Between being the vocalist for heavy metal band Edguy and the creative force for the rock opera project Avantasia, Tobias Sammet is a really busy guy. And though I've never really been able to follow the overarching structure to Avantasia's operas, apparently the last two releases (The Wicked Symphony and The Angel of Babylon, released simultaneously in 2010) wrapped up the current story arc. That makes his newest release, The Mystery of Time, the first album in what will probably be another trilogy--and thankfully, it's just as strong as ever.
Though the album cover seems unusually Christmassy at first glance, the album is actually thematically about the struggle between faith and science, thrown over the background of a Victorian scientist studying the oddities of time. You'd think a theme like that would resolve itself into some crazy technical shenanigans, but it turns out that the album is your usual symphonic power-metal fare, containing an even balance of gratifying ballads, heavy metal rockers, and slightly more complex epics. There's really nothing surprising about the compositions--heck, some of the songs are even severely predictable--but what they lack in originality they make up with in sheer power. And there's no pretension of progressiveness here, anyway--it's a power metal album through and through. You can forgive a few really hokey tracks like "Sleepwalking" and "What's Left of Me" when the rest of the album accomplishes everything that genre demands and more: true epic power.
The album seems to be less about showcasing such an impressive collaboration of musicians and more about using the guest musicians to pepper the album with flair, but regardless, there are a lot of notable heavy metal musicians lending their talents to this album. Guest vocalists include notables like Biff Byford (Saxon), Michael Kiske (Place Vendome and Unisonic), and Joe Lynn Turner (formerly of Rainbow and currently of Sunstorm and Joe Lynn Turner). Even former rival Arjen Anthony Lucassen plays guitars on a short track (no word yet if Sammet will be making a reciprocal appearance on The Theory of Everything yet). There aren't any particularly standout guest performances, but they do give the album some much-appreciated variety, and there's nothing harmful about that.
Okay, Avantasia really is guilty pleasure music; its huge, symphonic power metal that's designed to make you feel great. And it accomplishes just that. It won't be winning any awards for musical depth, but damn, it sure is a lot of fun to listen to.
Recommended if you like: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kamelot, Ayreon
7.0 / 10
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