Tobias Sammet's Avantasia - The Metal Opera AFM Records - 2001 /images/covers/AvantasiaTheMetalOpera.jpg For me, one of the most anticipated albums for 2001 was The Metal Opera. I just could not wait to hear this project by Tobias Sammet (lead singer and songwriter of the band Edguy), and the "all-star" line-up that he recruited to record this album. Musically, this album is very similar to Edguy but the addition of symphonic/orchestral sounds and the definite influences from the members of other bands makes The Metal Opera a new and fresh experience. The band members are Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray), who plays all guitars, Markus Grosskopf (Helloween) who plays bass and Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody) plays the drums. Every single aspect of this album is excellent; the music is melodic, fast and features very catchy choir-sung choruses through out the album. The production is crystal clear; every instrument is featured very well in the mix. The Metal Opera is a concept album revolving around the young novice of the Dominican Monks of Mainz, Gabriel Laymann, who is played by Tobias. There are plenty of characters in this album and that is where different singers come into play. At the beginning of the album we find Gabriel imprisoned with the druid Lugaid Vandroy, who is played by the mysterious "Ernie" who is none other than Michael Kiske! Gabriel is in jail after his mentor Friar Jakob (David DeFeis) found stains in his fingers from a book in the library that belonged to a witch that was recently burned at the stake. To add to Gabriel's problems, before his incarceration he visited the tower where a witch was imprisoned who turned out to be Gabriel's stepsister Anna. The back of the booklet has a huge summary of events that take place before the beginning of the album and the events that occur during the album. So on to the music! First let me say that there is not one bad song in the entire album; every single song is fantastic. "Glory of Rome" is one of the heaviest songs of the album and it is also extremely fast. Rob Rock (Bishop Von Bicken) appears in this song and his performance is truly excellent and hopefully he will be able to get more recognition from the metal world thanks to his participation on this album. He also sings on the song "Sign of the Cross" which is my favorite song of the album. Five different singers are featured on this song and there are many changes of tempo throughout the song. Oliver Hartman (Pope Clemens) sings with a lot of power and emotion and I just love his part. The section of the song where Kai Hansen (Regrin) sings on is very similar to Gamma Ray. That is also true when Andre Matos (Elderanne) sings; his parts are very similar to Angra's music. Finally, the solo by Jens Ludwig, lead guitarist for Edguy, is simply the best solo of the entire album. This is what I meant of how this album is different to Edguy. The musical influences of other bands are woven extremely well into the overall album to make it really exciting and unique. The song "Avantasia" is another favorite of mine. The intro by the keyboards is extremely cool and distinctive. This song is extremely captivating and I found myself remembering the lyrics of this song (and pretty much the rest of the album) very rapidly. "Breaking Away" is yet another standout song. The intro is very cool with the keyboards being the featured instrument and the guitars providing some great back up riffs. The driving main riff of the song is superb. Michael Kiske sings extremely well in this song. During the first verse it is just he singing, backed up by the drums and bass. His voice really shines, as it does in the entire album, and it was a real joy to finally hear his singing again. The song "Serpents in Paradise" features David DeFeis and I like how he sings because he really adds an evil touch to his character. The intro has some nice harmony and the drumming is extremely powerful. There is a nice change of pace after the second chorus where the song is not as fast as before but it picks up once again with the chorus part. Just like in the Edguy albums, there is a very emotional ballad song titled "Farewell". The introduction is very unique in that there is an obvious Irish music influence. The music speeds up during the chorus and it ends with Michael Kiske singing a verse with the chorus in the background, which reminded me a lot of the end of the song "Land of the Miracle" from Edguy's album Theater of Salvation. The last song of the album "The Tower" brings the album to an excellent dramatic conclusion. It starts of slow with just the piano featured but before you know it the song is at the typical fast paced tempo of the rest of the album. There are some orchestrations in the background that remind me a lot of Virgin Steele. There are also some great drumbeats in the pre-chorus. A really cool part of the song is found at the 3:50 mark. It only lasts for about 10 seconds but I simply love this short instrumental part. Timo Tolkki (Voice in the Tower) appears in this song, his voice is distorted which is really great because it adds to the scariness of this mysterious character. To me this album is a huge success. I just simply love this style of music and it delivers in every single possible fashion. The exciting part is that this project by Tobias was planned as a two-part album and according to the booklet, this second part is almost finished and it should come out soon. Not only am I excited about hearing more of this type of music but also about the conclusion of the story, which is very captivating. While it is still very early in the year I have to say that this album will probably end up being one of my favorites of the year. If you are a big fan of Edguy or any of the other bands of the members that appear in this album you will surely enjoy this album!