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'The Scarecrow' (Nuclear Blast)

Review by Jeff Maki
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If Tobias Sammet's name sounds familiar to you it's because he is the lead vocalist and mastermind behind German power metal band Edguy. In 2001, he began the Avantasia project and released The Metal Opera 1 and 2. Avantasia means “a world beyond human imagination,” and fantasy themes are the focal point. The Metal Operas featured numerous guest musicians and vocalists including Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Michael Kiske (Helloween), Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius) and others. The music itself is melodic power metal but is far removed from Edguy. After five years dedicated to his full-time gig, Sammet has returned with The Scarecrow, another collection of hard rock and symphonic power metal, once again with help from some friends. Notable guests include Alice Cooper on “The Toy Master,” a track which revisits '80s era Alice. He sounds more evil and fun here than he has in years. Jørn Lande (Masterplan, ARK) lends his vocal talents to “The Scarecrow,” “Another Angel Down” and “Devil in the Belfrey,” while Roy Khan (Kamelot) sings on the opener “Twisted Mind.” Eric Singer (KISS) plays drums on the entire album. Sammet, of course, provides his voice on each song, as well. His talents are overlooked in Edguy, perhaps due to the band's comedy factor. Imagine the vocalist of Steel Dragon in the movie Rock Star and you'll have a good idea of Sammet's voice. Yes, he uses all of the metal cliches, but he does it with authority and swagger, making the perfect heavy metal vocalist. On some songs he sounds like he could be a distant German cousin of Paul Stanley.

The Scarecrow is a mix of power metal, speed metal and '80s-style hard rock. The hard-rocking opener “Twisted Mind” sets the table for this diverse album. Power metal songs like “Shelter from the Rain” and “Another Angel Down” are fast and catchy. “What Kind of Love” is a ballad in which Sammet duets with Amanda Somerville of Aina. The song is beautiful and fits in on the album but can't be classified as a metal song at all. It sounds like a song from the Disney Princesses, but it's good! “Carry Me Over” is a power ballad and Sammet's emotional vocals lead a powerful chorus that sounds out of a dream. This one could easily be a hit single. “Lost in Space” is the album's first single and is a stadium rocker, with a shouted chorus in the vein made popular by '80s hair metal acts. This one is just plain awesome. With so much that each song has to offer, repeated listening is recommended.

Tobias Sammet's Avantasia is an ambitious, forward-thinking project and The Scarecrow displays just what kind of musical and vocal ability he possesses. The cast of heavy metal veterans helping him out not only makes the album interesting but unpredictable. There is a certain nostalgia to many of the songs, but for some reason there is also a timelessness. I think that's what Sammet was going for here, leaving the door wide open for the listener to think and explore.