It’s no secret that I’m a huge Tobias Sammet fanboy – his work with EDGUY over the last twenty years has been nothing short of amazing and with AVANTASIA, what started out as a one-off all-star power metal experiment has grown into a juggernaut that embraces a wide spectrum on metal genres. With Ghostlights (out January 29 via Nuclear Blast Records), Tobi once again raises the bar and absolutely crushes all expectations.
Tobi has a talent for working with talented singers and getting the absolute best out of them, and Ghostlights is no exception. Geoff Tate’s performance on “Seduction of Decay” is nothing short of a miracle and shows that he can still channel the vocal style that made QUEENSRŸCHE a success. Likewise with Dee Snider on “The Haunting” – he brings the creepy darkness extra hard (like Alice Cooper and Jon Oliva on albums past), and the chorus is a complete throwback to “The Price” from TWISTED SISTER’S glory days.
Other newcomers to the AVANTASIA fold include Herbie Langhans (SINBREED) providing deep and rich vocals on “Draconian Love” and Marco Hietala (NIGHTWISH, TAROT) on one of the most upbeat and addictive tracks, “Master of the Pendulum”. Robert Mason (WARRANT) provides one of the biggest surprises with the vocal performance of a lifetime on my personal favorite, “Babylon Vampyres”, which is a great power metal track that works so well with Robert’s gruffer vocal style.
Jørn Lande, Bob Catley, Ronnie Atkins, and the legendary Michael Kiske are back again, and deliver some classic performances. The epic “Let the Storm Descend Upon You”, featuring Tobi, Jørn, Ronnie, and Robert measures up against any of Tobi’s longer tracks from previous outings. Bob’s duet with Tobi on the album closer “A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies” starts as a slower tempo ballad that slowly builds into a rocker ala “The Story Ain’t Over” or “Journey to Arcadia”. The title track, “Ghostlights”, really showcases Michael Kiske’s unique voice, and honestly could have been pulled from one of HELLOWEEN’S Keeper of the Seven Keys album sessions.
“Mystery of a Blood Red Rose”, the first single, sounds so much like a MEAT LOAF song that you couldn’t convince me that it wasn’t written with him in mind. It makes one wonder and long for what could have been had Tobi brought him onboard for this album.
One of the most pleasant surprises is Sharon den Adel (WITHIN TEMPTATION) and her performance on “Isle Of Evermore”. “Farewell”, her contribution to the very first AVANTASIA album, was the last female vocal performance on the project that I really enjoyed, but this new track is outstanding; it’s slow, soulful, and rich, with a great drum line and amazing atmosphere.
So, is Ghostlights the best AVANTASIA album ever? Maybe, maybe not; I couldn’t name my favorite disc with a gun to my head, they’re all that good. It’s one hell of a release, though, and Tobias Sammet shows no signs of letting off the gas. The writing and performances are top notch, and this one is very worthy of its lineage.
It’s a very early Album of the Year candidate for me for 2016. Don’t delay – pick it up on the release date and start enjoying the greatness.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM
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