Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Avantasia - Invoke the Machine

Tobias Sammet has returned to the Avantasia project with the new album “The Mystery of Time – A Rock Epic.” This is the sixth instalment in the Avantasia journey. My first impression of the album is that it is not as glorious as the Scarecrow Trilogy, but what could be really? “The Scarecrow,” “The Wicked Symphony” and “Angel of Babylon” are three of the best albums to come out in the past decade. My only real complaint has to be the absence of Jorn Lande, who was just so powerful and important on so many of the best Avantasia songs up till now. While it is hard to imagine Avantasia without Jorn, variety is a good thing, and Avantasia more so than most musical endeavours is a living thing, over just three projects we have seen Avantasia changing and growing with new voices and talents being added the whole time. The huge assembled cast Tobias Sammet has gathered allows for a lot of flexibility. Further to this point my favorite thing about the newest Avantasia album is the inclusion of two new singers, Mr. Big’s Eric Martin and Pretty Maids’ Ronnie Atkins.

“The Mystery of Time” has yet to be released in the United States or Canada and no date has been set for its eventual release, so I was forced to pick up a copy while in Europe, oh yes I went to Europe specifically to see Avantasia. I think my two favorite songs on the album are “Invoke the Machine” which features Ronnie Atkins and “What’s Left of Me” which features Eric Martin. If I had to pick one of these two tracks to represent the whole album I would have to go with “Invoke the Machine” since it has a little more relation to the album’s overall narrative than “What’s Left of Me.”

Every Avantasia epic has had a story to it. “The Metal Opera” was a grandiose fantasy epic and I’m still trying to figure out all the details, “The Scarecrow” was a mysterious stranger’s voyage through the planes of reality, and now “The Mystery of Time” is a man’s inner conflict between knowledge and faith, or as Tobias puts it;

“So take the time to follow me into a small old English town during the Victorian era and join a young agnostic scientist by the name Aaron Blackwell as he is forced to explore the coherencies of time, God and science; torn between belief in his professional conviction, his spiritual intuition, love and a lodge of scientific occultists.”

A song title/chorus like “Invoke the Machine” suddenly carries a heavier meaning once we are familiar with the overreaching arc of the album’s story. This song, as far as I understand it, is a breaking moment for our protagonist Aaron Blackwell, the mysteries of time are unravelling before him and he is beginning to embrace this brave new world. To invoke the machine for answers is to side with science, which is also interesting because there is something of an emotional plea in this song, something we might typically associate with spiritual intuition. The visions of fantasy are replaced with new dreams inspired by new understanding, to this end, we invoke the machine. I also think it is kind of charming that he refers to a machine to understand time as a god machine.

Of course new found knowledge is something emotional. We often don’t think of it in such a light but there is something very nearly spiritual about science and technology, largely due to the fact there is something very emotional about learning and growing, and changing. The men we once were are not the men we are today and being civilized is the simpleton’s perspective to explain the difference, civilization is forged entirely on trans-generational knowledge, a giant leap in science and technology always changes everything. It’s clever what Tobias is saying in “Invoke the Machine” he is suggesting far more than he is initially leading on.

Anyway Ronnie Atkins rocks the house in this song and it is just a great heavy metal song. “Invoke the Machine” and the rest of the “Mystery of Time” album will always mean a little more to me than just deep introspective thoughts about science and emotion, it will always remind me of my trip to Europe where I beheld the glory of Avantasia in Berlin and Hamburg, where I made dozens of friends from all over the world. I had forgotten what it meant to be happy, truly happy. I have been settling for a second rate excuse for existence until those two wonderful nights in Berlin and Hamburg. Thank you Tobias Sammet for helping me find what I had lost. With my resolve I will remember forever.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly


I actually met Eric Martin in the back alley after the Hamburg show and it was crazy nice, and for that reason I feel I should mention his contribution to "The Mystery of Time."  Here is the splendid ballad "What's Left of Me."

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