Avantasia – Ghostlights

Ghostlights_by_AvantasiaSometimes I get the feeling that Tobias Sammet just doesn’t care much for Edguy anymore. Whilst the last few albums were okay at best, he seems to save his best material for Avantasia these days. And again, Edguy’s last album pales to 2016’s Ghostlights.

Once meant to be a one-time project called Avantasia: The Metal Opera, spanning two discs of top-notch Teutonic power metal, Sammet’s pet project has evolved into something a lot bigger over time. Eschewing the straight-forward power metal for a more mainstream sounding hard rock sound, Sammet released a number of albums after that, the last of which was 2013’s The Mystery of Time. A return to the more upbeat power metal or yesteryear, married to the hard rocking sensibilities of the latter-day albums, The Mystery of Time was quite a triumph, spawning a big world tour for the project, with many of the studio guests reprising their respective roles. Ghostlights, from the looks of it, is poised to do the same.

The album starts of with the overly catchy Mystery of a Blood Red Rose, a song with which Sammet even made an ultimately failed attempt to represent Germany in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, and it’s a corker. Tobias has a real knack of writing songs that lodge themselves in your head after one go, and this opener is another impressive display of the man’s songwriting skills. It has all the licks and hooks of a good hard rock song, whilst also entertaining the cheesy pop characteristics of a Eurovision entry. Things pick up in a more typical Avantasia manner with the long Let the Storm Descend Upon You, a twelve-and-a-bit minute epic containing all the best elements of the project: more incredibly catchy hooks and melodies, heaps of dynamic and a shining role for gruffy belter Jorn Lande. It’s a twelve-plus minute song that doesn’t feel its length, and that in itself is an impressive feat.

The rest of the album follows a fairly typical slow-fast-slow song dynamic, with the scales slowly tipping in favour of the faster songs. This makes for a more rousing listen than on The Mystery of Time, and gives the album a welcome injection of energy, where the previous album was good, but lacking some punch. Special credit goes to the title track and Unchain the Light in this case, mostly due to Michael Kiske’s performance. At 48, the guy still has the same crystal clear pipes he used to have. Still, for all Ghostlights does right, it contains two absolute stinkers. Isle of Evermore is an absolute bore of a ballad featuring Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel. It plods on and on, trying to put you to sleep and damn well near succeeding until you almost park your car/bike/boat/whatever into a tree. The other is a weird The Sisters of Mercy knock-off which doesn’t quite work either, with Herbie Langhans on vocal duties.

Luckily, the good outweighs the bad on Ghostlights, and songs like Let The Storm Descend Upon You, the brooding The Haunting (with Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider on vocals) and the briskly paced Master of the Pendulum and Babylon Vampyres more than make up for the two odd men out, meaning that Ghostlights is, by and large, an excellent power metal cum hard rock album well worth your time.

Label: Nuclear Blast
Release: Out now

Track listing:

  1. Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose
  2. Let The Storm Descend Upon You
  3. The Haunting
  4. Seduction Of Decay
  5. Ghostlights
  6. Draconian Love
  7. Master Of The Pendulum
  8. Isle Of Evermore
  9. Babylon Vampyres
  10. Lucifer
  11. Unchain The Light
  12. A Restless Heart And Obsidian Skies

Line-up:

  • Tobias Sammet – vocals, keyboards, bass
  • Sascha Paeth – guitar, keyboards, bass
  • Michael Rodenberg – orchestration, keyboards
  • Felix Bohnke – drums
  • Bob Catley – vocals
  • Dee Snider – vocals
  • Geoff Tate – vocals
  • Herbie Langhans – vocals
  • Jorn Lande – vocals
  • Marco Hietala – vocals
  • Michael Kiske – vocals
  • Robert Mason – vocals
  • Ronnie Atkins – vocals
  • Sharon den Adel – vocals
  • Bruce Kulick – guitar
  • Oliver Hartmann – guitar

Further surfing:

Review by Ralph Plug

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