Tobias Sammet was one of the most exciting names in power metal a few years ago, leading Edguy to increasingly ambitious heights before dumping all of his excess flamboyant tendencies into the metal opera side project Avantasia, allowing Edguy to return to a simpler style of heavy metal that sadly descended into mediocre, throwback hard rock with their 2006 album. The two Avantasia albums ('The Metal Opera' parts one and two, released close together) were an incredible achievement, rivalling Arjen Lucassen's long-running Ayreon project with its host of skilled musicians and singers from across the metal world, without ever ending up disappointingly up its own rear like Sascha Paeth's lousy copy-cat 'Aina.' Sammet's opera was as grand and majestic as it was simplistic and fun, and I'd long held hope for a further release to re-establish his talents in the wake of Edguy's recent disappointment.
I was pretty gutted when these two EPs finally came out at the end of last year, precursors to a 2008 album 'The Scarecrow' that I'll be sure not to get too excited about for fear of disappointment. Then again, it'll probably still be pretty cool - no, there I go again. If these EPs are anything to go by (and that's the point, right?), Sammet's illustrious side project has attempted to stay predominantly metal, but he's more or less forgotten how to do that, taking far more enjoyment from the generic rock stylings and sexual innuendo lyrics of his main band to give two hoot(er)s about this one.
Both EPs are led by the title song 'Lost in Space,' a slow rock ballad of sorts with a distinctly pop chorus that's to be expected considering it's on sale in this shorter and more commercially viable form. Although I technically dislike it for this very reason, it's not a bad song, and what it lacks in musical ability - the only notable instances being a spacey keyboard solo taken from the seventies, and the influx of orchestration over the final chorus reprise that only serves to confuse things - it makes up for in vocal talent. Sammet has a great voice when he isn't messing around singing about aeroplane toilet sex, and he uses his high and mid-range vocals to their full extent here. Other songs continue the Avantasia trend of recruiting guest singers to compliment his omnipresence, 'Another Angel Down' starring Masterplan's Jørn Lande in an energetic performance that even features a very brief duet in the unison shouting of the chorus, and although this song ends up being repetitive, un-ambitious and a little overlong, it's still the only song on here that even comes close to power metal.
Bob Catley and Amanda Somerville feature in 'The Story Ain't Over' before Sammet elbows them out of the way half-way through once again, but this one's more of a general rousing power ballad of the sort we really didn't need after the first song, but it does at least showcase some of the nice orchestration with the violins of the introduction. The symphony gets a whole song to itself in the excitingly titled 'Return to Avantasia,' but this disappoints when revealing itself as a brief interlude less than a minute long, quoting a memorable theme from the Metal Opera albums that's nostalgic but also irritating due to the lack of anything of comparable quality here. Don't get angry, just wait for 'The Scarecrow' and everything will - dammit, I'm not supposed to be doing that.
Rather then reproducing half of the upcoming album and spoiling things too much, a couple of fun but ultimately worthless cover songs are thrown in to bulk this out, allow it to be called an E.P., and add a pound or two to its sale price. 'Lay All Your Love on Me' was originally an ABBA song, I'm sure you knew that already but I didn't, though more or less as soon as it starts, it's obvious even to a sheltered curmudgeon like me. Sammet's good again, and though it isn't a metal cover, again being a more mainstream, light form of rock, it's interesting to hear Sammet sing how every man he sees is a potential threat, lyrics I presume were originally written for female singers that take on a possible alternative tone here. Concluding with the running theme of disappointment intact, 'Ride the Sky' is not a cover of the classic Helloween speed metal anthem as I originally hoped, but an old-style rock song from Lucifer's Friend complete with a Hammond organ of all things. He doesn't give me roaring power metal, but he finds time to nip to the studio's warehouse and dig out a Hammond organ. This 'Scarecrow' album had better be bloody spectacular.
1. Lost in Space
2. Lay All Your Love on Me (ABBA cover)
3. Another Angel Down
4. The Story Ain't Over
5. Return to Avantasia
6. Ride the Sky (Lucifer's Friend cover)