Band: Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia
Release Date: January 29th, 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast
Unlike many, I don’t think Tobias Sammet has surpassed The Metal Opera Part I and II with his following releases with Avantasia. Well, maybe except for the guest artist list. The first two albums had this feeling of passion in them. The rest were solid but rather average examples of power metal that, in my book, had fallen into this gap of metal transformation which started somewhere in mid 2000’s with the rise of internet and mp3 piracy.
Now, we have to define this “average” word. I mean mediocre but I’m comparing his albums with the best of the genre. Some of those examples, as a twist of fate, are also his and this “mediocrity” issue was (and for some, still is) an issue with all the bands and labels. Formulaic releases that quickly gather up ideas in a panic to release something new are an excuse to start a new tour while unknown new bands rising with the re-discovery of internet’s musical “potential” are stealing the spotlight. These are interesting times and something will change about this industry in the not so distant future. That is a fact as the present reality forces artists to make money from tours and merchandise, not from their created art. It will eventually change. You don’t believe me? Check how many bands have branded beverages in the works.
Anyway, that’s a subject for another debate and article. Let us return back to Ghostlights. It’s yet again a guest artist list galore with many strong names in the line up. Nothing surprising there as it is the tradition of Avantasia to go big with names in creating rock operas. Ghostlights, however, is sounding better than the last few releases to my ears. Actually, aside from The Metal Opera Part I, it may be Tobias Sammet’s best in means of Avantasia. Everything Avantasia is here. Fancy guest names (will write their names at the end of this review), bombastic chorus parts and sound. Aggressive partitions, mellow passages, solid vocal performances. The album flows. That wasn’t the case, for me at least, for the last few releases.
The album’s story is carried straight from the last release, still digging deep about the time concept. But I want to focus back on the music. It is somewhat darker and the composition ideas are in similar vein with The Metal Opera Part I. It doesn’t have a song like, say, Sign of the Cross, sadly, but most of the tracks come close to that quality. The “formulated” music is still there like The Haunting which sounds very much like the Jon Oliva performed Death is Just a Feeling (from the 2010’s Angel of Babylon). Playing safe maybe, I don’t know.
Interestingly, since early 2015, some of these bands losing their touch started to release some of their best works in their discography. Something to do with astrological cycles perhaps, who knows. Amorphis, Symphony X, Megadeth, Evergrey (ok that was in 2014). Ghostlights is the same. If you like Avantasia’s approach to rock opera, everything you like about it is still here. Now, some people say this consistent solid approach is good and I understand where they’re coming from. Respect. However, I believe it is past time Tobias Sammet tried something different and fresh as well. Ghostlights have some good steps towards that direction, at least it is much better than 2008’s Scarecrow. Still, ears wish for more. Like a female fronted song that is not a ballad or a different approach to power metal like Blind Guardian brought back in 90’s, or Helloween did in 80’s.
This is classic power metal but it is not ground breaking musically and it is not something “fresh” as The Metal Opera Part I was. I believe Sammet has the power to create something far more unique than this. Seduction of Decay, Draconian Love, Master of the Pendulum were good touches, for example, and a good listens. They are also the good examples of Sammet taking a step towards trying new things. If you like Avantasia’s power metal and not thinking it needs a brave step towards new discoveries, the grade is there at the end. If you’re like me, looking for a bit more change than this but believe it is still a positive step, then drop that to 8.5, 8 even.
One last note, the guitar work is really, really good.
The guests are as follows: Geoff Tate, Dee Snider, Marco Hietala, Sharon Den, Michael Kiske, Ronnie Atkins, Bob Catley, Jorn Lande, Bruce Kulick, Robert, Herbie Langhans, Felix Bohnke, Oliver Hartmann, Michael Rodenberg and Sascha Paeth.
Sascha Paeth | rhythm guitars, lead guitars, bass, additional keyboards
Michael Rodenberg | orchestration, keyboards
Tobias Sammet | additional keyboards, bass
Bruce Kulick | lead guitars
Oliver Hartmann | lead guitars
Felix Bohnke | drums