AVANTASIA... Formed by Edguy singer Tobias Sammet is at the moment a true all-star rock opera spaceship. With stars on board of the ship such as Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Geoff Tate (Queensryche), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Michael Kiske (Helloween), Jørn Lande (ex-Masterplan), Bob Catley (Magnum), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Mille Petrozza (Kreator), and Candice Night (Blackmore's Night), AVANTASIA is back to release their eighth full-length album "Moonglow" via Nuclear Blast on 15 February 2019.
From the very beginning it is clear that "Moonglow" is not your average Avantasia album, nor an average power metal album. No instrumental build-up to smoothly warm up the listener to the record, nor an atmospheric prelude... "Ghost In The Moon" begins with vocals. When I listened to the album the first time, I was a bit confused about this beginning, and wondered if I had missed something. Together with Tobias Sammet's soft vocals in the beginning, we get thrown into the song, which turns out to be a bombastic, power metal epic, that takes us on a journey to what is to come next. The track lasts almost 10 minutes, and goes through several progressions in both mood and chords. Through its 9:52 min runtime, there's never a moment you lose track or focus. Impressive start with beautiful orchestrations, vocals, and of course a fantastic band.
The record continues in "Book of Shallows", which has a couple of surprises, the same vitality, and familiarity of the Avantasia sound runs through the song. However, "Book of Shallows" takes a turn when the music turns into almost a full-blown thrash metal song. No wonder that Tobias Sammet envisioned Mille Petrozza to perform on "Book of Shallows". The smoothness of the transition between both parts is only something that Tobias Sammet can do. This is juxtaposed next to the verses shared by Atkins, Lande and Kürsch. What a contrast!
Two highlights in a row, but that's not where it ends... The mid-paced "Moonglow" serves as a break between the two songs. Candice Night's vocal delivery is on point. "Moonglow" is both ethereal and mysterious, and therefore very suitable for Candice Night's voice. We're offered a magical song, with an enchanting combination of a blend of Tobias Sammet and Candice Night's vocals. It's a kind of magic.
Candice Night has some kind of a celtic vibe in her voice, this is introduced in "Moonglow", but is further explored in "The Raven Child". This by far is my favourite track on the album. Being the longest song, it also has the most diversity. The first part consists out of medieval, and Celtic influences, on which Sammet, Kürsch, and Lande all chant soft lyrics. They evoke an image of times where troubadours were still lightening up the world with their songs of many. Well, let's be honest, that's just a Hansi Kürsch thing to do. It then transitions midway through into a song where guitar takes up the space, with Avantasia-like riffs, and then bursts out into its powerful chorus. Eleven minutes fade as if they are pushed into one minute. Again, we can hear a top-notch work regarding the orchestrations, and of course what would power metal be without some epic solo guitars?
From there on we go to classic Avantasia with "Starlight", while this is definitely also a strong song, it leaves me kind of empty after a song like "The Raven Child", however, it definitely has the pompous choruses, and soft verses. "Invincible", a mellow piano ballad, where Geoff Tate is given the microphone to truly shine with his compelling vibrato. One of my other favourite moments in the album is when "Invincible" slowly transitions into "Alchemy". Those riffs sound damn right bad-ass and heavy, and they are very catchy. This is the kind of song I instantly wanna jump around my room on while headbanging.
"The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" reminds me a lot of the "Scarecrow" era, it also has the most vocalist featured, and progresses along nicely. "Lavender" is a chance to hear Bob Catley's beautiful vocals, and follows in the same classic Avantasia trend. The intro of "Requiem For A Dream" almost reminds me of a classical composition, it starts off soft and epic with strings, but also has that sense of drama, then it turns into a heavy power metal track, with an epic guitar interlude, leading us to the rest of the story, in the middle of the song a groovy bass line takes the lead, showing off that it doesn't always have to be the guitar that gets the solo.
But that's not the end. Sammet always has some tricks upon his sleeve for us. This time it's a cover of Michael Sembello's synthpop hit "Maniac". The instant I heard this song I was in uttermost shock and excitement. It's lighter than the rest of the album, which is on the heavy (and often melancholic) side. The reworked version is definitely a fun way to close an album, and is lifting this classic to a new level. Definitely not what I expected as a closing track, but it's great to finish on a light note, and it immediately makes me crave for more.
"Moonglow" is yet another strong album, with stellar guest performances and a top-notch production. It's perhaps one of the most varied Avantasia albums, and with every listen you will like it more and more, and put it on endless repeat. "Moonglow" will shine beautifully next to your Avantasia catalogue, and if you haven't listened to Tobias Sammet's project yet, then this will definitely be a good introduction into the discography. This leaves me with only one message to Finnish booking agents... Do your magic! We want to see Avantasia this summer during the festival season perform these magical songs!
„Moonglow“ - Tracklist:
01. Ghost In The Moon
02. Book Of Shallows
04. The Raven Child
08. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
10. Requiem For A Dream
Tobias Sammet | Vocals, Bass & Keyboards
Sascha Paeth | Guitar, Bass & Keyboards
Michael Rodenberg | Orchestration & Keyboards
Felix Bohnke | Drums