Angel of Babylon marks the end of Tobias Sammet's successful Scarecrow trilogy. This is the final part -- interestingly, the second part, The Wicked Symphony, will be released Stateside a month later.
As with all previous Avantasia discs, Angel of Babylon has a great array of guests, both vocalists and musicians. Besides Sascha Paeth's guitar parts, duties are shared by other great players including Bruce Kulick, Oliver Hartmann, and Henjo Richter. Each guitarist plays in his most suitable role: Kulick has been chosen to shine on the album's hard-rocking numbers, such as the nine-minute opener "Stargazers", the fast-paced "Rat Race", and the brilliant finale "Journey to Arcadia". Of these, "Stargazers" is easily the highlight of the album -- it sees vocal deities like Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske, and Russell Allen giving their best, with sweeing harmonies, excellent fretwork, thunderous drum parts, and of course Sammet's own touch.
Unlike the Metal Opera discs, Angel of Babylon is more like a compilation record with more varied songs. This gives it a more diverse nature, as it consists of the typical Euro power metal style songs like "Promised Land"; the more hard rock-based cuts "Angel of Babylon" and "Your Love is Evil" (check the 80's vocal choruses!); and even the more daring, somewhat goth metal-like "Symphony of Life", sung by Cloudy Yang. This is a song with lots of synth parts, in part electronical, a huge chorus in the mould of Anneke van Giersbergen circa The Gathering's If_Then_Else period. Also, there are the very typical 80's ballad kind of songs on this album: "Blowing Out the Flame". Here, Sammet sings exactly like Jon Bon Jovi. Think their These Days album, which was basically an album of a million ballads. The singing is almost identical to Jon Bon Jovi's: low, gruff, and bluesy. "Down in the Dark" will stand out after repeat listens. It is atypical in that the guitar work is very experimental, almost progressive, with plenty of stop-start parts, weird bending, unusual tone selections, and drive.
"Death is Just Like a Feeling" is the song with Jon Oliva. It is amazing to hear him in a chorus-laden piece, since he has never sung like this before. It starts off with his trademark laugh, his evil delivery, but grows into a huge, Avantasia-worthy chorus -- it's simply amazing. I would have never thought it possible to hear Jon Oliva in such a musical setting. Sammet concludes the last part of the piece with some female backing harmonies and gripping melodies.
Bob Catley is easily the most stand-out vocalist on the album. His performance on "Journey to Arcadia" is breathtaking, especially in the parts where he is supported by Jorn Lande. This is the kind of music that suits Catley best, unlike on the last Ayreon disc where he was given too little space. When allowed to carry whole verses and even choruses, the man becomes a vocal god. This song is also important because it explains how the main character in the trilogy ends up in a mental institution still resisting the temptation brought on by the character of Jorn Lande.
That said, The Wicked Symphony is a superior release to Angel of Babylon. It is more focused and heavier in scope. This album is way too diverse, and at times feels more like a compilation with Sammet's take on various genres. While there are some truly amazing songs and performances here, I feel he outdoes himself on The Wicked Symphony, given the tracks by Ripper Owens, Klaus Meine, as well as mainstays Jorn Lande, Russell Allen, and others.
- Angel of Babylon
- Your Love Is Evil
- Death Is Just A Feeling
- Rat Race
- Down in the Dark
- Blowing Out the Flame
- Symphony of Life
- Alone I Remember
- Promised Land
- Journey to Arcadia