I entered 2011 thinking most music releases came in 2009 and 2010, and this would be a pretty calm year. I’m slowly realising I was damned wrong.
Symphonic metal act Within Temptation will release their first album since 2007, the experimental “The Unforgiving” on March 25. The album is released alongside a comic book series written by Steven O’Connell, and six pages of the prequel is already out on Within Temptation’s website.
In March also, Swedish thrash metal act The Haunted will release “Unseen”, the follow-up to 2009′s “Versus”. The song “No Ghost” from the album has already been performed and filmed live and can be seen on YouTube already. Generally well received, I take it as an awesome return to the more experimental “The Dead Eye” era.
In March also, German power metal project Avantasia plan to release their first live CD/DVD, The Flying Opera, filmed during their 2008 The Scarecrow tour.
On April 1, the German symphonic progressive metallers Sons of Seasons, the project of Kamelot keyboardist Oliver Palotai, will release their second album Magnisphyricon. Judging by the cover and tracklist alone, it looks like an incredibly promising album, and hopefully with a better production than their debut Gods of Vermin.
In the third or fourth quarter of the year, symphonic power metal giants Nightwish will hopefully release their seventh studio album, the follow-up to 2007′s Dark Passion Play. I have high hopes for this, believing Anette Olzon has grown into her role as the new lead singer, and developed her voice to better suite the music.
After founding member Mike Portnoy’s sudden leave in the past autumn, Dream Theater‘s remaining members are working on an upcoming album, the successor to 2009′s incredible Black Clouds and Silver Linings, presumably with a new drummer they have yet to reveal to the public. I have no idea whether the album will be released in 2011 or not, but as I understand it they have at least entered the recording process, and so the album should be released in late 2011 or early 2012.
I have troubles not being too harsh when discussing Avantasia‘s Angel of Babylon. As it was, Tobias Sammet decided that the material he had gathered for the latest Avantasia album was too much, and he split it into two CDs released simultaneously – The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon. But as it seems, I can’t help but think that Angel of Babylon was the dump station of everything not good enough for “the real album”. An additional CD for the special edition, filled with bonus tracks, some extremely good ones.
Okay. The introducing track “Stargazers” is extremely good, as is the following “Angel of Babylon“, but they are still just average Avantasia songs on the whole, and every other song on The Wicked Symphony beats them both by a longshot. “Death is Just a Feeling” is a good song, yes, but it doesn’t fit at all with the rest of the album, and neither does the Cloudy Yang-epitomic symphonic metal track “Symphony of Life” (which for the record is the only song in Avantasia history being written by Sasha Paeth and not Tobias Sammet). My feeling of both of these songs increases my belief that this is an extra CD with bonus tracks, some of which were skipped simply because they’re not that good (“Rat Race“, “Your Love is Evil“) and some that didn’t fit the rest of the album enough (“Death“, “Symphony“). And other songs – “Rat Race” and “Alone I Remember” – have garage rock introduction that makes them sound like jokes in the midst of epic power metal.
But the album isn’t all bad. The ballad “Blowing Out the Flame” sound incredibly cheesy on first listen but sound extremely good after a while, similarly to The Scarecrow‘s “What Kind of Love”. The last power song “Promised Land” is one of the best shorter songs Avantasia has ever produced (but I find trouble counting it, seeing as it’s a re-recording of the b-side from the Lost in Space Part II EP). Journey to Arcadia is probably my favorite Avantasia song throughout history, or at least it’s up there in the top alongside “The Seven Angels”, “The Scarecrow”, “Blizzard on a Broken Mirror” and “Runaway Train”.
I have loved the strange power metal project Avantasia since I first heard The Metal Opera Part II in 2007, and they were in fact the band that made me fall in love with concept albums (alongside Kamelot and their Epica / The Black Halo albums). I loved both two Metal Opera albums, and I loved The Scarecrow when released in 2008, even though I considered and still consider it to be below the Avantasia average of earlier albums.
The Wicked Symphony is the continuation of The Scarecrow, and it is followed by Angel of Babylon which was released simultaneously. I was afraid that The Wicked Symphony would fall below the average settled by The Scarecrow, especially when it came to the poppier tracks such as “Carry Me Over”, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Out of The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon, I place my vote on The Wicked Symphony. The album is covered with three giant epics (two of which follow eachother!) – the title track, “Blizzard on a Broken Mirror” and “Runaway Train” – and the latter two are easily in my top of favorite Avantasia tracks, alongside beauties such as “The Scarecrow”, “The Seven Angels” and “Journey to Arcadia”. Even though “Dying For an Angel” sound like an Bon Jovi meeting pop metal, it is rescued by the multiple heavy immediate power metal classics on the album, including “Wastelands“, “Forever is a Long Time” and “States of Matter“, and “Crestfallen” proves yet again that Avantasia easily can reach beyond traditional power metal.
The song that ends the album, “The Edge“, is a strange song. I generally don’t like its “kind”, if I may say so – loveydovey guitar ballads with a theme of hanging on when everything looks bleak. But this one is different. Maybe it’s different simply because I have my own personal interpretation of the Scarecrow saga and its story, and I can imagine what the song is really about. And if I am correct (don’t tell me if I’m not), it works phenomenally to end the album, and lead into The Angel of Babylon.