Tobias Sammet wanted to close the AVANTASIA chapter after the conclusion of The Wicked Trilogy and focus on his main band EDGUY. After the somewhat inconsistent assimilation compilation that was “The Wicked Symphony” and the rather lukewarm filler album “Angel of Babylon”, I thought that this would be an excellent idea. The last EDGUY records had also been of decreasing quality, especially the silly and vapid “Age of the Joker” and I felt that Tobias Sammet needed a creative break. Finally, he didn’t take the break and worked on a new record that has now come out under the title “The Mystery of Time”.
I was skeptical but this record turns out to be better than the two previous EDGUY and AVANTASIA releases. It’s still not an outstanding record but overall fairly better than I would have expected. The production and sound quality is great, the cover artwork is very well done and the concept has become more intriguing as the very loose previous scenario.
Musically, the project also improved. For the first time, the project hired a true orchestra that sounds more authentic, majestic and vivid and manages to add a special touch to the release. The opening moments of “Spectres” already left a very positive impression and kicked off the new record with a big bang.
The project also manages to sound more metal orientated than on the last double record. There are still a few fluffy ballads on the record but the conservative and repetitive Hard Rock approaches are mostly gone and a few powerful metal moments can be found on this release. The record is not as great as the first three AVANTASIA records but definitely a step back into the right direction.
Thankfully, Tobias Sammet also decided to focus only on a few guest musicians and singers instead of adding an artist of every single band he ever liked to the project as he did before. The record sounds in fact more consistent and has a clear guiding line. Sometimes, less can be more and that’s what perfectly describes this release.
Jorn Lande who is a strong singer but who was definitely too present on the two previous records, didn’t participate this time but other well-known members of the AVANTASIA universe are back on here. Michael Kiske is solid as always and delivers a great performance on a few quite good but unoriginal Power Metal tracks that should please to fans of the first two metal operas as in “Dweller in a Dream”. Bob Catley of MAGNUM fame is also back and convinces me even a little bit more than before in the epic album closer “The Great Mystery” that happens to be the best track Tobias Sammet has written in at least five years. Cloudy Yang is also on board and adds her charming down to earth appearance to the kitsch ballad and single “Sleepwalking” but she ultimately can’t save that radio airplay track that never reaches the magic of songs like “Farewell”, “Inside” or even “Lost In Space” that the project has done before.
In addition to these guests, there are also a few new faces. Especially Ronnie Atkins of PRETTY MAIDS fame adds a truly energizing touch to the release by performing parts of the heaviest song on the record which is “Invoke the Machine”.
In the end, this album sounds more consistent and powerful than the two records before and it won’t disappoint any AVANTASIA fan. You can find well elaborated epics, melodic Power Metal anthems, commercial radio rock ballads and stuff somewhere between epic Hard Rock and Heavy Metal on this album. There are no big surprises or truly unique tracks though and I miss some sort of development or experimentation. Nevertheless, the release includes two stunning pieces with “Invoke The Machine” and “The Mystery Of Time”. Other tracks also have potential to grow. The bonus song “The Cross Is You” is rarely mentioned in critics but I want to underline it as this song offers maybe the best vocal performance by Tobias Sammet on this record along with the dark “Black Orchid” and is worth your time and attention.
Power Metal fans and AVANTASIA maniacs shouldn’t miss this record. Anybody who wants to discover this project should though start with the first three records that overpass this release. Critical minds should also listen to the tracks I have pointed out. This album is not the biggest highlight of the year but definitely far better than I expected.
(Online April 24, 2013)