Avaland – Theater Of Sorcery

Theater Of Sorcery Album Cover Art

Avaland – Theater Of Sorcery
Rockshots Records
Release Date: 02/04/2021
Running Time: 62:53
Review by Beth Jones
8/10

France is not necessarily the first country I think of when it comes to exciting European metal. But recently there seems to be a heck of a lot of good music coming out from bands based there. And Avaland is certainly no exception to this rule. The brainchild of Adrien G. Gzagg, Avaland is an Epic/Symphonic Heavy Metal Opera project, and their first album, “Theater Of Sorcery,” has just landed. Now, this genre, I know, can be pretty chalk and cheese. Some people love it, some just think it’s pretentious. Personally, I can’t get enough of it! It is lavish joyfulness, created by melding together musical artforms, in a way that would make the ancient apothecaries fawn! So, what does this latest offering from the guilty pleasure gods bring? Well let’s find out!

“Theatre Of Sorcery” is a tale of adventure; the story of a young sorcerer, Adam Wilstorm, on a quest to bring back the light to the kingdom of Avaland. But, to succeed, he must learn to harness the storm within his powers. It’s a huge production, and a pretty astonishing composition, as Adrien is only 22! And it features some well-healed guest stars, too; Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Zak Stevens (Savatage/TSO), Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Emmanuelson (Rising Steel), Stéphan Forté (Adagio), and Madie (Nightmare) to name but a few.

The album begins with the title track, which sets the scene for this grand production. It’s theatrical and I can imagine it looking spectacular on a stage. Musically, it’s good solid Heavy Metal, with a twist of Power, and Symphonic. In places, it almost reminds me of Jeff Wayne’s “War Of The Worlds,” but with a heavier, metal twist.

Good solid Metal anthems pepper this album, but they’re embellished with classical orchestration, choral harmonies, and traditional folk instruments, that sit in the mix, making for a very exuberant and indulgent feast of musical joy. But alongside that are crunching riffs and rhythms that you just have to bang your head to. And what Epic theatrical metal opera masterpiece would be complete without some face-melting guitar solos? Well, certainly not this one, as they’re also there by the bucket load, courtesy of some big-name guitarists.

I think my favourite track on the album is ‘Deja-Vu’. It starts with a solitary melancholy piano, but quickly launches into a powerful rhythmic track, with melodic verses, and peaks and troughs that make it punchy and exciting. It also has one of those delicious guitar solos that I alluded to earlier. I’m going to skirt over the fact that this track fades out at the end. As you’ll know, this is one of my pet hates, so there was a touch of inner turmoil for me with this, because I really like it!! I will also add that it’s not the only song to succumb to the dreaded fade out.

Production wise, no corners have been cut either. Placing of instruments, panning, and effects are all used to their full potential, to explore the depth and expansiveness of recorded music, making this a much more mature album than you’d expect from a debut penned by someone of such a tender young age. (I am almost green with envy right now! At 22 I could barely write a second-rate pop song, let alone an entire metal opera!) There’s nothing new or groundbreaking about this album, but if the likes of Avantasia do it for you, then you’ll love this album.

‘Theater Of Sorcery’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Theater Of Sorcery (feat. Emmanuelson)
02. Gypsum Flower (feat. Scheepers/Emmanuelson/Zorgati)
03. Let the Wind Blow (feat. Zorgati/Heli/Kanji)
04. Storyteller (feat. Zak Stevens)
05. Escape To Paradise (feat. Zorgati/Kanji)
06. Holy Kingdom Of Fools (feat. Jeff Kanji)
07. Never Let Me Walk Alone (feat. Madie)
08. Deja-Vu (feat. Emmanuelson)
09. I’ll Be Ready For Your Love (feat. Heli Andrea)
10. War Of Minds (feat. Zorgati/Madie)
11. Rise From The Ashes (feat. Zorgati/ Madie/ Stevens/ Heli/ Kanji/ Emmanuelson/ Scheepers)

LINE-UP:
Adrien G. Gzagg – Composer, Writer, Lead Singer, Keyboards and Orchestrations
Christophe Feutrier – Guitars
Lucas Martinez – Guitars
Camille Souffron – Bass, Double-Bass
Léo Mouchonay – Drums

Guests / Characters:
Adrien G. Gzagg – Adam Wilstorm
Zaher Zorgati (Myrath) – Adam’s Inner Voice
Jeff Kanji – Jacob Reiser, Adam’s Best Friend
Heli Andrea (Mobius/Olane) – Solveig Elweiss, Adam’s Beloved
Emmanuelson (Rising Steel/Ellipsis) – The Master Of Sorcery
Zak Stevens (Ex-Savatage/TSO/Archon Angel) – The Storyteller, appearing form the past
Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear/ex-Gamma Ray) – Aloïsius Jestens, King Of Avaland
Madie (Nightmare/Faith In Agony) – The Guardian Angel

Guests Guitars:
Ricky Marx (Ex-Pretty Maids/Now Or Never) on ‘Theater Of Sorcery’
Stéphan Forté (Adagio) on ‘Gypsum Flower’
Ayman Mokdad (Venus Syndrome/Alien Encounters) on ‘Never Let Me Walk Alone’
Virgile (ex-Rising Steel/Schräpnel) on ‘Deja-Vu’

LINKS:

Avaland Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Heart Healer – The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson

The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson Album Cover Art

Heart Healer – The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Running Time: 61:00
Review by Simon Black
9/10

When he’s not pumping out the riffage on Primal Fear, Magnus Karlsson has a whole bunch of other side bands keeping him busy. This latest project is an incredibly ambitious Metal Opera but musically it’s been handled slightly differently from similar efforts within the genre. Before I analyse that, a little on the definition of the genre itself, as frustratingly put the words ‘Opera’ and ‘Metal’ together and automatically many Metal heads just tune out, which is a shame.

A Metal Opera is not to be confused with (largely Italian) Operatic Metal. The latter is usually a combination of a Metal band with Neo-Classical instrumental stylistic tropes and a vocal delivery which fuses the Metal with the sort of delivery style that might tread the boards at Covent Garden. The former is usually more varied, subtle and probably had its birth with Tobias Sammet’s original Avantasia record twenty years ago. In this form, the ‘opera’ part refers to the way that the albums (which by their nature are nearly always conceptual) tell their story vocally through a series of characters, given voice by a whole bunch of contributing guest artists around a core central voice. The distinction between genres is important before you make that decision to tune out, as Operatic Metal is very much trapped by the Neo-Classical form, whereas a Metal Opera can really deliver the Metal part using almost any form of Metal.

In this instance the two sub-genres in the driving seat are very much an even mixture of Melodic, Power and Symphonic styles. The traditional rock sounds are almost entirely delivered by Karlsson who delivers all of the guitar, keyboard and bass parts, alongside drummer Anders Köllerfors. The other two named instrumentalists are delivering a full time cello and violin into the mix which makes the Symphonic sound much richer and more authentic than the more keyboard orientated synthesiser sounds many other acts opt for. For that core Metal sound we have strong Melodic Metal with, as you would expect from the Primal Scream stalwart a very strong Power Metal sensibility, giving it a good Euro-Metal bedrock on which to build, which predominate over the Symphonic.

But although the musical contributions are really strong, it’s the absolutely fantastic vocal deliveries that make this record stand out. In this case the central narrator voice is admirably delivered by Seven Spires frontwoman Adrienne Cowan (who is ironically enough also a part of the touring version of Avantasia, amongst others). The cast of characters also includes guest turns from Netta Laurenne (Smackbound), Youmna Jreissati (Ostura), Ailyn Gimenez (Her Chariot Awaits, Sirenia), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), Margarita Monet (Edge of Paradise) and erstwhile Nightwish singer Anette Olzon. Each and every one of those performances is strongly delivered, top notch and powerfully emotional, but for me it’s Netta Laurenne’s more bluesy delivery (whose performance on Smackdown’s “20/20” album was quite exceptional) and the more edgy turn from Battle Beast’s Noora Louhino most notably on ‘Evil’s Around The Corner’ that really hit the top spots over the more Symphonic and cleanly delivered tracks throughout the rest of the record.

Having given each voice the chance to shine, Karlsson brings them all together for a powerful finale with ‘This Is Not The End’, and I am slightly saddened at the thought that this project is unlikely to be delivered live – although I said the same thing about Avantasia and got happily proven wrong, so never say never. Strong, well-written and powerfully delivered, this has some quite exceptional vocal delivery and it’s worth taking the time to unpick the story.

‘Into The Unknown’ feat. Noora Louhimo (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Awake
02. Come Out Of The Shadow
03. Who Can Stand All Alone
04. Back To Life
05. Into The Unknown
06. When The Fire Burns Out
07. Evil’s Around The Corner
08. Mesmerized
09. Weaker
10. This Is Not The End

LINE-UP:
Magnus Karlsson – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards
Daniel Tengberg – Cello
Anders Köllerfors – Drums
Erika Sävström Engman – Violin

Vocals:
Adrienne Cowan (Seven Spires, Masters of Ceremony)
Ailyn Gimenez (Her Chariot Awaits, ex-Sirenia)
Youmna Jreissati (Ostura)
Netta Laurenne (Smackbound)
Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast)
Margarita Monet (Edge of Paradise)
Anette Olzon (Dark Element, Ex-Nightwish)

LINKS:

Heart Healer Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.