So, not even two years after declaring in these very pages that he had ‘no plans for any more Avantasia releases’, hyperactive metal child Tobias Sammet is back with, you guessed it, another Avantasia release…
Now I’m not going to complain about that, far from it, but I am going to permit myself a little giggle that this most prolific of songwriters could content himself with merely churning out an Edguy album every couple of years and leave it at that. The man literally bleeds quality melodic metal, and The Mystery of Time is no different. It’s a little slower to ignite the senses than The Wicked Symphony/Angel of Babylon double set from 2010, granted, but, once you’ve settled into the album there’s no avoiding the fact that Sammet and his ever-growing band of cohorts have come up with another stunning exposition of symphonic, visionary heavy metal.
Perhaps more than ever before Sammet is the star of his own show on this album, not just in terms of songwriting but also with his consistently impressive vocal contributions. On this front he’s ably supported by the always-dependable Magnum stalwart Bob Catley and Saxon’s Biff Byford (who almost steals the show a couple of times with his calmly gigantic performances on the likes of Black Orchid and the absolutely epic Savior in the Clockwork), not to mention some solid performances from throat-for-hire Joe Lynn Turner and a tearjerking appearance by Mr Big’s Eric Martin on the titanic What’s Left of Me.
Of course – and we always say this, but it’s as true as ever so we’re saying it again – if the songs weren’t any good it wouldn’t matter who was guesting on The Mystery of Time. Sammet has turned in a set where remarkably every song would be a show-stopping big production number on somebody else’s abum; Every song is a jaw-dropping collection of smart riffage, classy choruses and BIG vocalising, and every song contributes equally to the splendid extravaganza that Tobi and co have put together.
As the Avantasia project gets older it necessarily moves away from the strict Euro power metal parameters that the project set for itself in its early days; You’re as likely now to here a full blown slab of eighties AOR (the afore-mentioned What’s Left of Me) as you are some heads-down, double-kick mayhem (though that too is still gloriously present in the shape of Invoke the Machine, a rattling good tune that showcases the pipes of Pretty Maids throatsmith Ronnie Atkins), and it’s this variety and ear for pacing that sets Avantasia apart from the pack. The Mystery of Time is all class – all of the time – and it’s another wonderful addition to the Tobias Sammet canon. Full marks.