Album review: AVANTASIA – The Mystery Of Time

Nuclear Blast – Out Now.

Some may find this pretty hard to believe but it has been two whole decades since the German vocalist/songwriter Tobias Sammet released his first documented musical contribution, specifically to Edguy’s 1994 demo release “Evil Minded”. Now, Edguy is a band which is not afraid to use humour and it is perhaps this very fact that has deprived people from really trusting in Tobias’ song writing skills thus far.

If you really think like this, then I strongly suggest that you check out “The Mystery Of Time” – the sixth full length release of the mighty German’s Power/Symphonic Metal project Avantasia as I feel that this might just be the album that will make you warm to this German’s skills once and for all.

On paper, “The Mystery Of Time” is the type of album that should not have been at all appealing to me. Why? How many times have you been exposed to self-proclaimed ‘Rock operas’ which are nothing more than a collection of purposeless annoying keyboard themes and choral sections and which rely solely on the contribution of I-cannot-really-be-bothered ‘special guests’ to attract the interest of the buying public? “Many”, I am sure most of you would say and I am certainly not the one to disagree with you on that point.

Well, this is perhaps one of the few occasions where all the instruments and, most importantly, the singers invited to the creation of these ten compositions have been very carefully chosen and actually come across as being perfectly in tune with each other, all working together for the benefit of the album.

This, together with tons of catchy guitar melodies, cleverly-arranged supporting orchestrations and truly magnificent vocal renditions from the pipes of artists such as Joey Lynn Turner (ex-Rainbow/Deep Purple), Biff Byford (Saxon) and Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween) make “The Mystery Of Time” the kind of epic soundtrack that you simply shouldn’t miss.

“Spectres” is the right composition to open an album such as this, as its melodic character and Progressive Rock sensibilities provide a perfect example of what the listener should expect from Sammet’s latest musical experiment. Orchestrations are quite intricate but they are cleverly placed in the background where they add the emotion needed, while allowing Tobias and his talented guests to showcase their amazing vocal skills.

I am not sure that I ever heard Joe Lynn Turner being as aggressive and urgent as he comes across in the Power Metal opus “The Watchmaker Dream”, and I cannot claim to be at all surprised by Biff Byford’s ability to make a song like “Black Orchid” sound so commanding and epic. “Where Clock Hands Freeze” is a classic/melodic Power Metal anthem that finds Sammet working closely together with his biggest idols of all, Michael Kiske, while “Sleepwalking” finds the friendly German navigating in US Radio Rock waters with the assistance of Cloudy Young.

“Saviour In The Clockwork” is the first of the two ten minute epics on offer here and it is, put simply, a beast of a composition. Based on a Dio-influenced heavy riff, the song operates on various moods/themes and in the process allow Turner, Byford and Sammet to provide some top class vocal melodies. Fans of riff-based music will love both the Accept-sounding “Invoke The Machine” and the Kiske-led “Dweller In A Dream”, while those of you who grew up with 80s Power Ballads as a soundtrack ought to really enjoy the piano-infused “What’s Left of Me” which features Mr. Big’s Eric Martin on vocals.

The last composition of the album, namely “The Great Mystery”, is without a doubt amongst its absolute highlights, offering enough variation and musical skill to be something of a ‘Shadow Gallery-meets-Meat Loaf’ composition, capable of causing the envy of most well-established song writers out there.

When I began listening to “The Mystery Of Time” I did so expecting to achieve a certain level of connection with the music, based on my general appreciation of Sammet’s contributions to Edguy. What I was soon to discover, however, was that I was instead in the presence of a truly impressive album; the kind of album whose charms will take quite a while to truly discover and appreciate but also one with incredibly memorable main melodies.

It’s been a good couple of weeks now that I have found myself lost in the musical labyrinths of this album and I’m not sure I want to find my way out. What an album this is!

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)

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Featured Albums w/c 6 July (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 MANDOKI SOULMATES Living In The Gap (Red Rock Production/Cleopatra)
12:00-13:00 MAGNUS KARLSSON’S FREE FALL – We Are The Night (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 BEN REEL The Nashville Calling (B.Reel Records)

Power Plays w/c 6 July (Mon-Fri)

ZENITH MOON Gypsy (Golden Robot Records)
RARITY Leave It Alone (New Damage Records)
THE RISING I Want You (indie)
MANDOKI SOULMATES Young Rebels (Red Rock Production/Cleopatra)
LA GUNS Well Oiled Machine (Golden Robot Records)

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