Avantasia - Lost in space pt. 1 (EP) 3/5
1. Lost in space
2. Lay all your love on me
3. Another angel down
4. The story ain't over
5. Return to Avantasia
6. Ride the sky
My joy at the news of a new Avantasia CD was almost immediately tempered by the little voice in the back of my head saying "Uhh... 'Rocket ride'?" Anticipation soon turned to anxiety: Tobias Sammet couldn't really reduce Avantasia to the substandard hard rock style he had put forward on the most recent Edguy CD, could he? Going by the new 2-part EP release, 'Lost in space', the answer would seem to be "yes and no." But let's take a little step back, shall we?
The marketing machine really went into overdrive for these EPs, the first of which is our current subject of review. They have been endlessly plugged as being great value for money with each having 6 tracks, and 5 of those being exclusive (with the title track appearing on both versions).
In actuality, both "Lost in space" and "Another angel down" will feature on the forthcoming full-length, 'The Scarecrow'. 2 of the remaining 4 songs are covers (one recorded at least partially live) and "Return to avantasia" is a 45-second reprise of the intro track to "The metal opera pt. l". Still sounding like a bargain buy? Regardless of whether the EP is worth the money being asked, the songs themselves prove to be something of a mixed bag.
"Lost in space" itself is, unfortunately, an atrocious song. Soft to the point of making it seem a stretch to describe it as rock, never mind metal, the song is a short, lifeless piece of mercantile nonsense. With softly-softly verses racing through to a catchy – in the annoying sense - chorus backed by 'heavy' (read: louder than in the rest of the song) guitars, it is commercial so-called metal down to a tee.
Thankfully, the other 2 original songs are far better fare. 'Another angel down' is a raucous, rocking power metal song aided by the bellowing vocals of Jorn Lande and scintillating lead playing of Henjo Richter (now relegated to guest musician status). Actually more reminiscent of Edguy's 'Hellfire club' than either their most recent CD or the Avantasia of old, it shows Sammet can still write quality metal and gives great hope for 'The scarecrow'.
Surprisingly though, the best song on the CD is "The story ain't over" - a beautifully touching ballad where Sammet has thankfully turned over the biggest percentage of the vocals to returning guest vocalist Bob Catley. I've always had a soft spot for the Magnum veteran's kindly tones, and they fit this song perfectly. It is as if Sammet has had a go at writing a Magnum song of his own, and Tony Clarkin himself would be proud of the results. Sad yet uplifting, with a brilliant, almost Jim Steinman-esque chorus, it proves an unexpected highlight on an EP of rather mixed fortunes.
The cover of Abba's "Lay all your love on me" is fairly amusing (even if it has been done before), but while the chorus transfers quite well to a metal song, the verses – played mostly on bass – are more irritating than anything. The other cover version, "Ride the sky", is originally by the fairly obscure German proto-metal band Lucifer's Friend (not Helloween as some were probably expecting) and features drummer Eric Singer as, erm, the singer. Sammet of course still gets in on the act vocally, but Singer's brusque voice suits the basic musicianship of the song well and ends the EP on an unexpected, yet altogether decent note.
Despite the novelty value of the covers (and a nicely spruced-up interlude track), in the end only 2 of the songs on "Lost in space pt. 1" are really of any great value, and with one of them slated to appear on 'The Scarecrow' anyway, it devalues the product somewhat. While narrowly avoiding the dreaded 'collectors only' tag, caution is advised to those considering parting with some of their hard-earned money for what in the end is part of a pretty cynical double release.
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