February 4, 2016 Avantasia – Ghostlights (Album Review)
Singer-songwriter Tobias Sammet is most recognized for being one of the founding members of the German Power Metal warriors EdGuy. Since the early age of fourteen, Sammet developed a strong passion for music, and, throughout the years, he has more than perfected his craft due to his ambitious drive. His love for music does not go unnoticed in the Metal community, especially after his creation of the Symphonic Metal supergroup Avantasia. Since 2001’s The Metal Opera, Sammet continuously built new worlds filled with fantasy by producing concept albums known as some of the best Rock Operas in recent history. His innovations are what led him to sell over three million records and to tour all across the globe. Their sixth overall studio album in 2013, The Mystery of Time, landed at #2 on German charts and received praise in several countries around the world. After such positive feedback, Sammet went to new heights to create the next masterpiece where one might call it an opus with the seventh studio album, Ghostlights, via Nuclear Blast Records. Released on January 29, 2016, Sammet teams up with Avantasia lead guitarist Sascha Paeth (Epica, Kamelot) once more to perfect seventy-four plus minutes of music.
Known for adding a group of renowned guests musicians to Avantasia, previously included artists such as Alice Cooper, Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween), Rudolf Schenker (Scorpions), Klaus Meine (Scorpions), and Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Sammet does it again with this new release. Exceeding all expectations, Ghostlights includes Geoff Tate (former Queensrÿche vocalist), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Marco Hietala (Nightwish), Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation), Michael Kiske (Unisonic, ex-Helloween), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Bob Catley (Magnum), Jorn Lande (Jorn, ex-Masterplan), Bruce Kulick (ex-KISS, ex- Meat Loaf), Robert Mason (Warrant, ex- Lynch Mob), Herbie Langhans (Sinbreed), Felix Bohnke (Edguy), Oliver Hartmann (ex-At Vance), Michael Rodenberg, and aforementioned Paeth. Each vocalist portrays an individual character which leads to a new musical voyage for listeners to explore.
Across twelve tracks, the album is a continuation from The Mystery of Time and it brings the audience to a spiritual journey questioning the effects time has on all humans. The concept revolves around a group of mad scientists who wants to manipulate time to get more power and control. Meanwhile, a young agnostic scientist is tormented between his moral values and scientific research as he is confronted with his spirituality, by realizing how short life is. Once time speeds up, it makes him question his own existence. This captivating storyline is musically driven in a more Power Metal sound with its orchestration and keyboard enhancements.
Beginning with “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose,” the opening instrumentals set the dramatic tone until Sammet’s vocals take over as he delivers powerful lyrics of, “No time to breathe, don’t have no time to waste. Bring on the night, seize every drop of life away. Slice a tasty hour from (or in a blink it will be gone).” Musically, it can be described as a B-side to Meat Loaf’s 1979 Bat Out of Hell, as there are elements in the melody that display such similarity. Moving into the ballad “Let The Storm Descend Upon You,” there are dramatic keyboards, haunting guitar riffs, as well as solo by Kulick. This giant piece lasts over twelve minutes that will seem like a requiem within itself. A flawless tune, at this point it becomes visible that this is one of Sammet’s best pieces in his career. The next song begins with a Gothic twist as the keyboards of Rodenberg chime in slowly during “The Haunting.” It captures the emotion of fear and horror with the use of an enchanting melody infused with bombastic harmonies. It becomes visible that Sammet has meticulously chosen his guest vocalists, where despite the surprising choice, Snider’s vocals with Sammets on this song worked seamlessly.
Moving to the heaviest track off of the album, “Seduction of Decay,” Tate’s guest spot needed no introduction, and his voice takes over. The instrumentation may remind some of 2008’s The Scarecrow with more of a Progressive Metal style. The album then switches back to a traditional Power Metal sound with the titled track “Ghostlights,” as Kiske rightfully conquers the lead vocals. The melody flourishes as guitar solos by Hartmann continue to escalate. The album moves in such diversity as it changes once again with the slower “Draconian Love.” Langhan’s deep vocals add a darkened emotion until it moves into the catchy and somewhat romantic chorus. The next song, “Master of the Pendulum,” sounds as though it came directly off a Nightwish album with the help from Hietala’s vocals, of course. It starts off on a mysterious slow note where it could move towards any direction. After forty seconds, right from the fast guitar work and Nightwish-esque instrumentation, the listener is moved into a Wishmaster (2000) style.
Soothing in next with “Isle Of Evermore,” it brings an atmospheric tone up until Den Adel’s vocals glistens in. It is the slowest track on the album thus far, a decent break from the heavy mix. Adding a romantic emotion as well, which can be visible when Sammet sings, “Take a look at ourselves, afraid to get closer.” Picking up the speed once again, the enjoyable “Babylon Vampyres” follows. As catchy and uplifting as the melody makes this song appear, Mason and Sammet speak another demeanor as they continue the album’s concept, “I’ve seen believers on the wayside. And I‘m afraid to say, I think just like you. That failed to pretend they could cope with what they’d find. When they didn’t have a clue. Just like you.” The song then ends abruptly with a captivating guitar play.
Continuing on, evil strikes in on a soft note with “Lucifer,” where it remains invisible or unnoticed at first; quickly seduced and persuaded by the keyboard mastery of Rodenberg. This lasts until after two minutes within the track as the instrumentals come in full force with another outstanding guitar solo keeping it with the consistent heavier movement. In addition, the vocals shine through this track up until the dramatic ending. On the eleventh track, “Unchain the Light” starts off with unique distortions as it moves into a theatrical sound by the keyboard. This is only the introduction though as vocals by Sammet, Atkins, and Kiske take a pivotal role to this well-diversed track. Steaming in with emotion on the final song, “A Restless Heart And Obsidian Skies” reminds all listeners about “the darkness of the world” as Catley makes a guest vocal appearance. The placement of this concluding track alone has made this an incredible masterpiece.
With Ghostlights, Sammet has created such a dark atmosphere with the haunting reality of how short and fragile time is. It is a near faultless album and it could prove to be the strongest pieces from Avantasia to date. CrypticRock.com gives Ghostlights 5 out of 5 stars.