A few tweaks here and there, and these guys could be a force to be reckoned with.
Avantasia – Ghostlights
Dramatic. Theatrical. Colossal. Spine-tingling. These are just some of the superlatives that immediately spring to mind when taking in Ghostlights, the seventh album from Tobias Sammet’s rock opera side project Avantasia. Sammet – whose day job is fronting German power metallers Edguy – has unleashed an album here of such scale and scope that it must surely be visible from space. Those unfamiliar with Avantastia would be best served with a short introduction. In a nutshell, Avantasia is a Sammet’s symphonic concept rock side-project which has delivered six concept albums to date, each telling a different story and featuring a dizzying array of hard rock alumni as contributors to the frontman’s vision. Artists such as Klaus Meine (Scorpions), Joe Lynn Turner (ex-Rainbow), Alice Cooper, Biff Byford (Saxon), Rudolf Shenker (Scorpions) and Russell Allen (Symphony X) have all played parts over the years and that trend continues on album number seven, Ghostlights.
What strikes most immediately is not simply the weight and drama of the music, more importantly, it is the quality of the songwriting. This is the most consistent Avantasia album and is a textbook example of expertly crafted melodic heavy metal. Ghostlights kicks off with Mystery of a Blood Red Rose – a track with more than a little Meat Loaf about it – and, while being a more than suitable opening track, in the context of the album actually serves as one of its weaker moments. Interestingly, following in the footsteps of Finland’s Lordi in 2006, this track could be Germany’s 2016 entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. You can be the judge of whether or not this is a good or a bad thing. The album explodes to its peak on the quite stupendous, Let The Storm Descend Upon You, which is an over 12 minute tour-de-force, a melodramatic opus delivering more peaks and troughs than the Winter Olympics and features one of the most enormous and memorable chorus’ you’ll likely hear this year. Masterplan/Jorn’s Jorn Lande, Warrant’s Robert Mason and Pretty Maid’s Ronnie Atkins each deliver phenomenal vocal support to Sammet on a track that, ultimately, reaches a crescendo that will leave you breathless. It is quite stunning. It’s fair to say that the rest of the albums’ material stacks up just as well and the guest musicians do both themselves and the excellent material justice. The Haunting features Twisted Sister’s Dee Dee Snider and, like Mystery of a Blood Red Rose, is hard rock meets Broadway. Given Snider’s recent escapades performing in that most famous of New York districts he serves as perfect fodder to Sammet here. Seduction of Decay, featuring ex-Queensryche vocal maestro Geoff Tate, musically references Dio-era Black Sabbath and serves as a reminder that, behind the bravado, ego and headlines of late, Tate’s is a talent and ability of timeless class. The title track is perhaps the most ‘power metal’ of the material on Ghostlights and, appropriately, features a quite ridiculous vocal performance from regular Avantastia contributor and ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske hitting vocal highs that would be obscene to vocalists half his age; this is a feat he serves to repeat on the equally fantastic Unchain the Light later in the album too. Draconian Love is a dark and gothic overture which would not sit out of place within the canon of love metallers HIM while Lucifer opens as a beautiful and mournful ballad then proceeds to explode into hard rock armageddon before reaching another truly goose bump inducing conclusion.
Whether you have an interest in the more traditional metal power of Ghostlights, Babylon Vampires or Master of the Pendulum; whether it’s the theatre of Mystery of a Blood Red Rose and The Haunting or it’s the melodrama of Let The Storm Descend Upon You or Lucifer, there is something on Ghostlights for every fan of classic metal and rock music. There is not a dud track here and where it is good – it is overwhelmingly awesome.
Avantasia have reached significant heights in their native Germany and mainland Europe, even headlining Wacken in 2014, yet Ghostlights is far and away the crowning glory and the synthesis of Sammet’s vision into one timeless whole. This is an album that, if justice is served, should win them global acclaim amongst the broader metal community because power metal does not get better than this.