Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: October 21st, 2022
1. Welcome to the Shadows
2. The Wicked Rule the Night (feat. Ralf Scheepers)
3. Kill the Pain Away (feat. Floor Jansen)
4. The Inmost Light (feat. Michael Kiske)
5. Misplaced Among the Angels
6. I Tame the Storm (feat. Jorn)
7. Paper Plane (feat. Ronnie Atkins)
8. The Moonflower Society (feat. Bob Catley)
9. Rhyme and Reason (feat. Eric Martin)
10. Scars (feat. Geoff Tate)
11. Arabesque (feat. Jorn&Michael Kiske)
To all friends of Rock Epics and Metal Operas, I just can say welcome to “A Paranormal Evening with the Moonflower Society” … what a long title for an album. It’s the 9th studio record by Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia and the follow-up to the very successful “Moonglow” from 2019. Honestly, I had some problems with that one – it’s even my least favorite of them all. For sure it had some great tunes to offer, but on the other hand, there were too many songs on it that I didn’t find accessible, and had a hard time getting into these songs. So, when the new album was announced my expectations were a bit lower than usual.
I always loved the more melodic, anthemic side of Avantasia and I’m happy to say that “A Paranormal Evening with the Moonflower Society” delivers just that. One thing I noticed from the get-go was, that this record is much catchier than the last one and so it was very easy to get into the songs. For people who like the more heavy and progressive side of Avantasia this might be bad news, but all in all, I can say you’ll find something for everyone on this album.
“Welcome To The Shadows” sets a very atmospheric starting point for the record with its theatric verses and a super catchy arena rock chorus. With “The Wicked Rule The Night” we already get to the heaviest song on the album featuring Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear on guest vocals. This song is a speed metal banger with a slice of early Avantasia and should make every fan happy who likes it heavy and fast. “Kill The Pain Away” is the first track with Floor Jansen on vocals and she is a perfect addition to Tobias’ voice. This one is another song with a killer chorus you can sing along with for days.
With “The Inmost Light” things get a bit faster again as this is the typical Michael Kiske power metal song you expect on every Avantasia record – so here it is. At this point it’s noticeable that a lot of the songs are quite short, clocking in around 3 to 4 minutes, which is a little bit unusual for Avantasia standards.
The next song “Misplaced Among The Angels” is the first ballad and features again Floor Jansen from Nightwish on guest vocals. This is an amazing emotional song that gave me a lot of goosebumps, especially in the chorus where Floor and Tobi sing together. Those two voices fit together beautifully. “I Tame The Storm” is next in line and is another short rocker with an outstanding performance by Jorn Lande. It’s always a pleasure to hear him in Avantasia and on this song he has some great catchy material to work with.
The hit potential increases even more on the next song “Paper Plane”, which is another ballad with such an amazing chorus sung by Tobias and Ronnie Atkins from Pretty Maids. I’m a huge fan of his voice and he sounds fantastic as always. This song should be the next single because it’s simply made for radio airplay – and I don’t mean this in a bad way. Commercial Avantasia is at its best!
“The Moonflower Society” kicks in with some infectious keys and the storyteller voice of Bob Catley of Magnum. This song fits perfectly with him and is another very catchy tune. In general, you can say that Tobias Sammet managed again to give every singer on this record their moments to shine.
“Rhyme and Reason” features Eric Martin of Mr. Big and is a little bit faster than the stuff he is known for. It’s cool to hear him on a more rocking track instead of the usual ballad stuff. A pretty good feel-good song indeed.
“Scars” has a mysterious feel to it, which is presented very well by Geoff Tate. It’s not my favorite track on this album but a nice addition to the other songs.
And here we have it: the huge finale in form of a 10-minute epic. “Arabesque” is a typical long track that builds up lots of atmosphere and tension. It’s more on the progressive side of things and not as catchy as the other songs. Here we get to hear Jorn Lande and Michael Kiske again and both singers do what they can do best. Although I liked older long tracks like “Ghost In The Moon”, “The Wicked Symphony” or “The Great Mystery” much more than this new one, it’s good to have some variation here with the mentioned vocalists.
This brings us to the biggest disappointment on the album: Besides the last track and the opener every song is just a duet with Tobias (the opener features only him on vocals). In the past, Avantasia lived very much from the dynamic between all those different singers and styles which were brought together in those songs. Here you don’t have that most of the time. How cool would have been to hear a song with Atkins, Martin, and Catley together? Why not put Scheepers and Kiske in one song and let the duel begin? What about Jorn together with Floor? There was so much potential here, but sadly it was not being used. I would have liked to hear at least 2 more songs where those singers come together as they did in past songs.
Another point of criticism for me is the general choice of the guest singers because you don’t get any surprises here. For sure I love them all and I don’t want to miss Jorn, Kiske, Atkins & Co., but those singers were all very predictable and the only two new ones – Ralf Scheepers and Floor Jansen – were already announced through the marketing campaign. I hoped for a surprise, someone like Dee Snider, Klaus Meine, or Alice Cooper – singers you simply don’t associate at first with Avantasia. So, this guest list is a pretty safe play.
But in the end, what matters most are the songs and here Avantasia hits the mark. The songwriting, in general, is top notch as well as the powerful production and the performances of all musicians involved. I would even say this album contains a collection of songs that belong to the best in recent Avantasia history, so I’m sure that fans of the band will love what they get to hear on this album. To me, it’s a huge improvement from the last album. Welcome back, Avantasia – this paranormal evening with the Moonflower society was simply delightful!
Written by: Thomas Schwarzkopf
- Metal Opera
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