Avantasia – “Ghostlights” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Completing the concept that started in 2013 with the release of “The Mystery Of Time” comes Tobias Sammet’s follow up in this seventh Avantasia full-length album. Whilst I’m not a great Edguy fan, this grand rock opera project is something that has always left me in awe – if anything for the stellar line ups that Sammet manages to pull – this time around we have guest appearances from Dee Snider, Geoff Tate, Marco Hietala, Sharon Den Adel, Michael Kiske, Ronnie Atkins, Bob Catley, Jorn Lande, Bruce Kulick, Robert Mason, Herbie Langhans and Oliver Hartmann!!! That’s not to say that Sammet himself is overshadowed – far from it as on opener ‘Mystery of a Blood Red Rose’ which is so Jim Steinman sounding I’m sure he had Meat Loaf in mind to do the vocals but unable to do so puts on his own stellar performance instead! The quality of the compositions here cannot be understated and the fact that ‘Mystery ..’ has been nominated as one of Germany’s contenders for this year’s Eurovision says it all really. Alongside Sammet has to be mentioned renowned guitarist, producer, engineer etc Sascha Paeth – together they form the core to which is rich pool of talent is drawn to! With the album’s overall concept based on life’s different ideals and philosophies, some of the material this time round is darker like on the gothic ‘Draconian Love’, where science can start off as a good for humanity, but sadly can also be used to control people or worse, to keep them so busy they burn out before realizing what truly matters in life. That said, there are plenty of uplifting songs like the Freedom Call power metal of the title track ‘Ghostlights’, complete with powering double bass drumming and plenty of positive energy from Paeth’s fiery guitar work, not to mention Michael Kiske and Jorn Lande’s superbly soaring vocals. Elsewhere, Marco Hietala brings the folk passion of Nightwish on ‘Master of the Pendulum’, an amazing singalong with its catchy folk chorus contrasted brilliantly by its heavier epic sound. My personal fave however, had to be ‘Unchain The Light’ a sorta AOR power metal track given a modern touch thanks to Michael Rodenberg’s keyboards and brought to life spectacularly by the vocals of Pretty Maid’s Ronnie Atkins – and of course more heartbreaking guitar work from Paeth! There are no conclusions, no endings or statements to be made by this album. In fact, even Sammet at this stage doesn’t know if there will be another Avantasia release. But maybe that’s the message of this music – to enjoy all of life for the magic and beauty of the moment.