'Moonglow'- Avantasia / Turned Up Louder
Back in 2001, Tobias Sammet (lead singer, bassist and writer for German power metal outfit Edguy) brought the world a side project called Avantasia which took the sound of bands like Edguy and made it epic. The title of Avantasia's first album The Metal Opera tells you all you need to know about what this project is about. Indeed, over time Avantasia became so epic, they managed to outdo the original act, headlining some of Europe's top metal festivals, and getting the biggest names in metal as guest vocalists on their albums, along the way. After a brief hiatus for Sammet, Avantasia are back for their fourth metal operatic concept, Moonglow. One look at the beautiful Tim Burton-esque cover gives a sense of a dark album, which comes as a natural follow-up to 2016's astounding album Ghostlights.
Moonglow’s first song ‘Ghost In The Moon’ kicks off in typical Avantasia fashion with Sammet’s distinctive voice singing above a soft piano intro before quickly building into the bombastic climax of vocals and instruments that Avantasia fans are so familiar with. This 10 minute song has nearly everything that makes the band special; with amazing hooks and arrangements and Sammet really showing off his vocal range to the maximum extent possible. The next track ‘Book of Shallows’ begins introducing some of the guest singers, for which Avantasia are also so well-known; featuring performances from Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Jørn Lande (ex-Masterplan) and Mille Petrozza (Kreator). One of the strongest tracks on the album, ‘Book of Shallows’ also marks a distinct departure from the trademark Avantasia sound, as it is notably faster and heavier than their usual outings (encapsulated by Petrozza’s thrashy section midway through).
The variations continue with the title track coming next where Sammet duets with Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night) for the album’s second single. Avantasia have made a habit of having a ballad with female vocals somewhere in their albums, and at first it sounds as though this will be a repeat, and while those elements are there, the song also brings in heavy power and folk metal parts alongside the ballad, to fantastic effect. The first single from the album ‘The Raven Child’ follows, with returns for Kürsch and Lande. This is the longest, and most varied track, on the album and as a result is a bit of an odd choice for a single. It is a strong song nonetheless for those who are partial to eleven-minute medieval-inspired metal epics; Sascha Paeth’s guitar solo and the harmonising of the three singers at the end of the song are particular highlights.
The album continues in this vain throughout the next six songs, with a great deal of blending influences and genres and some vocal appearances for long-term collaborators such as Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), Bob Catley (Magnum) and Eric Martin (Mr. Big). Unfortunately, this latter half of the album is not up to quit the same standard as the first, as there are some decent but largely forgettable songs here, such as ‘Lavender’. There are still some high quality moments scattered throughout the album, such as the wonderful transition between the piano ballad ‘Invincible’ and the riff-laden intro the symphonic metal number ‘Alchemy’. However, without wishing to be too disparaging of this section of the album, the catchy hooks and grand choruses that make Avantasia special are not as great in supply as they might be. They do make a triumphant return at the end though as Sammet and Martin gleefully cover Michael Sembello’s 80’s pop classic ‘Maniac’. As great fun as this ending to the album undoubtedly is, it does feel a little out of place with the hauntingly heavy work that the rest of the album delivers.
Moonglow stacks up as one of the better Avantasia albums, but is not quite consistent enough to be up there with their real classics like The Scarecrow. Tobias Sammet had said before Moonglow’s release that he had originally began writing the songs for a solo project as he started to come out of his self-imposed hiatus, but felt as though the songs sounded too much like Avantasia to release them separately. The introduction of a more diverse set of musical inspirations backs this up, which makes it a refreshing album to listen to for long-term fans of the band, as it keeps the sound interesting without deviating significantly from what makes the band so loved. All of these elements and singers are brought together expertly by the production duo of Sammet and Paeth, without which it would not be anywhere near as effective as it is. All of which culminates to a truly worthy addition to Avantasia’s already incredibly impressive catalogue.
'Moonglow' is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.
Check out the band's video for the album's title track, 'Moonglow', below:
Avantasia also have an extensive world tour commencing this year, with dates in Europe, the UK and the US- a full list of dates and the link for tickets can be found at http://www.tobiassammet.com/eng/tour.php