Say what you will about the emo, queer eye for the straight guy image that Tobias Sammet has taken on in his unending quest to separate himself from the better days of his Metal career, the guy has definitely planted his flag on this “I’m going to infect my music with lame, adult alternative Rock additives for a minuscule bump in sales”. The two chapter, double full length release that marked the faux version of AVANTASIA that has been with us since a few years back is a complete reassertion of the same formulaic, semi-catchy AOR that has been done better by Jørn’s other projects with much more of a Metal edge and minus the tendency towards vapid, uninspired songwriting. Of these two respective releases, “Angel Of Babylon” is the better offering, as it is mostly a consistent offering of somewhat watered down, but still slightly Power Metal inspired songs that don’t get heavily bogged down in the guest vocal talent.
The commonalities between this release and “The Scarecrow” are a little more subtle than that of “The Wicked Symphony”, as this seems to want to play more on the slightly more consistent elements of post “Mandrake” Edguy. At times the album sounds somewhat close to “Hellfire Club” with a fairly consistent does of faster, chorus emphasized Speed Metal with a gutted, 70s sounding guitar overdrive. But the songs just sort of run together and, despite some stellar vocal work out of Jørn Lande and Michael Kiske, sound like a shadow of the HELLOWEEN inspired work off of “The Metal Opera” such as “No Return” and “Reach Out For The Light”. “Promised Land” and the title song are reasonably fast and catchy, but sound more akin to afterthoughts from a songwriter who knows how to make a person sing along, but has forgotten how to really make a song stick. “Rat Race” is a similar story, but with an even more limp-wristed riff set that occasionally sounds like a 90s Pop/Punk rip off.
For some reason, even in the case of every single dud he’s put out since 2007, Tobias’ songs tend to get better the longer they go. In fact, one could liken him to an artful devil that puts his best foot forward before trolling Metal fans as the best and longest song on here “Stargazers” is the opener to this mediocre endeavor. Kiske and Lande make this song more than anything else going on in the instruments, let alone Tobias’ own pipes which have become a one-dimensional Hard Rock rehash that was done better by Joe Elliott 20 some odd years ago. The slower and not quite as long outer closer “Journey To Arcadia” gets the job done in the catchy department and is somewhat reminiscent of late 70s QUEEN, again attributed to the powerful guest vocal talent.
Unfortunately, alongside a fairly lackluster collection of repetitive mid-tempo rock work, there are also a few goofy Euro pop experiments. “Death Is Just A Feeling” literally sounds like a NICKELBACK song with a bad version of Alice Cooper’s brand of creepy vocal work and lullabies from hell out of Jon Oliva, going back and forth between sounding like an utter joke and simply an awkward experience. “Symphony Of Life” gets even more bubblegum-like with tons of quirky keyboard sounds and a boring female guest slot, almost like a poor man’s Within Temptation with no gusto to speak of. And even when avoiding the rock radio garbage and pop-gothic nonsense, vintage rock inspired bloopers like “Alone I Remember” and a number of poorly realized attempts at emulating MEATLOAF round out this album, with all the charm of a 3 minute top 40 hit and only Toby’s vocals as a distinctive feature.
It’s too much work to pretend at being either sarcastic to the point of spite or sorry to see another moribund band continue to write its own musical obituary, but the name AVANTASIA is pretty well dead to anyone who first took to it in the early 2000s. “Angel Of Babylon” is not forbidding, it’s not really dramatic, nor does it entertain much beyond a few moderately good rehashes of a formula from better days. Maybe with a few more tries Toby will get to a platinum album with this nonsense, but anyone with a shred of love for “The Metal Opera” or anything else Sammet has put together before 2003 will not be impressed with this, and probably shouldn’t even bother scrapping the bargain bin for a chewed up, $5 version of it either.
(Online January 14, 2012)