AVANTASIA – Moonglow [Limited Digipak 2-CD] (2019)

AVANTASIA - Moonglow [Limited Digipak 2-cD] (2019) full

After 2 weeks delayed, the wait is finally over and Tobias Sammet’s AVANTASIA will release next Friday its new album “Moonglow”. The new opus once again features several stellar guest vocalists. This time round, Tobias worked not only with well-known faces such as Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Jorn Lande, Eric Martin (Mr Big), Geoff Tate (Operation:Mindcrime), Michael Kiske (Helloween) or Bob Catley (Magnum), but also with new singers for the project like Candice Night, Hansi Kürsch as well as Mille Petrozza.

“Moonglow” is the beginning of Phase Four in the Avantasia series, and all signs indicate that this album is a shift in musical direction for the project, without abandoning the Power Metal flavour that has made it so successful.
Unlike previous Avantasia albums that have focused on telling a complete story throughout the record, “Moonglow” appears to be more of a thematic concept album in the vein of Steven Wilson’s The Raven That Refused To Sing or Ayreon’s The Dream Sequencer Pts 1 & 2.

None of the singers play characters and there is no overarching story with a beginning, middle and end; instead, there is one central character, and each song is a window into his navigation through the “Moonglow” universe.
This makes for a more relaxed listening environment, as the songs are given more breathing room to stand up on their own rather than have the pressure of moving the story forward.

From the very first note, it’s obvious that this is not your typical Avantasia album. Most of the previous records have started with an instrumental build-up, based around either a riff (Like on “Twisted Mind” from Scarecrow or “Mystery of a Blood Red Nose” from Ghostlights) or on an atmospheric symphonic prelude (Like The Metal Opera Pts 1 & 2).
But Moonglow’s opening track “Ghost in The Moon” begins straight away with a subdued vocal from Sammet over a Meat Loaf-esque piano run. As the rest of the band comes in with big bombastic note stabs under Sammet’s passionate melody, the invitation to join the journey is irresistible.

The usage of different dynamics continues strongly throughout the first half of the record. “Book of Shallows” features a balls-to-the wall heavy rhythm, in line with something Petrozza would do with Kreator. However, the verses are shared by Atkins, Lande and Kürsch , who all have a gravelly tone to their voices which contrasts well with Sammet’s smooth wail.

This is followed by the title track, featuring Candice Night. I was expecting a soft ballad more in line with Night’s work in her own band, and the song actually starts out that way, with Sammet subtlety singing over strings, bass drum and piano. As soon as it’s time for Night to start singing, however, the whole band kicks in with a steady beat for her to soar over. The chorus of this song is just catchy and is bound to get stuck in your head after just one listen.

“The Raven Child” is the album’s longest track, so it’s no surprise that it has the most going on in terms of musical variation. The first part of the song features strong medieval Celtic influences; acoustic guitar, harp, bodhran and strings. Above this, Lande, Kürsch and Sammet all share vocals, and there’s solid guitar solos from Sascha Paeth combining long vibrato notes with technical shredding.
“Starlight” is quite bombastic, melodic, soft during verses but with a big anthemic chorus and very rocking n’ catchy.

More variation is explored on the next two tracks, both of which feature Geoff Tate and form one 10-minute suite. “Invincible” is a soft piano ballad, where Tate is given the chance to show off the subtlety and vibrato that was found in softer Queensrÿche tracks like ‘Silent Lucidity’. It segues straight into “Alchemy”, which is a full embracement of symphonic metal tropes. Tate pulls back as the first verse begins, but by the time the chorus kicks in, he’s fully in his element, showcasing the big operatic voice he’s best known for.

“Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” features more singers than any other track on the album, including the long-awaited arrival of Eric Martin and Bob Catley. Unfortunately, this means the singers only sing one or two lines at a time and the end result is a bit of a vocal mess. Don’t get me wrong, the track is just as good as the rest of the album, but with all the different singers trying to outdo themselves, it was very difficult to distinguish them. Fortunately, Catley gets to show off his deep, smooth voice in the next track, “Lavender”, but Eric Martin, who is one of my favourite singers, only has one or two recognizable lines in “Piper”, while the rest of the time he seems to be trying to make his voice gravellier to match the other singers.

The final original song on the album, “Requiem for A Dream” starts with a beautiful choral intro, then there’s a powerful performance from Michael Kiske and a bass solo from Sammet, all around super-fast drums and guitar.

AVANTASIA - Moonglow [Limited Digibook] (2019) inside

But Sammet has an encore up his sleeve to finish off “Moonglow” on a musical high – it’s a cover of Michael Sembello’s synthpop staple “Maniac”, reworked in Avantasia style and performed as a duet with Eric Martin. Here he is in his element and easily identifiable. The arrangement is incredibly logical and aurally pleasing, with the guitars and keyboards blended together to breathe new life into the classic song. Martin and Sammet sound like they’re having heaps of fun on this track, and it’s a nice light-hearted surprise to finish off the record.

“Moonglow” is just another very good chapter in Tobias Sammet’s AVANTASIA history, this time with a welcomed variation not needing to specifically follow a story and working more like a ‘song format’ release. However, this new opus works better as an ‘album’ experience, listening to it in full.
The ‘metal’ factor is still there, but for the most part this is commercial hard rock plenty of hooks, and after the fisrt listen many of the choruses are now stuck in my head.
Highly Recommended to all kind of rock music aficionados

01. Ghost In The Moon

02. Book Of Shallows
(feat. Hansi Kürsch , Ronnie Atkins , Jorn & Mille Petrozza)

03. Moonglow
(feat. Candice Night)

04. The Raven Child
(feat. Hansi Kürsch & Jorn Lande)

05. Starlight
(feat. Ronnie Atkins)

06. Invincible
(feat. Geoff Tate)

07. Alchemy
(feat. Geoff Tate)

08. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
(feat. R. Atkins, Jorn, Eric Martin, Bob Catley & Geoff Tate)

09. Lavender
(feat. Bob Catley)

10. Requiem For A Dream
(feat. Michael Kiske)

11. Maniac
(feat. Eric Martin)

12. Heart (Bonus Track)

01 – Ghost in the Moon (Instrumental Version)
02 – Book of Shallows (Instrumental Version)
03 – Moonglow (Instrumental Version)
04 – The Raven Child (Instrumental Version)
05 – Starlight (Instrumental Version)
06 – Invincible (Instrumental Version)
07 – Alchemy (Instrumental Version)
08 – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Instrumental Version)
09 – Lavender (Instrumental Version)
10 – Requiem for a Dream (Instrumental Version)
11 – Maniac (Instrumental Version)

Tobias Sammet – lead vocals, keyboards, bass
Sascha Paeth – guitar, bass
Michael Rodenberg – keyboard, piano, orchestration
Felix Bohnke – drums

Guest vocalists:
Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids)
Jorn Lande (Jorn)
Eric Martin (Mr. Big)
Geoff Tate (Operation:Mindcrime)
Michael Kiske (Helloween)
Bob Catley (Magnum)
Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night)
Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian)
Mille Petrozza (Kreator)


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