I am not sure which band/project is the most important or even the most successful one to Tobias Sammet these days, Edguy or Avantasia? But one things is for sure, the effort and energy behind is always 100 %, and on this new Avantasia album, Ghostlights, he has outdone himself and has come up with his best song writing ever.
When he kicked off his side-project Avantasia to record a metal opera, he was almost the lone challenger to Arjen A. Lucassen and his Ayreon project. Now fifteen years later we see them almost on a daily basis. I have always felt that there was plenty of room for both projects and the “fight” has only been in the press, never actually between the two.
On “Ghostlights” the basics remain the same; symphonic metal with loads of guests to create the feeling of a metal version of an opera. Once more Tobias has hired some familiar faces, who have all taken part in Avantasia before: Jørn Lande, Michael Kiske, Ronnie Atkins, Bob Catley, Oliver Hartmann (on lead guitars) and Sharon den Adel. New faces on “Ghostlights” are: Dee Snider, Marco Hietala, Robert Mason and Herbie Langhans on vocals, and Bruce Kulick on guitars.
The basic personnel remains the same as always Tobias Sammet (lead vocals on all tracks, additional keyboards and bass), Sascha Paeth (rhythm guitars, lead guitars (except on tracks 2, 8, 10, 12)), bass, additional keyboards, engineering and mixing), Michael “Miro” Rodenberg (orchestration, keyboards, mastering) and Felix Bohnke on drums.
Tobias has really hit bulls-eye in matching the vocalists up to the songs, just listen to a song like the 12 minutes epic “Let the Storm Descend Upon You” where he shares the stage with Jørn Lande, Ronnie Atkins and Robert Mason. Or the wonderful ballad “Isle of Evermore” where he and Sharon den Adel sings a song that easily could have been on a Within Temptation album, or “Draconian Love”, where Herbie Langhans shines on a song that has strong connections to Sisters of Mercy with it’s gothic feel. “Seduction of Decay” is the heaviest song and it reminds me a bit of a classic Queensryche song, so who can help out better than Geoff Tate on this song?
I could go on and on because each singer fits the songs perfectly, and mind you I haven’t even mentioned Michael Kiske or Bob Catley – two of my favourite vocalists. And Tobias has brought his own performance up to par with all of the above mentioned practitioners and delivers his best vocal performance to date.
Music-wise it’s more song orientated and a wee bit more melodic, but I do not miss the big symphonic layers of sound at all. This is more basic heavy metal with focus on a strong melody and strong vocal-lines, leaving just enough room for some blistering guitar leads to put the icing on the cake.
Tobias Sammet has decided to enter album opener and first single, “Mystery of the Blood Red Rose” in the German finale for the European Song Contest to take place February 26th. He’ll surely get my vote, but if it’s enough to get him all the way to Stockholm where the grand finale will be held, only time will tell…
To me this marks the best Avantasia album to date, and the first highlight of 2016.
- Mystery of a Blood Red Rose (3:51)
- Let the Storm Descend Upon You (12:09)
- The Haunting (4:42)
- Seduction of Decay (7:18)
- Ghostlights (5:43)
- Draconian Love (4:58)
- Master of the Pendulum (5:01)
- Isle of Evermore (4:28)
- Babylon Vampyres (7:09)
- Lucifer (3:48)
- Unchain the Light (5:03)
- A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies (5:53)
Playing Time: 50:18
Release date: January 29, 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast