REVIEW: AVANTASIA – Ghostlights (2016)

Incredible. On every level imaginable

If power metal is rock’s most grandiose little corner, and one which divides metal fans in a way that little else does, then that doesn’t get close to the scope of Avantasia. As ever the man behind this, is Edguy singer Tobias Sammet, but even by the standards that he’s set for himself with his “other band”, “Ghostlights” – the seventh time he’s done this – is an incredible undertaking.

A list of the special guests on the record would take up as much as space as we have available, but here’s just a few to give you a flavour: Bruce Kulick, Bob Catley, Dee Snider and Geoff Tate are all very present and very correct here.

The thing is though, as every football fan knows, it ain’t the talent you have at your disposal, it’s how you mould it, and it’s here that “Ghostlights” succeeds on a level that verges on the absolutely spectacular.

And moreover it’s clear from the off that Sammet isn’t looking to preach to anything other than the already converted, because you know those albums that make virtue about  “stripping back” and “getting back to basics”? “Ghostlights” takes that concept and says “yeah that’s lovely, but if less is more then think how much more more could be.”

That opening track, “Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose” – which, by the way, Sammet is trying to represent Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest with….(!) – brings with it a level of bombast that Meat Loaf would balk at, and by now fully in gear and showing mere mortals just exactly how it’s done, it’s follow up, “Let The Storm Descend Upon You” is 12 minutes of the most glorious orchestral tinged noise you will hear.

Elsewhere Dee Snider takes a break from allowing that lunatic Donald Trump to use Twisted Sister songs to add an air of menace to the otherwise lush ballad “The Haunting” and Masterplan’s Jorn Lande makes “Lucifer” into something gorgeous.

But when this record fancies slipping up a notch or six in the heaviness stakes, it does so, and on “Seduction Of Decay” Geoff Tate gives his best performance in a very long time, and the likes of the title track and “Babylon Vampires” – lead vocals by Warrant’s Robert Mason – are suitably slamming affairs.

There are frequent moments of almost jaw dropping brilliance here, but even allowing for that, the gothic rock masterpiece “Draconian Love” and  “Isle Of Evermore” just a little bit special, on the latter Within Temptation’s Sharon Del Adel duets to wonderful effect.

As the whole things closes with “A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies” and Bob Catley does what only he can, it’s tempting to imagine the credits going up as he sings – or at the very least the cast taking a curtain call.

Such is its huge scope, it’s true to say that “Ghostlights” is no more a normal album than Avantasia are a conventional band. Not that such trivial things matter a jot when facing the very real possibility that January isn’t even over and 2016’s best record might just be sorted.

Rating 10/10