Symphonic Power Metal
Nuclear Blast Records (2019)
“Moonglow” is a solid proof that Sammet’s Avantasia has grown from a passion-project into a fully-formed institution that constantly redefines how epic metal should sound like.
“Awaiting the night to yell a prayer up to the starlight” Tobias Sammet‘s high-pitched voice echoes through my room as I’m once again drawn inside the magical world of Avantasia. After “20 years, 17 albums and 10 world tours” as Sammet himself claims in this interview, the highly-prolific German songwriter decided to pull the brakes and take some time away from his brainchildren, Avantasia and Edguy. But restless know no rest, so in between touring with Edguy and building his own studio, Sammet has brewed up another instant Avantasia classic in “Moonglow”, the project’s eight studio outfit.
“I built my studio and started working on music. I had so much time and no pressure that the album became so embellished and so diverse,” Sammet further adds and tracks like the previously quoted “Ghost in the Moon” or “The Piper At The Gates of Dawn” strongly back those claims. The former, also the opener of the album starts strong with nothing but Sammet‘s voice and a dynamic piano abruptly opening the album, instantly dragging you in. A nearly ten-minute Meat Loaf worship, the track takes you on a journey from ecstasy to melancholy and back in what seems to be a blink of an eye.
The rest of the album doesn’t fall behind either, with tracks such as “Book of Shallows” or “Requiem for a Dream” invoking the sound of some of Sammet‘s most iconic albums such as “The Metal Opera”, “Mandrake” or “Hellfire Club”. “Book of Shallows” in particular deserves the highest of praises for combining a versatile “crème de la crème” cast of vocalists such as Jorn Lande, Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Mille Petrozza (Kreator) and Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian). This five-minute gem melds all the beloved German metal tropes into a heavy, bombastic and melodic anthem outshining some of Sammet‘s strongest works.
The same can be said for the title track “Moonglow” that clearly draws inspiration from Nightwish-branded symphonic metal with an incredibly strong performance by Candice Night of Blackmore’s Night. One of Sammet‘s often overlooked talents is bringing out the best in his guests. For proof, look no further than Geoff Tate in “Invincible” and “Alchemy”, back-to-back tracks featuring the strongest performance former Queensrÿche alumni has given in years!
I could go into the most minute details, but this review would likely overwhelm even those with the most tenacious attention spans. While I’m missing more of Eric Martin in the album, who provides a humble yet invaluable contribution to “The Piper…” and the cover of ’80s pop hit “Maniac”, I think every guest had their fair share of the spotlight and used it brilliantly. Last but not least, two of the oldest Avatasians, Bob Catley and Michael Kiske also get their time to shine in “Lavander” and “Requiem For A Dream”. It’s refreshing to hear Bob Catley in an Avantasia song that isn’t a ballad or a mid-tempo epic, but a very upbeat and catchy tune. At the same time, Michael Kiske once again stars in a Helloween-inspired power metal tune so well-crafted and full of hooks that you’ll forget all about “Reach Out For The Light”, at least for a bit over six minutes.
On “Moonglow” Sammet once again delves with the topic of being an outsider and not belonging in a glossy reality, something all of us are quite familiar with living in an era of polished Instagram selfies and superficial values people forget about faster than you can say #trending. While the lyrics paint a picture of a Victorian setting, Sammet‘s thoughts and lyrics are timeless and applied to any era.
“Moonglow” is a solid proof that Sammet‘s Avantasia has grown from a passion-project into a fully-formed institution that constantly redefines how epic metal should sound like. At the same time, the grandiose compositions hide an intimate story of an outcast not afraid to turn his back on all things that glitter but aren’t gold, drawing inspiration from personal experience all listeners can undoubtedly relate to.
After a short break, Tobias Sammet returns with another Avantasia release that might be one of the strongest in the metal opera’s catalog.