OK, I admit it, I’m a sucker for Tobias Sammet and his side-project Avantasia. I’m not the only one either, as he always manages to bring in loads of other names to help him out. Given he is a singer of some repute it is always interesting to see who else comes along to give him a hand, and here we see the likes of Geoff Tate, Dee Snider, Michael Kiske, Bob Catley, Jørn Lande and others. He has developed his own style of symphonic rock, which owes more to Magnum than any other single band, yet what threw me here was the opening song, “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose”, which immediately put us straight into the world of Jim Steinman, even down to the female backing vocals. From here on in it is an interesting ride as his take on symphonic, overblown and even Wagnerian metal links closely with Steinman, never losing the Magnum ties but also bringing in more than a hint of Nightwish.
This is a man whose first two albums under this name were called operas, and the fourth was a symphony, so it has always been plain to his listeners as to what inspires him and drives him on. Somehow he has managed to keep both careers going, as while this 2016 release was a follow-up to 2013’s ‘The Mystery of Time’, there was an Edguy album in between (2014’s ‘Space Police’), and here in 2019 he shows no sign at all of slowing down just yet. Highlight for me is the final song on the album, the delicate and wonderful “A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies”. With an introduction which could have come from ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’, Bob Catley takes the first verse with aplomb, and when Tobias joins in then we are taken into a Magnum classic. Tobias may sing the second verse, but this sounds as if it was written for Catley, one of the truly great singers of our time (when he recorded this, he was in his late Sixties!). I can listen to this one song all day, as two singers combine together to take Magnum in a different more symphonic direction, and I love it.