and the man agrees to help Gabriel rescue his sister if he visits Avantasia and helps the people living there. Gabriel travels to this alternate reality where he helps the elves and dwarves fight off the evil (the pope's influence that stretched between worlds) that burdens the land. Gabriel and the mythical creatures defeat the evil of Avantasia and then travel back to Earth to release the souls that the Pope has captured in 'The Chalice of Agony.' They succeed, but at the cost of almost all the Avantasians lives. Returning to the dungeon, Gabriel tells the old man of his travels and asks him to fulfill his part of the arrangement. The old man agrees and sets out to release Gabriel's sister. During this rescue, the old man and the priest in charge of the witch trials are both killed, but Gabriel and his sister escape harm and heads into the unknown.
As with alot of progressive concept albums the story line is almost impossible to follow by yourself (see Scenes From A Memory), but the music is still pretty damn good. The first album is much more progressive and hard rock/metal then Part 2, which tends to be much more symphonic and light.
Part 2 of Avantasia's discography is coming, as well as my ending thoughts. Stay tuned!