Avantasia’s The Metal Opera, released all the way back in the dark age (2001), is still one of my favourite modern power metal albums. Edguy frontman Tobias Sammet managed to capture just about anything that makes Teutonic power metal into such a joy (the rolling double bass drums, the epic choruses, the choirs, the optimism), got a few if not all of my favourite vocalists of the time and released an absolutely smashing record. Deciding that enough wasn’t enough, der Tobi released a follow-up the next year, an album much in the same vein, featuring largely the same cast. After that, everything changed.
When I say everything, though, I don’t just mean Avantasia, but Edguy as well. Sammet’s main band drifted more and more from those fast-paced power metal paths and into the realm of punchy rock with only the slightest of metallic edges, and when The Scarecrow was released under the Avantasia banner in 2008, you could set your watch on the echoes of that change oozing into the project’s sound. The Scarecrow isn’t a bad album by a long shot, but it’s a far cry from the metal opera Sammet started with, and the same can be said for 2010’s double feature The Wicked Symphony / Angel of Babylon. Not bad albums per se, but perhaps not really metal enough for the fans of the first hour.
The Mystery of Time, however, has been touted as a return of form of sorts, with descriptions like “some parts remind of Helloween’s Keeper of the Seven Keys” piquing the interest of the melodic metal community. Statements like that always need to be taken with a pinch of salt, especially when you release a cheesy, rather bland power ballad like Sleepwalking in advance, but I’m glad to be able to report that yes, Tobias Sammet has kept his word and released an album which successfully marries both the earlier, frantic power metal with the more rock-based sound of the later albums.
The Mystery of Time holds a surprising number of awfully tight songs, and I was frequently amazed by how much more metal Avantasia has become again. Songs like The Watchmakers’ Dream, Where Clock Hands Freeze or Dweller in a Dream (the last two with the indomitable Michael Kiske on vocals) could have been on the first two albums, with their fast pace, mighty choruses and flashy guitar solos, whilst Invoke the Machine surprises with some rather crunching riffs (and the rasping vocal work of Ronnie Atkins). Of course, The Mystery of Time has its slower moments as well, with What’s Left Of Me, featuring Mr. Big’s Eric Martin, as the standout ballad (next to the aforementioned Sleepwalking), and features two sweeping, epic tracks breaking the ten-minute threshold.
We already knew that Tobias Sammet was able to write a decent tune or two, but The Mystery of Time really is a return to form for this particular project. Michael Kiske and Magnum’s Bob Catley make a welcome return, and are joined this time by Joe Lynn Turner, Eric Martin, Saxon’s Biff Byford, Pretty Maids vocalist Ronnie Atkins and the relatively unknown Cloudy Yang. The band for the most part is the same as before, with Uriah Heep’s Russell Gilbrook on drumming duty and with a guitar solo by dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen on The Watchmakers’ Dream. With its ten songs the album never feels overlong or padded, even though it runs for little more than an hour (not counting any ‘limited edition’ bonus tracks). Definitely recommended stuff for the fan of traditional metal; let’s hope Sammet can pull a similar trick with the next Edguy album.
Label: Nuclear Blast
- Spectres (6:09)
- The Watchmakers’ Dream (4:14)
- Black Orchid (6:52)
- Where Clock Hands Freeze (4:35)
- Sleepwalking (3:52)
- Savior in the Clockwork (10:40)
- Invoke the Machine (5:30)
- What’s Left Of Me (5:07)
- Dweller in a Dream (4:45)
- The Great Mystery (10:03)
Review by Ralph Plug
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