Sunday, November 6, 2016

Avantasia - Draconian Love

If there is one takeaway from this blog it is this: Avantasia is the greatest music act in the world today.

I love a lot of bands but few have I reviewed five times, in fact I believe Avantasia takes the lead now with this new review. I have been devotedly following Tobias Sammet’s career ever since I discovered the Lost in Space LPs, the teaser before the launch of “The Scarecrow” album, and as such I have reviewed every album as they came out since then. This year, 2016, Tobias released the seventh studio Avantasia album “Ghostlights,” naturally I feel like I should talk about it.

There is one downside to falling in love, everything else seems less special. I fell in love with “The Scarecrow” and “The Wicked Symphony,” I still regularly listen to those albums and I cannot honestly say that about the other four albums predating “Ghostlights.” It is important that we understand that, “Angel of Babylon,” “The Mystery of Time,” and the original “Metal Opera” albums are all really good, it is just that everything, and I mean basically everything, in all of creation, pales in comparison to “The Scarecrow” and “The Wicked Symphony.” So really… no matter how good “Ghostlights” turned out to be I would always compare it to those two titan albums and be at least partially unimpressed.

Tobias Sammet, still earth's greatest
song writer.
“So how is ‘Ghostlights?’” You might ask me. It is really good.

The wonderful adventure of Avantasia has been such a joyous journey (to Arcadia) that there is really only so much more Tobias can do to allow it to feel original. The continue addition of new guest singers is a perpetual development that helps keep things fresh but surely Tobais is slowly, but surely, running out of heroes to invite to his super group.

Similar to “The Mystery of Time,” “Ghostlights” appears to have a fantasy/science fiction theme involving once again time as focal point, and once again, most wisely, Tobias has left the story open enough for individualized interpretation. The similarities to “Mystery of Time” are in fact so great that it turns out this new album is meant to be the conclusion of that story.

I really like the first two tracks on the album “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose” and “Let the Storm Descend Upon You” and for exact opposite reasons.

I really like “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose” because there is no guest singer and it is one of the very few tracks in the Avantasia library where Tobias sings alone. It gives the creator of the whole thing a chance to truly shine and it is a really good song. 

Mystery Of a Blood Red Rose

I really like “Let the Storm Descend Upon You” because it has the most guest singers of any song on the album, including Jorn Lande, Ronnie Atkins, and Robert Mason. A twelve-minute epic that does in fact descend us into a storm of music that is the album itself. 

Let the Storm Descend Upon You

I have thought long and hard about which song to focus on and after four hundred and ninty-three words of introduction I think I have settled on “Draconian Love.”

“Draconian Love” opens with a nice piano that segues into the rhythm section, and is joined mostly by the haunting tone of Herbie Langhans’ voice repeating what will become the chorus:

“You shed draconian love.”

It is an effective chorus and tells us basically all we need to know about the metaphor for this song. Draconian, meaning dragon like, shedding its love, not dissimilar to not a snake molting, shedding its skin. Dragon love, sure that works, and evidently it is fleeting, or peeling if you will.

“Draconian Love” is a song of peaks and valleys as far as volume and intensity fluctuate. The verses are somber and gentle in tempo, meanwhile whenever the chorus hits everything picks up with the drums rising before every instrument strikes all at once and Tobias and Herbie sing with spite and anger. We get the full gambit of emotion with a sense of rising tension as we near the song’s climax. Before the last repetition of the chorus we are met with our greatest contrast; every instrument goes silent except for the keyboard and Herbie both being their quietest during this song, then when the last chorus opens it crashes into us with the greatest of intensity.

This contrast in sound is also a contrast of emotion, the verses are sad and lonely grieving over lost love. The chorus is a fury demanding to know “where are you now?”

Herbie Langhans.
One last thing to note is just how good Herbie is on “Draconian Love.” Which raises the question that you might ask me, “who is Herbie Langhans?” Honestly? I have no idea. This is actually why “Draconian Love” won out in the end for my song of focus, because it brings forth this paragraph of discussion. Apparently, Herbie is part of Sinbreed, Symphonity, Beyond the Bridge and Whispers in Crimson, four bands I have never heard of before, though he appears to be most famous for his work with Seventh Avenue, another band I have never heard of before.

This is one of the greatest things about Avantasia however. I had never heard of Bob Catley or Magnum before “The Story Ain’t Over.” I had never heard of Ronnie Atkins or Pretty Maids before “Invoke the Machine.” Amazingly I had never heard of Michael Kiske or Helloween before “Another Angel Down.” I had heard of Jorn Lande and Masterplan, before I heard “Promised Land” but still, you see my point. How I have Herbie Langhans and Seventh Avenue, and apparently, a bunch of other bands, to go and discover now, and if they are even half as good as the bands and artist mentioned above then my life is about to be immeasurably enriched once more.

The moral of the story is “Ghostlights” along with it’s predecessor “The Mystery of Time” cannot compete with “The Scarecrow” and “The Wicked Symphony” but they are fantastic nonetheless. The awesome adventure that is Avantasia continues and they are still the greatest musical act in the world, and I will never, ever, understand why it is so difficult for me to get more people to listen to them.

- King of Braves

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