Avantasia band photo

AVANTASIA – The Mystery Of Time

Avantasia - The Mystery of TimeWhen Tobias Sammett released the Avantasia albums The Wicked Symphony and Angel Of Babylon in 2010, it was said that those albums  would be the last chapters in the Avantasia story that started with The Metal Opera back in 2001. But of course, as Avantasia turned out to be far more successful than Sammet’s day job, German power metal outfit Edguy then how could he let this project die? Well, he couldn’t, which was a no-brainer, and I don’t think anybody who had been following Avantasia was one bit worried that 2011 would mark the end of the project. So, three years has gone by and as the story ended with the last albums, a new theme had to brought out of Sammet’s mind. And the title of the new record really says it all. Smart move as the time theme can be explored over and over again without being overdone. But what’s important here isn’t so much the story, but who will be singing on this one and how would the music sound. Would he return to the power metal of the two first CDs or would he follow the path that he started with The Scarecrow back in 2008? As for the singer part, loyal side kick Jorn Lande (Jorn, Masterplan) have stated all along that his own band Jorn would be his first and only priority and that he wouldn’t be involved in any outside projects (which also will include the forthcoming Ayreon album, I presume). Which is a pity as Lande’s vocals was always a big part of the Avantasia sound. Musically, my hope was that he would keep the more hard rock / metal way that Avantasia has been known for on recent albums.

Let’s start with the music. Luckily enough, this is a continuation of The Wicked Symphony / Angel Of Babylon, mixing hard rock and heavy metal with some very melodic moments and only touches of his power metal past. When it comes to the vocalists, the absence of Jorn was expected, but there are some really cool other names included in this opera. Let’s start with opener “Spectres”, an almost seven minute catchy metal piece that has Sammett sharing lead vocals with Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen) that more or less sets the standards for this disc. Turner keeps on giving us a first class voice parade in the brilliant “The Watchmaker’s Dream”, a melodic heavy metal piece with an almost ABBA-like chorus, “Black Orchid” is very much Avantasia and with its ultra melodic melodies, it’s really cool to hear Saxon loud mouth Biff Byford master this type of metal which has very little to do with his own band’s style, “Where Clock Hands Freeze” is pure metal and on here Michael Kiske (Unisonic, Place Vendome, Helloween) shows us how the big boys do it and first single “Sleepwalking”, featuring the brilliant Cloudy Yang, is a bit weak at first, but grows on you. Still, I guess it’s the weakest track on the album. Ever thought you’d hear Biff, Joe Lynn Turner and Kiske sing on the same song? I didn’t, but on “Saviour In The Clockwork”, an epic 10 minute thunderball, they do – and they all rule it – killer! But best of all might just “Invoke The Machine” be. Ronnie Atkins from Pretty Maids makes Sammett sound really small here, he should have sung the whole piece himself and the song has the sound of Pretty Maids with a Sammet touch over it. Fantastic. Did I say that Atkins kills on it? In later years, Sammett’s ballads has gone down really well with me and on the last albums there have been a few brilliant ones so I was looking forward to what this album had to offer. As “Sleepwalking” didn’t really cut it all the way, it’s nice to state that “What’s Left Of Me” did. It’s a stunning piece and Eric Martin (Mr Big) really nails it – awesome! “Dweller In A Dream” is another ABBA-melody gone metal which Kiske totally owns.

The album closes with “The Great Mystery”, another 10 minute opus that is a little opera in its own right. Once again Turner and Byford does a marvellous job here and not to mention Magnum man Bob Catley. The guy is just amazing. He has been on the later Avantasia records and one Ayreon project as well and for some reason he sings better on these projects than he does with Magnum, not that he ever sings bad. Maybe he has to use a broader range with the rock opera projects. Other musicians involved here is Russell Gilbrook (Uriah Heep) who replaces Eric Singer (Kiss), Bruce Kulick (Kiss, Union) guitar on three tracks and Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon mastermind) plays guitar on one track. To compare this album to rest of them it’s easy to state that it kicks the two first album’s butt all the way and it’s also better than The Scarecrow. But I still holds its predecessors as the best Avantasia albums. And Jorn, it turns out, is sorely missed here. I had no idea it had to take a Jorn free album to realise his importance, but the fact is, Jorn really should be involved in these projects. Also, Sammett needs to learn his limits as a singer. With the kind of singers he recruits for his projects, he needs to sing much less than he does because frankly, every single singer he has hired are superior to him as a singer. Sammett has this typical high pitch German power metal voice with an annoying vibrato that goes overkill all the time. If I could decide, he wouldn’t sing at all. That said, the guy is truly a great songwriter, story writer (is there a movie in here somewhere?) and producer and I genuinely hope that he keeps Avantasia alive, no matter how much he sings himself. I’m looking forward to see this on a stage this summer!

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

01. Spectres
02. The Watchmakers’ Dream
03. Black Orchid
04. Where Clock Hands Freeze
05. Sleepwalking
06. Savior In The Clockwork
07. Invoke The Machine
08. What’s Left Of Me
09. Dweller In A Dream
10. The Great Mystery

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