Avantasia - Ghostlights

Avantasia Ghostlights cover
Avantasia
Ghostlights
Nuclear Blast
2016
8
Average: 7.2 (12 votes)
Tobias Sammet seems unstoppable, as he releases album after album, year after year, either with Avantasia or Edguy. Managing to mix the best of Magnum with the theatricality of Jim Steinman’s written Meatloaf albums, but without so terrible vocals, is what the “ensemble” has been all about after the “Metal Opera”, which was pretty much straight ahead power metal, in the best tradition of Helloween and the transitional trilogy of albums that ensued, which were very orchestrated power metal with quite theatrical aspirations… the last two albums, released by Avantasia are increasingly more “artistic” and less metallic, without that being necessarily a bad thing…
 
The band’s newest and seventh album “Ghostlights” is being released this month in a variety of formats and many have been quite intrigued by the numerous guests like Dee Snider, Geoff Tate, Marco Hietala, Sharon Den Adel, Michael Kiske, Ronnie Atkins, Bob Catley, Jorn Lande, Bruce Kulick, Robert Mason, Herbie Langhans, Oliver Hartmann and Sascha Paeth with a lot of the latter also doubling as instrumentalists as well…
 
Right from the start “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose” is a bona-fide hit, and if not for Tobi’s rather unsuccessful effort to channel some rich baritone in some early portions that comes across a bit like he had a bit too much “meatloaf” for dinner; it’s otherwise almost impeccable…
 
Let the Storm Descend Upon You” has Jorn dueting with Tobias and man he is he one of the better vocalists these days? Both in possession of a great “muscular” timbre but also a nice range which he can transcend and sound quite amazing throughout. It’s by far the longest tune on the album, clocking at some twelve minutes and Robert Mason of Warrant/Big Cock etc., as well as pretty Maids frontman Ronnie Atkins make their presence more than felt in this, the album’s “centerpiece”, really...
 
“The Haunting” is a haunting number, starring none other than Dee Snider of Twisted Sister fame and it’s quite sinister sounding – bar it’s nice chorus, like some sick bastardized Alice Cooper number symphonized into Avantasian material. Dee pulls it off nicely, but the track, itself, feels a bit unfinished or transitional between others. It ain’t bad, but it hardly can stand alone – out of the context of the album which is a bit of an issue…
 
“Seduction of Decay” sees ex-Queensryche and current Operation:Mindcrimse singer Geoff Tate dueting in possibly the best performance he’s done in the past twenty or so years… he duets parts of this with Tobias and the way in which their voices combine is quite cool as they seem to complement each other quite nicely...
 
“Ghostlights” is the title track and it tosses Michael Kiske into the equation and into the fire with probably one of the faster most power metal tunes on the album with some quirky “faster” verses, acting as the hook… interesting. There’s also some Jorn-ish verse in there that comes a bit as a surprise…
 
“Draconian Love” has Sinbreed’s Herbie Langhans guesting, but he’s probably one of the letdowns, as his much deeper voice isn’t too relatable sounding like a bad Andrew Eldrich mixed with some Peter Stormare (the actor) and only Tobias “saves” the day, when he repeats the chorus...
 
“Master of the Pendulum” has Tarot/Nightwish bassist/vocalist assuming the vocalist spot. While he can be quite good (ie Ayreon), at time, he goes for his usual vocal style as manifested in Nightwish, which I’m not the biggest fan of. He sounds OK on his own, but when Tobi comes in and thickens up the sound, the duet actually makes the song work… in a way that sounds a bit like Avanta-wish-ia… not a bad tune though.
 
“Isle of Evermore” has Sharon Den Adel, of Within Temptation, singing and even though if the tune is a bit too ambient and sad. Basically Tobias, using some of his softer most hurt falsetto, sounds quite nice trading and dueting lines with Sharon, possibly a singer that I would enjoy listening even if she sung names out of the white pages… hehe...
 
Mason returns for “Babylon Vampyres” a somewhat bizarrely sequenced, but otherwise quite fine celebratory and slightly show-offish, sleazy Rainbowesque (JLT era) double bass plummeting power metal tune that does feel a little out of place “here”...
 
“Lucifer” turns the engines off till about midway with Jorn and Tobi exchanging lines and dueting over soft piano, before it all goes power metal… for the rest of the song’s duration.
 
“Unchain the Light” is the actual crescendo of the album, as it mixes a little bit of everything – but the kitchen sink in a glorious show-stopping piece with misters Kiske and Atkins just blazing out along with Toby...
 
Expectedly “A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies” cools things off a bit, as it features none other than the Master that Magnum’s Bob Catley is along with Tobias in a tune that both acts as an outro, but also has sudden Magnum like glorious eruption, before the fireworks go completely out…
 
“Wake Up to the Moon” is a digibook only bonus with almost every one, Tobi, Jorn, Kiske, Catley, Atkins and Mason, chipping in. it’s a decent enough tune, I guess, but there might be a reason why it’s not “part” of the actual album and offered as a bonus only…
 
Further to that, the digibook 2 CD has a second CD an 11 track “Avantasia live” (“Spectres”, “Invoke the Machine”, “The Story ain’t Over”, “Prelude”, “Reach Out for the Light”, “Avantasia”, “What’s Left of Me”, “Dying for an Angel”, “Twisted Mind”, “The Watchmaker’s Dream” and “Another Angel Down” without further description of where these tracks stem from at this time being available. Lastly, there’s also a 3 CD Deluxe Edition Book (an earbook), which in addition to the first two CDs offers a third one with a karaoke version of the album, minus the bonus track, in case you feel like singing, as well as a 68 large format pages with photos from the album and the tours…
 
I’d dare say that after “The Mystery of Time” that was showing serious signs of fatigue, “Ghostlights” feels more like a step in the right direction, although, I’m afraid that if Tobias keeps his current pace, of touring and putting out both Edguy and Avantasia albums, he’s unlikely to reach the superior quality of the first three Avantasia albums or even that of his breakthrough Edguy ones. Still he manages to deliver, once more in style, largely due to the great team he’s assembled around him… but I doubt if slowing down a bit, would hurt things in the overall scope of things…

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