Avantasia - Ghostlights // Rating: 10/10

When the teaser track appeared on Christmas Day, it was obvious that Tobias Sammet's new Avantasia album was going to be something special.  Already a contender for one the top metal releases of the year, the album has all the best elements of Avantasia in abundance.

Every Avantasia album boasts a stellar list of vocalists, with this album being no different. It reads like a who's who of metal vocalists, with familiar faces such as Michael Kiske and Bob Catley joined by the likes of Dee Snider and Marco Hietela.  Long time collaborator Sascha Paeth takes on most of the guitar duties as usual, with Michael Rodenberg on keyboards and Felix Bohnke on drums.

Ghostlights kicks straight into high gear on the opening track “Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose”, which, incidentally, is being considered for Germany's entry for Eurovision 2016. The familiar feel of the melodies and Tobias Sammet's unique vocal style introduce the album perfectly, leading into the epic 12 minute “Let The Storm Descend Upon You”.

The first track on Ghostlights to feature the guests, the song soars from driving rhythms to sparse emotive sections, showcasing Sammet's skills as a songwriter, linking the diverse sections seamlessly. Powerful vocal performances and searing guitar solos make this an instant Avantasia classic.

Dee Snider takes the reins on vocals on “The Haunting”. The first of a number of impressive vocal débuts on Ghostlights, Snider delivers a powerful, emotional performance on this dark operatic ballad. No less impressive is Geoff Tate On “Seduction Of Decay”, giving one of his best vocals since “Empire”. 

The fast power metal intro of the title track “Ghostlights” is the first appearance of the legendary Michael Kiske. Without a doubt one of the top singers in the business, Kiske moves the album up a notch with his signature style, piercing notes with impossibly smooth vibrato. Definitely a stand out track on the album.

The guitar work on the album is impeccable, amazing work from Sascha Paeth throughout, with some great leads from Oliver Hartmann and Bruce Kulick. Top class musicians giving life to the vision of Tobias Sammet, Ghostlights has some of the best musicianship to date on an Avantasia album, no mean feat in itself.

The record powers on with the gothic feel of “Draconian Love”. Contrasting to Michael Kiske's soaring vocal on the previous track, Herbie Langhans's deep, haunting vocal flows over the dark keys and sparse guitars of the verse, then bringing depth to a powerful chorus.

One of the most anticipated appearances on Ghostlights is Marco Hietela of Nightwish and Tarot. His unique voice makes “Master Of The Pendulum” one of the highlights of the album, a perfect choice of singer for this genre.

“Isle of Evermore” is an amazing, haunting duet. Masterful orchestration gives Tobias Sammet and Sharon den Adel a marvellous background for their different but well matched styles, with pulsing keys backing the epic vocals. “Babylon Vampyres” picks up the pace again, fast, driving rock with great vocal harmonies and Bruce Kulick's first appearance on the album.

“Lucifer” is the next track, soft piano and strings in the beginning, building to an epic crescendo, a perfect rock opera power ballad, with a stunning vocal from Jorn Lande. The penultimate track “Unchain The Light” sees Michael Kiske trading vocals with Ronnie Atkins of Pretty Maids on a classic piece of power metal, with some great guitar work on the solos by Paeth and Hartmann

Rounding off an already tremendous collection of songs is “A Restless Heart And Obsidian Skies”, an uplifting finale that only Tobias Sammet could write and only Bob Catley could ever do justice to properly on vocals. Building up throughout the song, from soft keyboards and vocals to the typical huge operatic chorus and ending that Sammet is known for writing so well, it provides the perfect ending to a truly great album.

No doubt about it, this is a classic Avantasia album, bearing all the hallmarks of the genre. First class songs, played with amazing skill, topped by some of the best vocal performances in the genre, Ghostlights is a journey that Avantasia fans old and new will love.

Review by: Mark Williams