Billed as the second chapter of the story begun on 2013's "The Mystery of Time" "Ghostlights" is a darker, moodier album, which has stripped back a lot of the previous orchestration and has a sound more focused on metal while still remaining true to the operatic nature of Sammet's compositions and arrangements.
This is also highlighted by the veritable who's who of guest vocalists again being given character names:
- Tobias Sammet - Aaron Blackwell
- Jorn Lande - Temptation
- Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids) - Magician
- Robert Mason (Warrant, Lynch Mob) - Scientist I
- Dee Snider - Nightmare
- Geoff Tate (Queensryche) - Scientist II
- Michael Kiske (Helloween) - Mystic
- Herbie Langhans (Seventh Avenue) - Eclipse
- Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) - Muse
- Marco Hietala (Nightwish) - The Watchmaker
- Bob Catley (Magnum) - Spirit.
The other musicians featuring on this album are:
- Sascha Paeth - Guitars, Bass and Keyboards
- Oliver Hartmann - Guitars and vocals
- Bruce Kulick (Kiss) - Guitar
- Michael Rodenberg - Keyboards and Orchestration
- Felix Bohnke - Drums
- Cloudy Yang - bgv.
"Ghostlights" starts with the Jim Steinman/Meat Loaf sounding 'Mystery of a Blood Red Rose complete with huge choruses and obligatory key change. A catchy opening number sang by Aaron.
The 12 minute epic 'Let The Storm Descend Upon You' follows with its haunting start quickly developing into a power metal number which has Aaron, Temptation, Magician and Scientist I sharing vocal duties. Huge choruses and hooks are the order of the day here with some excellent guitar work from Hartmann. At no point does this song seem overlong as it cleverly builds its storyline.
"Seduction of Decay" showcases the heavier nature of this album with its pounding mid tempo riff and rhythm section. Aaron has Scientist II to do battle with here and an excellent job they both do. Paeth has another excellent solo to add weight to the song.
Title track "Ghostlights" has our first visit from Mystic on vocals and along with Aaron they deliver a powerful vocal. With Maidenesque riffs, double kick drums and great guitar work by Paeth and Hartmann this a joy to listen to for all melodic power metal fans.
"Draconian Love" instantly has an anthemic feel to it with Eclipse trading vocals with Aaron this time. A great melody, huge chorus and hooks this song will undoubtably become a live favourite.
"Master of the Pendulum" has Aaron delivering an eerie start to it but Paeths blinding fretwork kicks it into gear and the introduction of The Watchmaker gives this fast paced song a Nightwish makeover and is probably the heaviest song on the album.
In sharp contrast comes the haunting, mostly electronic ballad "Isle of Evermore" beautifully delivered by Muse and Aaron whose vocals blend perfectly.
"Babylon Vamyres" takes us back to the straight up rocker belted out wonderfully by Aaron and Scientist I. With a beat driven along by bass and drums at a quick tempo it features yet another big chorus and hook. Kulick makes his first appearance on this song trading solos with Hartmann and Paeth and it was well worth the wait.
"Lucifer" introduces us to Temptation again as he joins with Aaron in another atmospheric ballad with a keyboard intro. There is nice orchestration on this song building to a crescendo before a heavy, searing guitar break from Kulick moves it into another gear. Great song.
"Unchain The Light" is another mid/up tempo number with the Magician and Mystic weaving their vocal spells on Aaron. More power metal hooks and choruses with Paeth and Hartmann this time trading solos make this yet another strong song.
The albums finale is the wonderfully titled "A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies". It's not too often you get an Avantasia album without nodding respect to Magnum so Spirit joins Aaron on vocals for this one and its a Melodic rock classic. Kulick provides the solos on this and its a fantastic end to the album.
Avantasia albums can tend to split opinion with some preferring the 'Metal Opera' era albums to their later output. Whether this is the masterpiece Sammet was hoping for only time and lengthy comparison will tell but as a stand alone album it's right up there.
Sammet describes "Ghostlights" as 'a journey in 12 chapters, 12 pictures, 12 dreams and 12 reflections of reality....
Get whatever meaning out of it that suits you.......just get it!
Review by Andy Gillen
Ghostlights is out now on Nuclear Blast