When you expect greatness from every album a band makes, it will obviously add a bit of pressure. It’s safe to say many musicians are perfectionists that have spent countless hours working on a hopeful brand new masterpiece. These creations aren’t always a success either. However, when it comes to Edguy’s Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia project, each record is another guaranteed successful album added to your metal collection. Simply put, Sammet is a musical genius as well as a genuine artist. He introduced us to Avantasia with 2001’s The Metal Opera, and we’ve been hooked ever since. This past Friday (15th) Sammet has done it again with the release of Avantasia’s overall eighth studio effort Moonglow via Nuclear Blast. Once again, Sammet and the rest of the band featuring Sascha Paeth (guitar, bass, keyboards), Michael Rodenberg (orchestration/keyboards) and Felix Bohnke (drums) have recruited a handful of legendary vocalists including Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Jørn Lande (Masterplan), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Mille Petrozza (Kreator), Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night), Geoff Tate (ex-Queensryche), Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Bob Catley (Magnum) and Michael Kiske (Helloween).
There’s a lot to take in with Moonglow especially since many of us are still digesting 2016’s Ghostlights. After one spin, you will feel slightly disappointed as your instant reaction would be: “this isn’t Ghostlights.” However, once you give the album the magical three full listens (or in my case, 100+), you will appreciate the glory Moonglow has to offer. It begins with the near-ten minute song “Ghost in the Moon,” which marks the longest opening track on an Avantasia album since 2002’s The Metal Opera Pt.2. Additionally, the song does not feature any guest vocalists as Sammet takes the lead from beginning to end. Musically, it holds the essence of power and speed metal as the energy makes it a flawless introductory track. “Book Of Shallows,” which features a handful of heavy singers such as Mille, Jorn, Hansi, and Ronnie moves in with a truculent speed and even on the second track, it is this moment that makes you realize it will take a very long time to let go of listening to the album on repeat.
Next up, the title track leaves a slight Ghostlights memory as it will briefly remind you of “Draconian Love.” However, that doesn’t last long as the romantic-esque tune featuring Candice Night brings a slow and serene life of its own. Four tracks in, we get to the longest song on the album with “The Raven Child” clocking at eleven minutes and fifteen seconds. Despite this being the first single we heard from Moonglow, it is one of if not the best song on the record. Musically, it’s the fluctuation between the celtic tranquility and classic heavy metal that makes you pick up on something new after each listen, even if you heard the song 200x in a row. It’s just that good.
At this point, you are deeply involved in the album as the pace picks up with the fun and catchy beat of “Starlight,” which is another highlighted track, and we can thank Ronnie Atkins for that. Geoff Tate comes in for “Invincible” and “Alchemy” as the album moves towards a dramatic ballad-esque direction which is the first surprise from Moonglow. It’s easy to assume that “The Piper At the Gates of Dawn,” includes all guest musicians as Lande, Atkins, Tate, Catley, and Eric Martin are heard along with Sammet. It progresses with lively keyboard interludes making it one of the more energetic songs.
Stepping away from the uptempo comes in “Lavender,” as the music drives you in an emotional frenzy thanks to Bob Catley’s contributions. Despite it falling in one of the shorter tracks, it holds by far one of the strongest melodies. Just as the album is about to conclude, we finally hear Michael Kiske on another favorable song, “Requiem For A Dream.” It’s fast, heavy, and consists of everything we love about Avantasia. While this song could have easily been considered as the ultimate conclusion for Moonglow, Sammet managed to surprise us all with the cover of the 80’s single “Maniac.” For anyone that follows Avantasia as each album is a conceptual masterpiece, hearing such a cover was unexpected. This marks the ultimate surprise, and people will either love or hate it, and for us, we love it. Despite Sammet moving towards more of the original direction of “Maniac,” it also develops a sound and style of its own and surprisingly yes, in the end it fits Avantasia.
After listening to Avantasia’s Moonglow for hours on end, it may not be the untouchable masterpiece that Ghostlights was, but it certainly holds plenty of musical magic. Despite how you are feeling in your waking reality, there is always a place for Moonglow, and that in itself is the glory of music: to escape from our daily grind. To rate this album, it would be a 5/5 or a 10/10 and most likely will land on a few year-end lists for 2019. If you haven’t yet, order Moonglow here and check out our interview with Tobias Sammet at this location.