Wednesday, June 10, 2009

CD Review The Scarecrow

So yeah, today I'm posting a new CD review, and this is pretty much the standard format they're in. I'll probably post some of my older ones later, along with some new stuff. Today's review:

Walter's CD Review: The Scarecrow

Now then, this CD was made by the Power Metal Collab group Avantasia. This group is a big bunch of metal people brought together by Tobias Sammet (lead man of Edguy) who make an incredibly epic album every once in a while. Their first two albums consisted of The Metal Opera parts I and II. These had a running story, sort-of apparent through the songs, but you really needed to read the back of the lyric book to get it. The story wasn't especially good, because it was written by a musician, not an author. Anyway, they made awesome music, and everyone was happy. The Scarecrow is Toby's newest Avantasia thing, with more people from the metal business and a little change in style. Whereas Metal Opera had exclusively straight power metal with one or two kinda slow songs, this one really mixes it up, with no storyline, and what looks to be depression songs. I figure that's enough background, so let's start the review!

1. Twisted Mind: Okay, to be honest, I don't understand why he started the CD out with this. It's a very heavy song, starting with a deep bass riff, and doesn't lighten up at all really. It's got a creepy singer, but it works for the song. Not to say it's a bad song, just not what I would have gone with for an opener. Oh, and from what I can tell, this song is about some crazy dude. Or something. This song is pretty much normal heavy metal, nothing strikes me as terribly epic. This begins what I think are the three types of songs on the album, Ultra-Heavy, Epic, and Sentimental. I can pretty much sort each song into one of those three. And I will. But I digress. At about 3:50 he gets into a rhyming fest. "Misprizing, chastizing, subhuman fragmentizing..." that goes on for a bit. At 4:30 the guitar solo starts, but it seems far too short. I mean, if this is really supposed to be heavy, it would have a kickass solo. Only near the end do a notice the subtle bit of violins, which add a nice touch for a few seconds. Not my favorite, but luckily there are much better songs to come.

2. The Scarecrow: Here is where the Epic comes in. This song is the definition of epic. Hearing this song once, I knew I had to buy the CD. Being that it's about 11 minutes long, I can't just listen to it on Youtube. It starts with some heavy drumming over some violin playing. This gives way to more instruments, with a really nice buildup to when the main song starts. Then the guitars come in. After about a minute of pure instruments, the singing finally shows up. It starts out Sammet, pretty much singing about angstyness. Then he starts singing about demons, and you see why this is classified power metal. The chorus starts, and it's fairly simple, "Rise to faaaame! Time has coooooome! Make your claaaaaaim! Time has cooooome! For the crow to fly away!" We get a nice little guitar solo, then the other singer, named Jorn Lande starts. His lyrics are a bit darker, seemingly in reply to the first stanza. His kinda gritty voice accentuates this. The chorus starts, again only with Sammet. After another solo type of thing, we get another instrumental, this time with some light orchestral drumming, some brass, and more violins. There's a faint choir effect in the background, and things almost slow down for a bit. In the midst of this is a guitar solo that's somewhat less normal. The guitar gets louder, and after a few hold notes, the real guitar solo starts. There's two guitars in this part, so one's playing rhythm in the background while the other solo's it out. Once that epic solo is done, Sammet comes back in with the singing. Both singers' lyrics are now a bit darker, "He's got treasure in his eyes/that he's gonna turn to clay!" and "I'm a stranger/I'm a changer/and I'm danger, maybeee." The drums are noticably heavier in this part, and the violins contribute with some low notes. After one more stanza from Lande, things get faster again, and Lande sings a bit of kickassness. Then the chorus rolls around again, with Tobias singing the main part and Lande singing in between his lines. I love this song. I love it so much. Despite being so long, every minute is worth it. This is Power Metal at its finest. Before I gush too much (Good job controlling myself there,) let's start the next song.

3. Shelter From the Rain: This song, another in the Epic catagory. It begins with one of the greatest drum solos ever. This lasts for about half a minute, at which point everyone is staring at me because of my furious air-drumming. For the main part of the song, it's a basic Double Bass Pound, but the rest of the solos kick ass. Tobias starts it off, but Michael Kiske of Helloween fame starts at the chorus and sings a stanza or two. What nice is a duet during the chorus, along with a choir of people in the background. Compared to The Scarecrow, this song is short and sweet, clocking in at only 6:06. The song slows down (comparatively) for a nice little Kiske interlude, followed by a guitar solo simultaniously as Sammet does some of his best singing. The solo continues, followed by another epic drum solo and Kiske once again. Kiske really is a good singer, and old Helloween fans applaud Avantasia for getting Kiske back into metal, whereas after Helloween he mostly did projects like Place Vendome, an obscure Progressive Rock thing. Anyway, good song, one of my top picks from the album. A Sammet/Kiske duet always ranks pretty high in my book.

4. Carry Me Over: One of the slower songs on the album, this is the first glimpse we have of the Sentimental catagory. This song makes me sad. Essentially, it's about a guy that always sees a girl, but just doesn't have the courage to talk to her, because he just doesn't fit in her world. It's almost a crappy romance movie cliche. Anyway, the chorus to this song is just "Carry me over" repeated about 5 times, so at least it's easy to remember. Honestly, this song is for when I'm depressed, but I don't want to be emo, so at least I have a song with a kickass guitar solo. It's weird how Tobias Sammet can make a song with the guitar style of a normal song, but it still comes out sad sounding. Or this song is about a weird stalker who follows some girl around. But I prefer the former interpretation. Anywayy...

5. What Kind of Love: Oh God, the sadness doesn't end. If the last one was sad, this one is emotionally decimating. There is no guitar at all, just violins and the sound of my own self pity. A girl starts off singing in this one, the first for this album. Anyway, the meaning behind this one is kinda vague, just know it's not happy. I mean, just listen to the chorus, "What if love will leave/the heart an open sore/and I can't reveal/what even I don't know/this love you feel/you waste away on me/what kind of love would make us bleed away?" I mean, seriously? What happened to Scarecrow? Hell, Twisted Mind is fine after this. I feel like I'm getting emotional whiplash here. It's not a bad song by any means, but still, it doesn't seem to fit on a super metal album made by Sammet. Watch this, next song is going to be something completely different, just to mess me up.

6. Another Angel Down: WHAT DID I TELL YOU?! This song starts out fast, plays out fast, and rocks out the whole time. Jorn Lande starts singing on this one, pretty similar to what he sings in The Scarecrow. Not entirely Power Metal, and it leans a little more towards Heavy than Shelter From the Rain did, but I still like it. Despite the sudden change in scene, the quick tempo of this song is appreciated to bring the metal average of the CD higher. I guess there's some lyrics about angels, auras, and other stuff, but honestly they don't matter too much. Double Bass Pound is the norm, somewhat unfortunately, for the Epic songs, even though the drummer is Eric Singer of KISS fame. Honestly, before this album, I didn't even know he was capable of a normal Power Metal beat. KISS does not exactly have the most complicated drumming in the world. Either way, Singer shows his true merit as a metal drummer on this album.

7. The Toy Master: For this song, we have a special guest, whose name begins with an A and rhymes with Nalice Mooper. Yep, Alice Cooper sings this song, and damn does he do it well. This song is, truth be told, pretty creepy. Everything's played pretty heavy and slower, which provides a nice contrast to the last song's quick and upbeat nature. To the best of my knowledge, this song is about some really creepy guy, who may or may not be a serial killer. Or a pedophile. Hey, I don't write the lyrics. I get the feeling Alice Cooper did, because this song just fits him so well. You wouldn't think he'd be doing so good considering he's been alive forever, but he's been holding up pretty well. Tobias comes in for only one line, really just to show this is still his album. The song speeds up for a guitar solo, but still keeps its bass-heavy nature. At one point, things get Communist, with the lines, "No more struggle of the classes/no more struggle of the masses/On their knees, conformity" Or, you know, just Orwellian. Your pick. Despite the creepyness, this song provides a nice dark tone and heavy instrumentation.

8. Devil in the Belfry: This song doesn't know if it wants to be Epic or Heavy Metal, because it kinda strafes in between for most of the song. In the beginning, it sounds epic, but then you get a deep guitar solo, so I got a little confused. The lyrics are more akin to an Epic song, but the music itself leans towards Heavy Metal. Lande, like before, sings a bit in this one. What the hell is this? It sounds like a Dragonforce solo! I am so confused right now! WHERE DOES IT FIT?! Despite the title causing one to think this song would be about Belfries and the Devils contained therein, "Love" is mentioned a bit, so I'd say this is about a jilted lover and his spitefulness after it's all over. Oh well, I'm sure that's the only song like that on this CD. I mean, you can't just write two songs about the same thing, not on the same album or anything. Yep. Next song.

9. Cry Just a Little: ...What? Cry... Just a Little? So, I can still cry, but not too much? What? As you can probably tell, this song is on par with What Kind of Love as to its subject matter, so we're in for another ride on the emotional railway. I'm getting the feeling Toby just got dumped or something, so rather than eating an entire carton of ice cream like normal people, he made this album. This song is about crying. And what one would cry about. If I'm depressed, I'm sure this song would speak volumes to me, but listening to the CD on a roll like this doesn't necessary inspire that. I pretty much use this song as a joke, so when something bad happens, I say, "I'm gonna cry... but just a little." There's a guitar solo, but honestly, it just doesn't fit with this song at all. It's almost like he tried to artificially increase the metal quotient by adding guitar to a song that didn't really suit it. Again, not really a bad song, but I'm just having trouble integrating this with the rest of the album.

10. I Don't Believe In Your Love: I had high hopes for this song when I first started listening, because it really rocks out in the beginning, with a nice riff and everything. Oliver Hartmann guest-sings, for all the good that does. This is like Devil in the Belfry, only with more spite. He throws in a f*ck once every chorus, presumably to make a song all about how love is bad sound more badass or something. I don't know what it is, but Sammet's voice just sounds a bit off in this one, like it was put through a filter where he sings a little worse. Honestly, Hartmann is what makes this song at all up to the standards of the CD. This is probably one of my least favorite songs on the album, if anything else just because Sammet tries to make a badass song angsting about love. Yeah, next song.

11. Lost in Space: Okay, I don't even know how this song got on here. It doesn't fit with the rest of them, and I don't even think it's terribly good. It kinda sounds like Bon Jovi, to be honest. Once again, they couldn't make up their minds as to whether this should be Sentimental or Epic. It's kinda halfway, but it doesn't fit too well. He sings softly while the guitars are blaring in what I'm guessing was supposed to be the background. This is what I'd call my least favorite song on this album. I guess if he made, like, another album focusing on this song maybe that would be better...

Oh yeah, that sucked.

So this CD, good or bad? It seems at times it can't decide what it wants to be, Power Metal, or Progressive Rock, or whatever. It's in contrast to the previous Avantasia albums, which were both pure metal glory. The good songs on here are really good, while the bad ones are pretty much meh. On average, the CD is a solid choice, and might be a good introduction into Power Metal if you aren't familiar with the genre. You'll probably have to buy this online, since it's not the most popular type of music out there.

And that's all for today's review!

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