While the first part of this double album release felt too much like a compilation record without soul, this second part is much more fluid and coherent. There are less guest singers but more quality on "Angel Of Babylon". It still is far from beating "The Metal Opera" or "The Scarecrow" but a quite decent Melodic Metal record that I would put on the same shelf as the second part of the initial Metal opera eight years ago.
To mention the negative things first, I must admit that Jorn Lande has way too much presence on this record and is featured on seven out of eleven tracks so that I happen to ask myself from time to time if I am not listening to his solo material. The Norwegian has surely a powerful voice but after three or four songs I feel quite saturated. Another negative thing is that the songs are all good average or very good songs but with the exception of "Death Is Just A Feeling", there is nothing exceptional or especially emotive or mesmerizing on the album. The last negative thing is that the concept of the record is still quite dull and random which is proved by the add of the brilliant "Promised Land" featured originally on the second "Lost In Space" EP almost three years ago. AVANTASIA already did something like that with " The Final Sacrifice" on their second album and while the true fans may feel disappointed to have bought a unique collector's item that turns out to be used on a regular album a few years later, I must admit that both tracks are amongst the strongest ones of the respective records.
On the positive side, the songs are more homogeneous, coherent and fluid on the record than on "The Wicked Symphony" and remind of the style of "The Scarecrow". This album sounds like AVANTASIA and not like a Hard Rock compilation or tribute album. The only times the band decided to choose some very special guests, they created two very great songs. Jon Oliva, that was one of the first musicians to have created so called Metal operas, appears on the unique and immediately mesmerizing "Death Is Just A Feeling" that slightly reminds of "The Toy Master" from "The Scarecrow" that featured Alice Cooper about two years before. This song has a creepy atmosphere and sounds like nothing I have ever heard before. Instead of trying to write a complicated Rock opera track in the key of SAVATAGE, Jon Oliva's vocals are used in a very unique way in here and it's him that gets perfectly integrated into the sound of AVANTASIA. The second guest appearance is by the rather unknown American pop singer Cloudy Yang and she also does no Pop song but performs on the Symphonic Gothic Rock killer "Symphony Of Life", a welcome change of style and the only AVANTASIA song to not feature Tobias Sammet as Cloudy Yang is delivering a strong solo performance. It's an interesting decision to give this rather unknown singer a chance aside the well known guests. On the other side, more usual AVANTASIA tracks like "Stargazers" and "Journey To Arcadia" open the album very well even if they don't get close to the classic epics but there is still a lot of filler material stuck in between like the quite faceless "Your Love Is Evil" or the usual boring ballad "Blowing Out The Flame" while some songs really grow more and more because of their catchy hooks such as "Rat Race" or "Down In The Dark".
This album is surely nothing more than a good Melodic Metal or Hard Rock record but it feels more vivid and fluid than "The Wicked Symphony" and the guest musicians really add something to the project instead of changing it completely. This record is entirely enjoyable to listen to but no milestone of creativity. Even though I feel in the end somewhat disappointed about the two new records that are only good average albums, I hope that the band carries on one day and hopefully with a more interesting story line, less but precisely chosen guest musicians and some guts for experiments and tight Metal music with edges.
(Online January 14, 2012)