Originally founded in 1999 as a means for the then 21-year old Tobias Sammet to produce what he regarded the ultimate rock opera project – something which he apparently eventually drew a line under when he announced the end of Avantasia from the Wacken stage back in August 2011. But, lo and behold, here we are again, with the first part of this thematic triple-album concept work.
This latest epic instalment of the Avantasia oeuvre is exactly what you’d expect: huge, sweeping orchestrations, soaring melodies, an impressive array of guest vocalists – this time ranging from Pretty Maids frontman Ronnie Atkins to Saxon legend Biff Byford via Eric Martin and long-time Sammet collaborators such as Michael Kiske and Joe Lynn Turner.
There are moments of pure pastiche – ‘The Watchmaker’s Dream’, for example, starts off sounding like Robbie Williams remaking ‘Pinball Wizard’, and the riff in the first half is a pure steal from the pop prima donna’s ‘Let Me Entertain You’ – and some of the contributions are disappointing (much more power could have been put into supporting what ultimately turns out to be a fairly pedestrian performance by Byford on ‘Black Orchid’). But for every fault there are more than enough positives to counterbalance: opener ‘Spectres’ serves as a suitably atmosphere-building prelude, ‘Where Clock Hands Freeze’ is frenetic but majestic, with a typically superb performance from Kiske, who then teams up with Byford and Turner for the simply huge ‘Saviour In The Clockwork’. Between these two tracks lies the ballad ‘Sleepwalking’, which once again sees backing vocalist Cloudy Yang stepping forward to deliver a beautiful performance.
Apparently Sammet had been pursuing Pretty Maids vocalist Ronnie Atkins for 14 years, and his contribution is well worth the wait, with ‘Invoke The Machine’ being one of the heaviest and fastest – and also least orchestrated – tracks on the album, while Eric Martin’s contribution, ‘What’s Left Of Me’, is another breathtaking ballad, which really plays to the Mr Big frontman’s voice.
Overall, despite the couple of minor quibbles outlined above, this is another superb piece of rock opera from a young man who certainly is a master of the craft, with the concept well-constructed and well-delivered, with an appropriately selected cast who deliver it with aplomb and panache.
- Spectres (feat. Joe Lynn Turner)
- The Watchmaker’s Dream (feat. Joe Lynn Turner)
- Black Orchid (feat. Biff Byford)
- Where Clock Hands Freeze (feat. Michael Kiske)
- Sleepwalking (feat. Cloudy Young)
- Saviour In The Clockwork (feat. Biff Byford, Joe Lynn Turner and Michael Kiske)
- Invoke The Machine (feat. Ronnie Atkins)
- What’s Left Of Me (feat. Eric Martin)
- Dweller In A Dread (feat. Michael Kiske)
- The Great Mystery (feat. Biff Byford, Bob Catley and Joe Lynn Turner)
‘The Mystery Of Time’ is out now on Nuclear Blast.
Avantasia play the Ronnie James Dio stage at Bloodstock Open Air on Saturday August 10th: http://www.bloodstock.uk.com/
Check out our recent interview with Tobias Sammett: http://planetmosh.com/avantasia-interview-with-tobias-sammett/