Hoping against hope is a suicidal affair, though not necessarily in a literal sense. For the better part of 10 years, the man lamenting the post-"The Metal Opera" era of AVANTASIA as he writes this review has been engaged in this affair, all in the improbable eventuality of Tobias Sammet making a 180 and actually writing a Metal album again. There's always been a token ballad or two accompanying Toby's work with EDGUY and AVANTASIA that struggles to maintain a semblance of metallic edge, but the older offerings at least hinted at a level of dynamic intrigue and avoidance of tired thematic clichés. Now with the commencement of 2013 it is time for this artistically impoverished Power Metal turned Pop/Rock act to release another tragic attempt at an album, and the lead off single "Sleepwalking" conjures up the same grating pop orthodoxy that embodied "Lost In Space", literally to the point of causing physical pain.
In a nutshell, this is yet another affair in trying to emulate the hypnotic character that typifies COLDPLAY and, to a somewhat lesser extent, recent offerings out of U2. It differs itself slightly from these two bubblegum outfits by putting a nominally aggressive power chord line during the sappy and tired chorus section, again exemplifying a tone that is muddled and bereft of any punch or impact, but is otherwise a perfect fit for Top 40 radio with a slight German accent. It further heightens the fluff factor by the incorporation of background vocalist Cloudy Yang (who has done some work with AVANTASIA during their 2010 dual release debacles), resulting in a limp-wrist ballad duet that might fit into the soundtrack of a "Dirty Dancing" remake. There are a few token guitar tricks here and there to try and take it to a slightly higher rung on the ladder than the usual pop banality heard of late, but it exists solely for the sake of existing, and does nothing to salvage the whole.
The only thing that still confuses me about AVANTASIA is why they are still considered a Power Metal band. There is nothing in this song that even tries to pretend at being powerful, even and including Toby's very dry and lifeless vocal delivery, which stands in stark contrast to the fury and passion that he would deliver on older ballads like "Farewell" and "Anywhere". It is occasionally argued that this is Toby maturing, but pray tell, what is mature about writing boring music just for the sake of filling stadiums and you're pockets with the money of fools who consume this garbage in the same manner that they do fast food? From where I stand, that's about the most childish thing I've ever heard of, as is the notion of simply writing music to amuse yourself with and then pitching a fit when someone else says they don't like it, which is yet another thing that goes with following Mr. Sammet during his various interviews and press releases. Now excuse me while I down a gallon of coffee to try and counteract this downer of a song's somniferous side-effects.
(Online April 6, 2013)