Review Summary: Let the storm descend upon you.
Remember when Kamelot released The Black Halo
? More than a simple triumph, it set a new standard for subsequent power metal albums. Kamelot may have enjoyed success with prior releases, Karma
, but it was The Black Halo
that solidified them as a reckoning force in all of heavy metal. Similarly, Tobias Sammet (Edguy) has seen celebration follow his supergroup side-project, Avantasia. Built with thematic elements, grand storytelling and musical collaborations in-mind, Sammet's ultimate goal with Avantasia was to create an opera of sorts, hence the debut album, The Metal Opera
. Subsequently, Avantasia have become synonymous with concept albums and, more specifically, those meant to be part of an overarching saga (The Metal Opera
, The Wicked Trilogy
). The latest entry, Ghostlights
, follows 2013's The Mystery of Time
, boasting a wide host of musicians, including Dee Snider, Geoff Tate, Jorn Lande, Ronnie Atkins and several more. What follows is an album sure to captivate listeners and set the precedent for heavy metal in 2016.
Sammet describes Ghostlights
as a "journey in 12 chapters, 12 pictures, 12 dreams, and 12 reflections of reality...The task was to make each lyric work on its own, and yet together have them form some kind of a complete story." "Theatrical" immediately springs to mind, and Sammet achieves this effect without falling into the same trap that others have. Where we traditionally have interludes and plainly spoken words remind us that what we're hearing is, in fact, a story, Ghostlights
' overall approach is more straightforward. The music stands its ground first and foremost, using every featured artist to not only lend each song its own identity, but reinforce the fact there are multiple characters in the underlying tale. Oftentimes concept albums depend on each song to carry the next, making individual listens of certain tracks far less fulfilling. Not a concern with Ghostlights
. Much of what holds the entire album together audibly are brief, subtle calms at the beginning and end of each track. A small touch, but one that allows each song to either stand alone or work with the group.
Going through each individual artist and their performance would transform this review into an essay; a total of 18 are on display, 11 of them supplying vocals. Including Sammet, two to three vocalists appear on almost any given track. This may look like a crowded affair, but everyone works together like a collection of fruits blended together to create the ultimate smoothie. For instance, Dee Snider might be easy to pick out on "The Haunting," but even he avoids turning into a complete distraction. Instead of being used as a crutch, he's utilized the same way as everyone else: as a means to enhance the album's core sound. Ghostlights
has more vigor than its recent predecessors, enough to make even detractors surrender their defenses and become enthralled. Alluring guitar leads, triumphant choruses, rousing back-up vocals and the occasional somber moments are all present in fine form. Variety is also in high supply, with "Mystery of a Blood Red Rose" being but a neutral precedent for the wondrous storm ahead. The title track and "Unchain the Light" are energetic while "Master of the Pendulum" evokes a heavier, more deliberate sense of high-octane riffage--it's practically ripped right out of Hellfire Club
. "Isle of Evermore" is Ghostlights
' calmest moment, featuring Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel to complement the chilling ambience. Then there's "Let the Storm Descend Upon You," a powerful, progressive epic whose 12 minutes are bound to be repeated and eat hours away like they're seconds.
Avantasia won't be viewed the same way again. Where once was a supergroup of musicians sticking to symphonic power metal's confines, there's now a collection of talents being directed by someone who finally realizes what his project should do. The result is an album that leaves you eager to listen not just once, but several times on end. Ghostlights
is Tobias Sammet demonstrating that he's not only found his voice, but a collective voice for many to contribute to. The man has always been a visionary, but his work never quite matched the vision. That is, until now.