AVANTASIA, Lost In Space (Part 1 & 2) (2008, Nuclear Blast)
This looks like some Affliction shirt you’d see on a metal bro walking a Jersey shore boardwalk. Like the sartorial abortion that is any Affliction shirt, this is just some random mishmash of monochrome stupidity, with some tribal-esque spikes, some scrollwork, more filligree (a theme this week), and laurels up top, for some reason. And oh yeah, a big skull. I mean, sure, it’s big, and I appreciate that, but this is clearly a cover that’s at least a little embarrassed by its central figure. But I suppose that’s just as well, because from the gritted-teeth grimace on this skully chap, he’s every bit as mortified to have been slapped on the cover of an Avantasia album. Not even that As I Lay Dying skull is gonna talk to him, now. About the only nice thing I can say about this cover is that it’s not the cover from Lost in Space (Part I), which is just a shot of a pouting, soul-patched Tobias Sammett, resplendent in his guy-liner and bangle bracelets.
Time was, I really liked Edguy. That time was long ago, however, and brief. Really, the only great thing Sammett has ever done is Vain Glory Opera, and everything since (especially since he got the number for Jon Bon Jovi’s hair stylist) has been an utter atrocity. Avantasia was originally conceived as a power metal rock opera, which is about as horrible a string of four words as I can conceive, and while it enjoyed immediate and implacable success, it was a creative stillbirth from day one, only getting worse over the years. The two Lost in Space EPs, here collected, do not present a story in the same way the other albums do, so at least they’re not burdened with that inanity (nor with Timo Tolkki guest spots), but they’re no more inspired musically, and they lack even the moronic ambition of the original vision. Sammett has moved increasingly from power metal to a kind of super dumb, glossy hard rock over the years, and these EPs stand at the crossroads of those two styles, presenting neither in a particularly good light. The best songs are covers, including the default power metal Ultravox preference “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” (see also: Dreamscape, Freedom Call, The Poodles, et al.) and Abba’s “Lay All Your Love On Me” (see also: Helloween, Reinxeed). Of the original songs, I was about to say something nice about “Ride the Sky,” but of course that’s not an Avantasia song either, but an oldie I didn’t recognize from Lucifer’s Friend. Avantasia has always featured a bunch of guest singers debasing themselves, and here you can cringe to the sounds of Jorn Lande, Bob Cately, and Michael Kiske wasting their talents (although, for Kiske and Lande, that’s more or less their actual career plan now.) That the band could release these pointless, barren EPs and still go on to release four more full lengths is a sad, stupid mystery.
— Friar Johnsen