Avantasia - Moonglow

Avantasia Moonglow cover
Nuclear Blast Records
Tobias Sammet seems to be mostly occupied with the pompous supergroup that Avantasia has turned into, rather than Edguy these past few years, but that’s to be expected, as it seemingly is a far more lucrative endeavor, mirroring the case of Savatage and TSO, with the latter raking in a lot more, thus leading to the languoring of the former for years. Still Sammet doesn’t rely on covering classic music standards or trying to sell a Christian spectacle to the faithful during Christmas, but channels his love of 70s extravagant hard rock as popularized by Magnum and others to bring to life little symphonic stories full of magic and wonder.
Apparently this eighth entry in the Avantasia canon begun life as a possible solo album, before it was decided that it might as well be put out as an Avantasia album, as it wasn’t a million miles away from the style introduced in the past few releases and putting it out as Avantasia would certainly make it far more easier to market. Closer to the bombast of Nightwish and their most pop and theatrical style, as was displayed by their Mk3 (Annete Olzon) era, rather than anything else, the album comes loaded with light hearted easy to fathom melodies and the occasional foray into heavier and darker territory, without ever sounding “dangerous”. It does however sound quite majestic musically and that seems to work well with the dark romanticism that is imbued in the lyrics of the album, which concern the struggles of a nocturnal creature, which chooses to hide itself in the darkness of the moonglow, as a way to escape the world, but at the same time feels entranced by its beauty. The whole story doubles as a parable for being able to adjust or not etc.
Tobias himself acts as the creature, in the dramatic ten minute opener “Ghost in the Moon” a piece that plays as a mix between the best of Magnum and Meatloaf.
“Book of Shallow” quickly shrouds itself in darkness and enlists the vocal talents of Hansi Kürsch, Ronnie Atkins, Jørn Lande, Mille Petrozza, to try and enrich the vocal pallet with more colors; the first two stay reasonably close to Tobias (and their respective) vocal styles. Jorn doesn’t really disrupt the flow either, but his parts feel a bit more characteristic, even when HK interjects. Petrozza naturally stands out, just by the difference in timbre and style, but his contribution to the song is not as potentially annoying or negative as one might have expected it to be, as he’s sparingly used during a specific verse where his vocal feels fitting.
“Moonglow” is a nice duet between Sammet and Candice Night from Blackmore’s Night, that feels a little like some weird love child between anything Mike Oldfield that featured Maggie Reily on vocals and Nightwish’s “Amaranth” (song).
“The Raven Child”, which was the first song to be released as a sample from the album, is an eleven minute epic with Kürsch and Lande sharing vocal duties with Sammet, that somehow feels a little too drawn out, yet typical of the style of the band. It does I suppose share a few similarities with the “Scarecrow’s” title track, as both are long epic songs with celtic melodies and a big crescendo towards the end.
“Starlight” initially feels smooth, before Sammet doubles down with enough conviction to rival Atkins’s second and harsher verse in a maniacal symphonic mini-battle that doesn’t announce either as the clear cut winner.
“Invincible” is piano ballad that features some of the best vocals that Geoff Tate has laid down in recent years, with Tobi managing to intertwine his vocal’s with Tate’s rather immaculately.
In “Alchemy” the duet between the two continues with Tate managing to invoke memories of his early 90s self and performances in a song that aims to shift the album’s gears, rather dramatically taking it towards its conclusion.
“The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” serves not only as a Floyd reference, but also as a turning point in the album with Atkins, Lande, Eric Martin, Bob Catley and Geoff Tate all sharing vocals with Sammet in a quasi power metal pomp rock extravaganza that more than once pushes the pedal to the metal, but also has its mellower moments when grandmaster Bob Catley takes the reins.
Which proverbial reins, he holds into “Lavender”, a song typical of Catley’s heritage with both Magnum, as well as Avantasia. A spirited, pompous piece that celebrates all that Avantasia is all about.
“Requiem for a Dream” is a surprisingly high gear closing piece to the album, a double bass heavy brassy anthem which utilizes Helloween’s Michael Kiske to the best of his abilities but feels like it ends rather unexpectedly only for a rather standard, if not a tad heavier cover of “Maniac” by Michael Sembello to be offered as a duet between Martin and Sammet, who exchange verses and join for the chorus.
Finally, “Heart” is a bonus track that should be included in the first edition pressings of the album and it is a more restrained piece, rich in keyboards but with enough symphonic power metal elements in which Sammet handles the vocals alone.
“Moonglow” is probably the most focused of the three past “concept” album, that didn’t seem to be interconnected between them, but in my humble opinion continues the trend of these releases, veering towards a more generic and more blunt and commercial style. It’s by no means bad, but I would like to see Sammet resurrecting “Avantasia” only in case he comes up with some very inspired compositions or with a completely different set of vocalists in order to avoid stagnation, because in all honesty with each consequent release he edges closer and closer to that spectrum. “Moonglow” is a relevant high point and it would be nice to see this release acting as a nice bookmark, without closing the chapter entirely on Avantasia.