Sound — 9
As a long time Avantasia fan, this new release took me by surprise. The last two albums had some fantastic tracks that stand up as some of Tobias Sammet's greatest works ("The Wicked Symphony", "Promised Land", "Dying For An Angel" and others) but mixed in with these were a generous helping of un-memorable or lackluster tracks that, in my opinion, brought the albums down in comparison to Sammet's mighty "Metal Opera". This album, however, is a totally different story. The album features a full orchestra, giving the album a distinctly Nightwish-esque vibe, particularly on Spectres, the two 10min+ epic tracks, and "Black Orchid", the opening of which could be taken directly from "Nightwish"'s "Imaginaerum". That said, the orchestra is never over the top, and doesn't feature where it isn't needed. The guitar work is excellent overall, with every song featuring a great solo, particular standouts for me were the main rhythm guitar riffs on "Saviour In The Clockwork" and "Invoke The Machine", the latter of which could have been played by Michael Romeo of Symphony X, the similarity to his playing style is uncanny. There are some fine examples of Sammet's power metal origins, "Where Clock Hands Freeze" and "Dweller In A Dream" being prime examples, and the album closes with a long, very progressive, self indulgent epic that typically ends albums such as these, which works very well here.
Lyrics — 7
This being an Avantasia album, the lyrics tell a story that is open to interpretation by the listener. They are slightly cheesy, but fit to the music and are never cringe-inducing. In terms of the vocal performances, Sammet's vocals dominate the proceedings, and they are truly stellar on this album, always fitting with the musical style perfectly, and the same can be said for the horde of guest vocalists that join him. For this reason, the two ballads on the album don't fall too far into the trap of being too cheesy, and the first ballad "Sleepwalking" is an album highlight for me, mainly due to how well Sammet's and Cloudy Yang's voices work together on the track.
Overall Impression — 9
This album is full to overflowing with Sammet's best songwriting in years, Edguy music included. I sat down to listen to the first track for a first impression and ended up listening to the full album in one sitting, and not once did I feel uninterested as I would definitely have done towards the end of the last two albums. The mix between exhilarating power-metal, epic and progressive songs, soulful ballads and straight-up metal has been nailed here, along with the order in which these styles are placed in the album, rather than on previous efforts which have swayed too far in one direction for too long. The album is fantastic overall, and unlike many albums in this genre, I found that it improves as it goes along, with the slightly weaker tracks at the start of the album. That said, "The Watchmaker's Dream" has a face-melting organ solo, and it is difficult to find any negative points in any of the album's tracks so significant that they are worth commenting on. Highly recommended to any fan of Avantasia or Edguy, as well as fans of almost any metal genre, due to the amount of creative ground covered here.