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Avantasia - Ghostlights Award winner

by Daniel Fox at 28 January 2016, 10:46 AM

I’m actually still at odds with how to begin this review, so I’ll start by being honest: I don’t consider myself an AVANTASIA fan. Hooked on EDGUY at the time, I figured I would check out Tobi’s other project. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the first epic, “The Metal Opera”, my interest quickly faded, and was never quite piqued again. That was, however, until “Ghostlights” came around and melted my stubborn heart.

Rejoined with long-time friend and collaborator, the great Jørn Lande, Tobi has got himself together yet a different all-star cast for his new masterwork. Featured on “Ghostlights” are: Ronnie Atkins, Robert Mason, Dee Snider, Geoff Tate (no, really), Michael Kiske, Herbie Langhans, Marco Hietala, Sharon Den Adel, Bruce Kulick, Oliver Hartmann and Bob Catley. In classic AVANTASIA fashion, the result is a collection of songs that are each part of an over-arching story, each one different in vibe and genre depending on the predominant guest singer. Without a single weak track, I thought it prudent to point out the album’s highlights.

The opening track, “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose”, was an obvious choice for Germany’s representative at Eurovision 2016. Fronted by Tobi alone, it still manages to completely separate itself from run-of-the-mill mid-tempo EDGUY songs, by carrying with it a decidedly festive and cheery vibe, and does well in setting said vibe for the rest of the album. “Let The Storm Descend Upon You” follows, and manages to cram the voices of four powerhouse vocalists: Sammet, Lande, Atkins AND Mason. What we’re left with is a true Rock Opera anthem with an intriguing and sprawling composition; coming from a Prog background myself, it never ceases to amaze me what a master composer like Sammet can accomplish in 4/4.

Geoff Tate: the most talked-about newcomer to the AVANTASIA camp, in part due to being one of the most notorious and divisive Heavy Metal singers in existence, and the mixture of low expectations fans might have had for how his voice may stand up to what is usually a collection of virtuoso singers. “Seduction Of Decay” is, I daresay, going to give them and their opinions a run for their money. One of the album’s heavier tracks, it is kept at a slow chug, with intimidating chord progressions and fierce riffs; KAMELOT’s “Necropolis” comes to mind, as does the general vibe from the “Poetry of the Poisoned” album. Tate displays impressive range considering past vocal deterioration, and his delivery is deliberately pitch-imperfect in the vibrato; he sings like a true madman, and it fits the song perfectly. His tradeoff passages with Sammet in the song’s chorus is one of the coolest moments on the album. The title track of the album, also happens to have the designation of being “the new AVANTASIA album’s fast power metal song”. This time, it is fronted by the legendary Michael Kiske. Whilst his delivery on this blistering piece is hard to get used to for virgin ears, there is a reason he is considered one of Power Metal’s best-ever high note belters, with a pure and clear delivery that influenced generations of singers.

For fans who want something “80’s-as-fuck”, look no further than the second Mason contribution, “Babylon Vampires”. Sitting on the cusp of when Heavy Metal teased early Power Metal, but still hilariously-awkwardly stuck in a Glam phase, it’s fast, up-beat and driving, with even a rhythm section that oozes glistening melody. Sammet ups his range a tad and toes-to-toe with the all-American Mason, and you’re ultimately left with something incredibly catchy and memorable. “A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies” is one of the album’s two ballad tracks, and is fronted by the gravelly, travelled voice of Bob Catley, who just so happens to come up with a delivery that matches the vibe of the solemn piece, perfectly. As the song progresses, he and Sammet begin to sing with crescending volume and power, and the track almost turns into an ‘answer’ to “Mysteries of a Blood Red Rose”; class-A songwriting.

For those of you whom always looked to EDGUY over AVANTASIA for a trademark Power Metal fix from Sammet, I urge you to now start paying attention to his other baby, because "Ghostlights" is their best album since "The Metal Opera", and after all, managed to change my mind.

In case I forgot to mention it, Geoff Tate is on it.

5 Star Rating

1. Mystery Of a Blood Red Rose
2. Let The Storm Descend Upon You
3. The Haunting
4. Seduction Of Decay
5. Ghostlights
6. Draconian Love
7. Master Of The Pendulum
8. Isle Of Evermore
9. Babylon Vampyres
10. Lucifer
11. Unchain The Light
12. A Restless Heart And Obsidian Skies
13. Wake Up To The Moon
Tobias Sammet - Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Sascha Paeth - Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Michael Rodenberg - Orchestration, Keyboards
Felix Bohnke
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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