I really like the first two albums of the project and also quite much "The Scarecrow" and was highly looking forward for the upcoming release. I had a somewhat critical attitude face to the release of two albums at the same time because I felt that one should have given the time to the fans to appreciate and discover each of the songs in a unique way instead of releasing twenty-two tracks at once. I was afraid that there would be some filler material on those two releases that came out quite fast after the last little masterpiece but I was still positively looking forward to the two new releases.
Sadly, I was right with my pessimistic expectations. Twenty-two songs at once are too much and many songs just rush by and won't stay on your mind. The quantity is higher than the quality. But the biggest problem is that especially "The Wicked Symphony" feels like a compilation album, like a project and not like something fluid and coherent. The album is diversified but it has no soul and it goes even more far away from the Metal roots than the last output. One can't quite often talk about a Metal album; it's rather a Hard Rock album. That must not be a bad thing at all but this time Tobias Sammet went too far and not only honoured its idols but got assimilated to their styles and origins. "Wasteland" is the typical HELLOWEEN high-speed track for Michael Kiske that we already had a couple of times on the last three records. "Dying For An Angel" with Klaus Meine sounds like a SCORPIONS track. "Runaway Train" with Bob Catley could easily be taken from a MAGNUM album and so it goes on and on with this assimilation compilation. The rest of the songs are dominated by Jorn Lande and Tobias Sammet and especially the first one is simply overused in here. He surely has a brilliant voice but after listening to this album, I surely got an overdose and felt as if I had been listening to one of his solo albums randomly mixed with a classic hard rock compilation featuring all the big names from this record.
What really lacks in here is the soul, the passion, the originality. The only time the band breaks out of their regular assimilation sound is on "Crestfallen" that turned out to be hated by most of the fans. It's my favourite track on the record because it sounds fresh and different with its sharp riffs, dominating keyboards, operatic choirs and strangely muffled growls. It's the shortest track on the record but the song with the highest amount of creativity as well. At least one time the band decided to be courageous.
That doesn't mean that some of the assimilated songs aren't well done. "The Wicked Symphony" is a bombastic opener, not as great as "The Scarecrow", "The Seven Angels" or "The Tower" but still above average, diversified and somewhat catchy. "Scales Of Justice" features one of the most underrated Metal singers in the world, Tim Ripper Owens and he does a top notch performance full of emotion and power. It's my second favourite track on the record and one of the more original efforts as well. "Dying For An Angel" is catchy as hell and you feel that Tobias Sammet was really passionate about working with one of his biggest idols. But towards the end of the record, the quality of the songs slow more and more down and get stuck in the swamps of average Hard Rock music.
There are surely a few highlights on this album, but all in all, I feel disappointed about the general concept and also the execution. This album has no soul and feels like a compilation record done as fast as possible to please the label and the fans. The conceptual point gets also less intriguing and is just loosely adapted to plug as many guest musicians and singers as possible into the whole concept. The story of a desperate young man looking for true love seems rather odd to me and would fit into any horrible sitcom. This record is the weakest record the band has released until now as even "The Metal Opera Part 2" was at least more original and had a intriguing story. Make nevertheless sure to check out the second part of the double release called "Angel Of Babylon" that is better than this output and in fact quite underrated.
(Online January 13, 2012)