REVIEW: AVANTASIA – “Ghostlights”
I am really not ashamed to admit that there are very few phrases that get me going as much as “New Avantasia Album”. Let’s face it, there are very few consistently great rock opera projects out there, and even fewer that can boast a “best-of” hard rock and heavy metal roster a mile long. Avantasia has been doing just that since the first full-length release, ‘The Metal Opera Pt. 1’ in 2001, still regarded as a fan favorite, and in my opinion, a must-own for any power metal fan. Mastermind Tobias Sammet (Live Interview With Tobias) has come out and announced the end of Avantasia in the past (more than once) but albums are still mysteriously being released – and somehow keep getting better? You just can’t stop, can you Tobi? Well good. Please don’t. Loyal fans rejoice, as January 2016 marks the release of the seventh full length album, ‘Ghostlights’, a true masterpiece of epic songwriting. Let’s just say, if the release date was a few weeks before, it would take the number one spot on my favorite albums of 2015 – but there’s always next year!
“Mystery of a Blood Red Rose” kicks off the record with a traditional power metal sound and a massive chorus, but creates such a huge fantasy atmosphere, despite the short time it holds on the record at just under four minutes. As soon as this track ended, I knew that this was going to be not only another solid album from Avantasia, but may just be my favorite release of theirs since 2008’s ‘The Scarecrow’. Immediately following, the twelve-minute epic “Let the Storm Descend Upon You” descends upon the record with such a strong, yet beautiful presence. Guest vocalist, and one of my all time favorites, Jorn Lande (ex-Masterplan) soars above the chugging guitar and matching keyboard work, beautifully accompanying Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Robert Mason (Warrant), and of course, Tobias Sammet. Truly, a flawless introduction to this fantastic album.
One of the creepiest moments on the album, aptly titled “The Haunting” features Dee Snyder (Twisted Sister) on vocals, and keyboard work that Michael Meyers would be proud of. “Seduction of Decay” features the iconic voice of Geoff Tate (ex-Queensryche), though the most surprising guest appearance is probably on the extra goth “Draconian Love”, featuring a low and slow voice of Sinbreed’s Herbie Langhans. Marco Hietala joins the roster on “Master Of The Pendulum” which is definitely my favorite song on the record. Hearing this song reminded me of listening to Nightwish‘s ‘Once’ from 2004 for the first time and being completely floored at the fantastic songwriting, catchy choruses, and riffs galore (and that guitar solo – this is why new Avantasia albums get me going so much). This song truly made the album for me, because as soon as it ended, I had a huge smile on my face and had to repeat it a handful of times. I have listened to the album too many times to count at this point, and every time this song comes on, I still repeat it.
This brings me to my only complaint about the record. Immediately after this massive song, comes the album’s ballad, “Isle Of Evermore”. Featuring the beautiful voice of Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) who is no stranger to Avantasia albums, this track seems a little lackluster, and especially when compared to the music surrounding it – it should be so much more exciting. “Babylon Vampyres” picks the speed back up with killer guitar work from Bruce Kulick (ex-Kiss) and Oliver Hartmann (known for guest appearances on just about every power metal album ever). The album comes to a close on another strong moment, “A Restless Heart And Obsidian Skies” which screams “the Avantasia I have grown to know and love over the years”. It tells a beautiful story, creates such a fantastic atmosphere, and has some of the strongest vocal arrangements on the album, featuring the legendary Bob Catley.
In all honestly, this has got to be one of the strongest Avantasia releases of all time. Though the general atmosphere of the album is the darkest Tobias has attempted, ‘Ghostlights’ shines so bright as it takes it’s rightful place in front of an already flawless discography. I have returned to this album more times than any other release, and I have a strong feeling that the fans will feel the same.