Wicked Symphony is album No. 4 in the Avantasia saga, closely followed by Angel of Babylon that you’ll find elsewhere on these fine digital pages. Since the project’s inception in 2001, it has moved from standard power metal fare, to the pomp and bombast of The Scarecrow (2008) which is still very much alive here. Tobias Sammet has opened up his little black book and lines up the usual suspects, David Coverd- uh, Jorn Lande, Bob Catley and Sascha Paeth along with debut veterans Tim Owens and Klaus Meine.

Kicking off the album is the title track, a mighty affair of riffage and the trademark  Lande-Sammet  vocal sparring that we’ve seen before. And of course, what would Avantasia be without a massive chorus? A lot of verse and intro, that’s what. Wicked Symphony is probably the strongest album of the project in its entire decade as a musical force, and if you’re no stranger to Avantasia, you’ll agree the bar has been set pretty high. There’s a lot more variation in the sound of the songs on offer, from the malicious Scales of Justice with Ripper, to the heartfelt Runaway Train; but not before the title track’s neck wrecking middle eight, which somehow finds itself in the middle of the heaviest breakdown I’ve heard on a power metal record since Iced Earth’s Night of the Stormrider.

Unsurprisingly, the leading single, Dying For An Angel is about accessible as you get without trawling for coin down at the docks on a Friday night’s shore leave, but as opposed being written specifically as a gateway song, it melds perfectly with the sound that The Edge and Wicked Symphony embody as the core sound of Avantasia, a smooth blend of power metal and synth orchestration. What’s surprising is that it’s also the heaviest album Sammet has commited to record so far, with Crestfallen featuring harsh (gasp!) vocals.

It’s Avantasia. It’s not ‘teh br00talz’ as they kids on the street say. What it is, however, is a great melodic metal record that most metal fans who appreciate a bit of symphonic arrogance in their music will lap up by the bucketful.  Also, buy it if you need another record that needs Jorn Lande going “HYEEEEAH!” on, not that there aren’t already about a dozen of the fuckers, but this is probably one of the few records where you don’t want to string the daft bugger up for it.