Review: A Second Look at Avantasia’s Ghostlights
The time has finally come for one of the most anticipated projects of 2016 to arrive. Yes, we’re talking about the new album from the Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia. ‘Ghostlights’, the band’s seventh studio album, may just prove to be Sammet’s true magnum opus. That’s no small remark considering the discography of both Avantasia and Edguy.
Always featuring star studded casts, the new Avantasia album is no different and may even provide the band’s best lineup yet. Some of the greatest voices in rock can be heard on this album including Dee Snider, Ronnie Atkins, Jorn Lande, the great Geoff Tate, Michael Kiske, and Sharon Den Adel, among others, give stellar performances. Oliver Hartman, Bruce Kulick, and producer Sasha Paeth return on guitars along with loyal Edguy band mate, Felix Bohnke on drums. All singers and musicians appear at the top of their game as some of the greatest voices in rock somehow sound even better as part of this super group.
The record takes off in true fashion with ‘Mystery of a Blood Red Rose,’ the solo vocal track by lead singer and creator Tobias Sammet. The opener was the fans’ first preview into the album, released as a lyric video and going on to light up the web by reaching over 350K views on the band’s you tube channel. Like ‘Wicked Symphony’ or ‘The Scarecrow’ before it, Sammet utters the first words of a song that will undoubtedly prove timeless. “We’ve played the roles in our passion play,” he proclaims, “they’ve imposed on us right from the cradle.” As the song takes off, it’s immediately fun, uplifting, and incredibly catchy, whisking audiences right into the enchanting world of ‘Ghostlights.’ If history is any indicator of what the world tour will be like, this song will likely open the live shows to hoards of diehard fans singing along to this high energy, anthemic song. Songs like this are just what have always made Avantasia records and concerts such invigorating experiences.
‘Let the Storm Descend upon You’ is a true epic, instantly earning its place among the greatest Avantasia songs ever. The song bursts in with accented instruments, gripping piano, ominous choir, and orchestral tones which all build a very suspenseful crescendo into. Jorn Lande, a voice that has become a staple of the Avantasia sound, makes his first appearance along with the awesome power of Ronnie Atkins and Robert Mason. “Shine your light into the darkness,” they cry, “and let the storm descend upon you. Then I will make you mine.” Strong, moving lyrics litter the song creating a whirlwind of emotion just like the song itself, which is dark and heavy at times, while tender and profound at others. A wonderfully constructed masterpiece, this song alone is reason enough for fans to pick up this record.
Anytime Dee Snider makes an appearance you know you’re in for something interesting. ‘The Haunting’ is a song that does exactly as its title suggests. Filled with spooky effects and chilling lyrics, Sammet does a great job at sound and word painting, while Snider brings the ghostly spirit of the song to life. Another classic metal giant appears next and I must say it was one of the things I found myself looking forward to most about the album.
On the slow and heavy ‘Seduction of Decay,’ the one and only Geoff Tate makes his highly anticipated appearance. Tate displays a powerful vocal performance, proving why he is regarded as one of the top voices in heavy metal in history. A very good song, it’s another track that alone is worth the price of the CD.
For those who crave the can’t-go-wrong, classic speed metal type of jam the title track is just for you. ‘Ghostlights’ is bright, fast, and full of soaring melodies and uplifting progressions. Fans of early Avantasia will get a little bit of what they fancy on this one. Michael Kiske makes his first appearance here and makes his majestic presence known in a flawless manner. Speed metal, dueling solos, Michael Kiske? What’s not to love? This song is one of the best on the entire album.
Midway through the record we find one of the best songs… Ok, ok! I know I keep saying this, but ‘Draconian Love’ is truly a great song. Maybe my favorite type of Sammet song, ’Draconian Love’ is a straightforward, symphonic rock song that captivates and transports the listener to an almost dreamlike musical state. A key component of this is the dark and mysterious vocal presence of Herbie Langhans of Sinbreed; a perfect match for this track with an incredibly catchy chorus and homophonic lead melody on keys that is just as well. Most likely a future radio single, this track will definitely be a treat if played live.
Following the cool and somber ‘Draconian Love’, the next track ‘Master of the Pendulum’ kicks up the intensity with a guest appearance by Nightwish’s Marco Hietala. Nightwish fans already know that his voice is absolutely perfect for this one, especially with the dark and heavy riffs and double bass. Overall, this is the heaviest track on the album and a very memorable one due to Hietala and the torrential leads of Sascha Paeth.
Following an exercise in pure heavy metal intensity, we travel to the opposite end of the spectrum with ‘Isle of Evermore,” another of the more anticipated tracks featuring one of the hottest female voices in modern metal; Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation.
As expected of a song featuring den Adel, ‘Isle of Evermore’ is a smooth, completely orchestral song with heavy soundtrack elements, and no guitars or drums to spoken of. While some may cry foul at this, Sammet and den Adel give a superb performance, nonetheless.
Returning the metal side of things, ‘Babylon Vampyres’ features ex-Warrant vocalist, Robert Mason, and is a guitar lover’s dream by featuring three of the best axe-men in rock on one badass jam. Oliver Hartmann, Sascha Paeth, and of course, Bruce Kulick deliver an onslaught of virtuosity and musicianship that’ll leave the listener seeing stars!
Thus far, the album provides not a single moment of staleness, or want for anything at all. Approaching the end of the record, one inevitably wonders how this amazing thrill ride will end. On this note, my unquestionable favorite song is the moving and impassioned ‘Lucifer.’ Tobias Sammet and Jorn Lande have made one of the most amazing vocal duos I’ve ever heard. Nowhere is this marriage more perfectly exemplified than on track ten, ’Lucifer.’
Somber piano begins the track and is accompanied by an orchestra before Lande enters, followed shortly by Sammet. Powerful lyrics, Kulick’s strong guitars, and overall musical genius make for an incredibly powerful and touching experience. It takes off into a seriously heavy metal session and ends with Lande and Sammet in a beautifully soaring power vocal harmony of “Touching the flames tonight! Touching the flames tonight!” Honestly, the only negative aspect of this track is it’s too short!
The last two songs finish the album in perfect style. After ‘Unchain the Light’ and ‘A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies’ I almost stood, applauded, and threw roses at the speakers. This album is nothing short of a metal masterpiece and is a must have for metal fans everywhere. As of right now, the band is preparing for a long awaited North American tour, so we implore all American fans to get themselves a ticket and experience the magic of Avantasia firsthand. In fact, this album so good I’m going to have to pull a Spinal Tap…yeah, it’s that good! 11/10