Avantasia is a side project of singer Tobias Sammet, better known as lead man for the German power metal band Edguy. Having no core band, the project is comprised of members of several leading bands in the metal industry today, including Helloween, Scorpions, KISS, and Alice Cooper.
While touring in 1999 with Edguy, Tobias Sammet began writing down ideas and songs for a grand metal opera. Following the tour, he began contacting various artists within the industry, getting a favorable response from most of them, and Avantasia was formed. Among the names Tobias recruited into the project initially were Kai Hansen and Micheal Kiske of power metal megaband Helloween, as well as Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation Timo Tolkki of Stratovarius.
Shortly after the release of the self-titled single Avantasia in 2001, the project released its first full-length album, The Metal Opera. This was the first of two albums with this name, with the second, The Metal Opera Part II, being released a year later. Together, the albums make up The Metal Opera, a story written by Tobias Sammet set in the fantasical world of Avantasia. The story actually takes place in both the "real" world as well as the fantasy world of Avantasia, as a young man sets out to prosocute witches in the 15th century. While hunting these witches, he encounters a long lost stepsister, who has been accused of witchcraft. This encounter throws his entire belief system into doubt. He is caught reading an ancient forbiden text and sent into a dungeon, where he meets an old man that tells him of another world called Avantasia. The old man tells him that the Pope has a plan to destroy an ancient seal, severing the link between our world and Avantasia, and asks the young man to help save Avantasia from this fate. In return, he promises to save the young man's stepsister from the witch trial. The story continues on from there, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone.
After the release of The Metal Opera albums, the project was supposed to end, but their huge success and the artists' interest in continuing won over. In 2006, rumors were confirmed by Tobias Sammet that Avantasia would indeed be back with another album. in 2007, two EPs were released, titled Lost in Space Part I and Lost in Space Part II. Later released as a collection these two EPs featured various renditions of the song Lost in Space, as well as a number of other previously unheard songs from Avantasia. The collection includes a total of 12 tracks, including three variations on Lost in Space. Many of these tracks can later be heard on The Scarecrow.
These EPs were followed in 2008 by the release of The Scarecrow, a new full length album. Featuring many big names, The Scarecrow includes artists from bands such as Helloween, Jorn, Kamelot, and even Alice Cooper himself. Another concept album, it follows the tragic story of The Scarecrow, a creature that is disconnected with the world around him, as he goes on aimlessly searching for a lost love. The album features some great collaborative work, with most people, including me, considering the track The Toy Master to be the best. Many even go so far as to say that this track alone is worth buying the album for. Quite likely the reason for this is the fact that The Toy Master is lead by none other than Alice Cooper. With a heavy middle-eastern heavy metal feel, The Toy Master perfectly matches to Cooper's signature raspy sound. In the second half, when Cooper and Sammet begin singing together, it's pure metal gold. These guys were born to sing together. The album ends with the light ballad Lost in Space, previously featured on the EPs.
Rumors have been circulating for some time that Avantasia would release another album in 2009. Those rumors were confirmed earlier this year on Sammet's website, www.tobiassammet.com. The new album, rumored to be the second part to The Scarecrow, is expected before the end of the year. Among the confirmed names to be featured on the album are Alex Holzarth (of Rhapsody of Fire), Eric Singer (of KISS and Alice Cooper), and singer Klaus Meine (of Scorpions).