Released by: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: February 15th, 2019
Genre: Metal Opera
Tobias Sammet | Vocals, Bass & Keyboards
Sascha Paeth | Guitar, Bass & Keyboards
Michael Rodenberg | Orchestration & Keyboards
Felix Bohnke | Drums
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
Oh, Tobias Sammet … you have big shoes to fill. The mastermind behind the worlds most famous Metal Opera AVANTASIA has released a bunch of amazing records in the past, but especially with their 2016 output “Ghostlights” he raised the bar even higher. It was a stunning masterpiece from start to finish. The follow-up, called “Moonglow”, will arrive in just a few weeks and I’ll tell you in this review if it can compete with the stunning Avantasia catalog.
“Moonglow” is a symbiosis between old and new. That means the structure of the record and the songs are both new, but also familiar. If you look at the line-up you have the same impression: there are a bunch of singers on here, who already appeared on previous Avantasia records, such as Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske, Bob Catley, Eric Martin, Ronnie Atkins, and Geoff Tate. And then there are a few new ones: Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian, Candice Night (Blackmoore’s Night) and Mille Petrozza (Kreator). Although I love the familiar faces in Avantasia, I would have liked more new voices added to the mix. With that said it is also a bit sad, that Avantasia just relies on singers nowadays. There was a time where you also had different guitar players, drummers and other musicians on the record, who had their unique style of playing. But as you would expect, every single singer on here did an outstanding job. Besides writing good songs, Tobias Sammet is a master in putting his guests into the right spot and so he did on “Moonglow”.
To get a bit deeper in this Avantasia universe I’ll do a little song-by-song review. So the album kicks off with “Ghost In The Moon” and here you have again this symbiosis of old and new: first of all this is a familiar kind of song like “Mystery Of a Blood Red Rose”, just with a much more epic scale. But on the other hand, it is the first time that a song, which is nearly 10 minutes long, opens an Avantasia album – and the next new thing: just Tobi Sammet appears on vocals. On every other long track, different singers had their parts to play. But Tobi Sammet did that quite well. It’s a very melodic midtempo song that easily could have been written by Jim Steinmann and throughout its 10 minutes it never gets boring – you get simply dragged into this Avantasia world again, so it is the perfect opener.
Next in line is “Book Of Shallows” and this is one of the heaviest Avantasia tracks in recent years. A fast power metal song with whipping drums and a darker tone. But it also features another amazing catchy chorus, intoned by Hansi Kürsch, Ronnie Atkins and Jorn Lande. Those three voices harmonize perfectly with each other. In the middle part, Mille Petrozza comes into the game and he also contributes to the more heavy approach of the song. Although I’m not a fan of Kreator it was OK to have him in this track. But here is the downside for all Kreator fans: Mille has just a one-minute appearance in this one song. You won’t hear him on any other track, so that’s a bit weird because every other singer becomes more time to shine. To me, it has more of a marketing stunt.
Next song is the title Track “Moonglow” with Candice Night on vocals and this song is the perfect mix between radio-friendly Rock music and a mysterious atmosphere. This song will remind you very much at some Nightwish songs (for example “Amaranth”). I liked that one very much!
With “The Raven Child” everything becomes a bit more complex. Tobias Sammet is supported by Hansi Kürsch and Jorn Lande on this one and especially the last third of this track reminds me very much at a “little” song, called “The Scarecrow”. With 13 minutes “The Raven Child” is the longest track on this album and it comes along with more progressive elements such as various changes in pace, some Celtic influences and so on. The anthemic chorus is another winner, but I would have liked to hear it a bit more often in this long track. It’s a good song, but in my opinion, there were other long tracks that grabbed me more.
With “Starlight” we get another typical Avantasia Power Metal tune. This time the bright spot lies on Ronnie Atkins and what can I say? He is one of my favorite singers and it’s always a pleasure to hear his voice. The song is fun and will stick in your head for weeks!
Next in line is “Invincible” – a calm piano ballad and a duet between Sammet and Geoff Tate. Both sound fantastic together, although I needed a bit time to get into this song. I’m a sucker for such power ballads like “Story Ain’t Over” or “What’s Left Of Me”, but I got used to this track. It kind of works as an intro for the next song: “Alchemy”. This one is another rocker with a more darker approach. Geoff Tate is in great shape again.
“The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” is the one track that features the most singers. Beside Tobi Sammet, you’ll get to hear Jorn Lande, Ronnie Atkins, Geoff Tate, Bob Catley (finally) and Eric Martin. Sadly the latter has just a very small part in this song. The tune itself is one of the faster songs with great guitar lines and fun verses, but the chorus couldn’t convince me that much. It doesn’t want to stuck in my ear, unlike other tunes on this record.
With “Lavender” we get another midtempo-track that was written for Bob Catley and his voice contributes so much to this song. This is once more Melodic Pomp Rock at it’s finest with a chorus just Tobias Sammet can write. For me easily one of the best songs on this record.
Some might ask “Where the hell is Michael Kiske?”. I can reassure you: “Requiem For A Dream” is the typical Michael Kiske song you find on every Avantasia record. It’s an anthemic, fast power metal song in the vein of “Where Clocks Hands Freeze”, “Wastelands”, “Ghostlights” and so on. Although I have to say I liked the mentioned songs a little bit more than this new one. The thing is at this point it gets a bit too predictable. I mean you get this one Kiske song on every Avantasia album and they are all quality tracks that are fun to listen to, but I would love to get a bit more surprised. Put Kiske into some other songs where he can interact with other singers or do some songs that are more out of his comfort zone. That would be surprising and more interesting to me. But nevertheless – a very good song remains a very good song.
The last track on this record is “Maniac” – yes, you heard right – “Maniac” – a cover song of the Flashdance film. Eric Martin sings on this one together with Tobi Sammet. It’s fun to listen to – no doubt about that and I love hearing Eric Martin again, but what has this song to do with the rest of the album? For me, this would be a typical bonus track. I really don’t get why this track is on the regular album, while there is an Avantasia original song called “Heart” featured as a bonus track on the limited edition of “Moonglow”. Can somebody please explain that to me?
To sum it all up: “Moonglow” is another very strong album that shines with its outstanding cast and stellar performances from everyone involved in this project. The punchy, but also warm production of Sasha Paeth does the rest. It’s a very varied album that grows on you with every listen and never gets boring. I think many bands would kill to record such an epic piece of work. But within the Avantasia catalog, I have to say it is not the outstanding masterpiece I hoped for. Maybe my expectations were too high this time around and for sure all the things I criticized is nagging on a very high level. When I put these personal feelings aside it is a nine out of ten for me. Not quite as good as “Ghostlights” (which was a ten), but also far, far away from being weak. “Moonglow” fits very well to the already existing albums and I think every Avantasia fan or people who like Metal Operas, in general, can buy this one blindly. Now I’m really looking forward to the Moonglow tour, that will start in a few months and if you get the chance to see Avantasia live then buy your tickets quickly because some venues will be sold out soon.
Written by: Thomas Schwarzkopf
Ratings: Thomas 9/10