Avantasia - Ghostlights Review

Avantasia - Ghostlights
Avantasia - Ghostlights. Nuclear Blast Records

Originally a side project that was supposed to last two albums, Tobbias Sammet’s Avantasia have become much grander than his original vision. Since their return in 2008, they have been incredibly prolific as their output is even greater than Sammet’s primary band Edguy.

I believe a fair argument can be made that they have surpassed Edguy in terms of quality at this stage of their career based on recent releases.

They are back with their seventh full-length release, Ghostlights, where Avantasia continue to write metal concept albums.

Once again Sammet is joined by a stellar list of musicians and vocalists to assist in the story. Geoff Tate (ex-Queensryche), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween), Sharon Del Adel (Within Temptation), Marco Hietala (Nightwish) and Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids) lead an impressive array of vocalists that perform the extravagant material.

Ghostlights is a complex story that centers on the division of science and spirituality. The main character is an agnostic scientist who finds himself becoming more spiritual as he travels down a path with a group of individuals who are trying to manipulate time. It brings to light the old adage of faith disguised in a world of fantasy and science fiction.

Somewhere between a Helloween and Meat Loaf combination, Avantasia does an excellent job of combining the precision and bombastic nature of power metal with the showmanship and storytelling of a rock opera.

The material is dense and always progressing the story forward.

With a running time of over 70 minutes it takes the listener on a journey and demands a lot of attention of multiple listens. The material isn’t easily digestible as the content is ostentatious. The songs bounce back and forth between catchy and complex.

They are at their best with monster vocalist Michael Kiske. He has now been part of every Avantasia release and his contribution here is invaluable. The title track is an uptempo adrenaline rush that could be on Keeper Of The Seven Keys.  

“Unchain The Light” features both Kiske and Atkins exchanging vocals with Sammet. Three of the best vocalists in the business duel, showcasing their power and talent. The chorus is insatiable and will be impossible to remove form your head.

Tate returns to form on the riff heavy “Seduction Of Decay.” His voice is in great form as the song is more inspired by the classic Queensrÿche sound than any of his current material. Den Adel brings her sensuous vocals to “Isle Of Evermore,” which is a magnificent duet between her and Sammet.

“The Haunting” and “Draconian Love” blend Savatage influences with a gothic flair. It is to great benefit that Avantasia travel down different paths and paints different colors to their songwriting. Both are moody with slower tempos and give a much needed change of pace. Snider gives a passionate performance on the former, but Sinbreed’s Herbie Langhans provides a baritone melody as the perfect counter for Sammet’s melodic melodies on the latter.

Once again, the release is produced by Sascha Paeth who has been the man behind the curtain since 2008s The Scarecrow. His penchant for arrangements and producing amazing clarity of the instrumentation is top notch in the industry.

At this stage in the game Sammet seems to have developed more passion for the Avantasia project than Edguy. His output is far greater and his genius is much more on display here. I wouldn’t call this his side project any longer, as it has become his main focus.

Ghostlights isn’t an easy album to digest. In fact, like most of Avantasia’s catalog it takes an effort for the listener to put in the time and energy into uncovering its many layers. The material isn’t overly complicated and is remarkably catchy but the inclusion of the storyline and the added showtune like quality to the songwriting can be hard to digest at times.

Overall this is another fine example of Sammet’s ability as a composer and songwriter.

(released January 29th, 2016 on Nuclear Blast Records)