20 August 2008

Avantasia - The Metal Opera, Pt. II (2002)

One year after its release, Tobias Sammet and company followed the first installment of The Metal Opera with a sequel. Aptly entitled The Metal Opera, Part II, it continues and concludes the saga that began in Part I. But how does it stack up to it's antecedent? Quite well, actually. I'll put it to you this way: whereas the first episode of The Metal Opera had some fantastic standout tracks, the second episode is an overall stronger collection of songs.

"The Seven Angels", which clocks in at just under a quarter of an hour, gets the album going in grand fashion (it also recapitulates the events of the first installment). It feels and functions rather like a traditional overture, setting the stage for the forthcoming action and incorporating a variety of melodies and passages. "No Return", one of the faster and thrashier songs in the Avantasia repertoire, is next, followed by "The Looking Glass", a powerful mid-tempo rocker (as well as one of the major standout tracks). Both of these are truly solid songs, and add some nice variety to the proceedings.

Up next is "In Quest For", a largely piano-driven power ballad (it sounds like the sort of soliloquy you'd expect from a Broadway musical, in fact). It's not one of the most memorable moments on the album, but it's not bad by any means. The speed and energy return with "The Final Sacrifice", which is in a similar vein as "No Return"-very thrashy, if not quite as fast. "Neverland", another particularly strong track, is more melodic, and more anthemic. The second power ballad is next, entitled "Anywhere". As far as power ballads go, its actually pretty good--it's memorable, much more so than most of the other Avantasia power ballads.

"Chalice of Agony" is next. Aside from being one of the best songs on the album (if not in all of the Avantasia repertoire), it also feels like the musical climax of the Metal Opera saga--comparable, I would say, to the bull-fighting scene towards the end of Carmen (yes, I did just compare Heavy Metal to classical Opera, and yes, it's a perfectly valid comparison). Unfortunately, this great song is followed by two songs that just aren't quite as strong--"Memory" and "Into the Unknown", the latter seeming to function as a denouement to the whole Metal Opera.

I've been on a major Power Metal kick the past two weeks or so, the blame for which can be placed largely at the feet of the two episodes of The Metal Opera. There are plenty of great moments on these albums. It's a fairly grandiose affair, to boot--comparable to MGM musicals at their most opulent (okay, that may be a stretch, but I'll draw links between old school Hollywood and Heavy Metal any way I damn well can). Do yourself a favor and give The Metal Opera saga a listen--odds are you won't be disappointed.

Bonus youtube magic: Tobias Sammet and company playing "Sign of the Cross" live (with a bit of "The Seven Angels" thrown in just to make things interesting).

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