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Avantasia - "Ghostlights" (CD)

Avantasia - "Ghostlights" CD cover image

"Ghostlights" 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

Reviewed by on December 15, 2015

"With each passing [Avantasia] album, it occurs to me – why can’t Tobi just write the music for everyone?"

Let’s face it….ever since Savatage unofficially hung it up after the release of “Poets and Madmen” in 2001 in favor of morphing into the Christmas money making juggernaut Trans-Siberian Orchestra, there has been only one band that filled the gap and matched the songwriting and towering presence – and that has been Tobi Sammet’s Avantasia. It’s too easy to lump Avantasia into the heap of all-star projects that are all the rage these days. However, for all of Sammet’s trolling about “never writing another album” after every album and tour – they keep coming….and they keep getting better. Amid the usual Avantasia trademarks, there is a dark edge to “Ghostlights” that pushes this album into greatness.

With each passing album, it occurs to me – why can’t Tobi just write the music for everyone? I’m not certain if he chooses to write for the guests he has in mind or chooses the guest based on what he writes, but its uncanny how much those interchangeable vocalists fit so perfectly. Dee Snider’s eerie appearance on “The Haunting” is reminiscent of “Come Out and Play” or “Burn in Hell.” “Ghostlights” is seriously “Keepers, Pt. 1” infused even without Michael Kiske at the helm. Did MasterPlan write that 12 minute opus “Let the Storm Descend upon You”? Well, Jorn never sounded stronger! Best of all, the amazing “Rage for Order” inspired “Seduction of Decay” is audible proof that it isn’t Geoff Tate’s voice that’s the problem…it’s his drab and uninspiring songwriting. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sprinkling of other vocal greats like Pretty Maids’ Ronny Atkins (“Let the Storm Descend Upon You” and “Unchain the Light”) and the legendary Bob Cately (“A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies”) along with the lead guitar contributions of ex-Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick (“Babylon Vampyres,” “Lucifer,” “A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies”).

One very noticeable difference between “Ghostlights” and “The Mystery of Time”: an air of darkness and heaviness that permeates in the riffs and vocal performances. Between “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose” (with its near ode to Meatloaf), “Seduction of Decay,” “Master of the Pendulum” (featuring Nightwish’s Marco Hietala) and “Babylon Vampyres” there is more power than in the last four releases combined. If that sounds right up your alley….then go for it. Its powerful, infectious and completely driven. One of the more intriguing performances is on “Draconian Love” – which features Sinbreed/Beyond the Bridge vocalist Herbie Langhans. Sporting his best Daniel Anghede impression, Herbie comes off like a Goth prince, something I’ve never heard him try before.

Once again, the track with the most lag is the ballad, which is disappointing since I’ve come to gravitate more towards the slower tracks in my “pre-middle age adult years.” “Isle of Evermore” features Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel, whom I adore. If there was one complaint I have with the last couple of Avantasia albums it’s the use of the female guests. If time has proven one thing – it’s that there are so many outstanding female performers who can absolutely belt it as well as their male counterparts. One time I’d love to hear a ripping pure metal Avantasia track with the likes of Ida Haukland. The closest was Cloudy Yang in “Symphony of Life” back on “Angel of Babylon” in 2010. “Isle of Evermore” is a serviceable track and a proto-typical track for den Adel’s vocal style.

Tobi’s songwriting notwithstanding, Avantasia is flanked by some of the best musicians in the business – guys that are seldom talked of in the popular metal circles. Sascha Paeth is not only a proven guitar hero (check out Heaven’s Gate, Luca Turilli, Redkey or Trillum), but a producer/engineer extraordinaire (Angra’s “Holy Land,” Epica’s “Design Your Universe,” Kamelot’s “The Black Halo,” Rhapsody of Fire’s “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” too name just a few). In Avantasia, Paeth is both! Add Oliver Hartmann – a recurring Avantasia “guest” – who brings both guitar prowess and vocal brilliance and Miro – keyboard and orchestration expert.

“Ghostlights” is both a welcome return to blistering power metal as well as a continuation of the song writing and hair raising choruses that you come to expect from Avantasia. With Tobi’s uncanny ability to make every guest either fit perfectly to a song, or be able to write a song that shows off a guest’s best qualities, it works brilliantly. There is a lot more for fans of “Metal Opera” to chew on, but making that comparison will draw instant disdain from the Sammet faithful. Not this one…I never heard an Avantasia album I didn’t enjoy, some more than others. Check it out, make draw your own conclusions…I’ll even leave the “Ghostlights” on for you.

Highs: There is a heavier edge to this material... appealing to the power metal side, Geoff Tate shockingly shines!

Lows: It would be great to hear a female guest tear it up on a total metal ripper and not just a ballad.

Bottom line: "Ghostlights" will rank among Avantasia's best albums... mark my words.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)