Avantasia – Moonglow

Avantasia – Moonglow

In the Spring of 1999, singer Tobi Sammet was on tour with his band Edguy and he began to outline the ideas for a metal opera concept album featuring a who’s who of vocalists from the rock and metal world. Eventually, this idea took shape and became Avantasia. What originally began as a side project during time off from Edguy, has grown and expanded in scope, size, and popularity in the metal landscape, reaching stadium headliner status all over the world. Over the years, Avantasia’s musical style has changed and evolved as well. Beginning as a symphonic power metal opera for the first two albums ( The Metal Opera Parts I & II), with the third Avantasia album, The Scarecrow in 2006, Tobi incorporated a more hard rock vibe and the songs became less about power metal and more Meatloaf inspired theatrical rock in the songwriting style and structure. Since Avantasia’s inception there have been many “all-star” metal operas that have surfaced over the years, just proving what an influential force the band has become.

As we roll into 2019, Avantasia is set to release their latest opus titled Moonglow (out February 1, 2019 on Nuclear Blast Records). This time around, Tobi welcomes special guest vocalists Jorn Lande, Bob Catley (Magnum), Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Michael Kiske (Helloween), Geoff Tate (ex-Queensryche), Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), and Mille Petrozza (Kreator). Moonglow is a continuation or companion piece, at least stylistically, of the bands previous album, 2016’s excellent Ghostlights.

As always, Moonglow features the fantastic production skills of Tobi and longtime collaborator Sascha Paeth. If you are a diehard Avantasia fan then you already know that the production is top notch with a fantastic mix. The band is led by Tobi on lead vocals, as well as additonal keyboards and bass, Paeth on guitar and bass, Michael “Miro” Rodenberg on keys, piano, and orchestration, and Felix Bohnke (Edguy) on drums.

The album kicks off with the piano-tinged Ghost In The Moon, a bombastic rocker in the style of Jim Steinman (Meatloaf songwriter) with call backs to Mystery of A Blood Red Rose from the Ghostlights album. Tobi handles the lead vocal here with his trademark theatricality and emotion.

Book of Shallows is a fast-paced metal track that showcases Bohnke’s fleet footwork on the double bass drum parts. The lead vocals are handled by Tobi, Kürsch, Atkins, Lande, and Petroza. All four vocalists work so well together considering the different styles they bring to the table. Petrozza brings the aggression that Kreator fans are accustomed to. The trade-off vocals between Mille and Tobi during the heavier sections are fantastic.

The title track is a celtic folk-tinged rocker featuring the alluring vocals of Candace Night. Night and Tobi have incredible chemistry together with their back and forth vocals blending well together. The chorus is very reminicent of Nightwish’s folkier moments. Next up is the folk metal epic The Raven Child. Kursch’s warm vocals are a fine compliment to Tobi’s and Lande lends his trademark deliciously devilish snarl and powerful Viking rasp similar to Ghostlights tracks Let The Storm Descend Upon You or Lucifer. Musically there are call backs to those songs as well as The Scarecrow. This song will be incredible in a live setting.

Ronnie Atkins gets the vocal spotlight on Starlight along with Tobi on this melodic heavy rocker. The chorus is infectious and uplifting and Atkins charismatic vocals are used to perfection. Atkins proves why he has been one of the best vocalists in melodic heavy music for over 30 years. Like a fine wine, his vocals only get better with age.

Next up is the revelation of the album as Geoff Tate shares lead vocals with Tobi on the piano ballad titled Invincible. Much has been discussed in recent years of Tate’s steady decline musically during the latter years of his time in Queensrÿche as well as his solo material but here, as well as his appearance on the Ghostlights album, Tobi and Paeth have shown that they have the golden touch, utilizing Tate’s vocals to perfection and providing him with his finest and most emotive vocal performances since the Promised Land album. This is not hyperbole, but fact. Tate sounds better here than he has in years, proving that given the right material and direction, Tate can still bring the magic that made albums like Rage For Order and Operation: Mindcrime metal classics.

Tate continues his brilliant vocal performance on the dark and heavy anthem titled Alchemy. Tate’s power and range are unleashed like a giant awoken from a long slumber. The Vest hasn’t sounded this motivated in years, like a prize fighter long past his prime coming back for one last round with something to prove. There are call backs to Twisted Mind from The Scarecrow album. The soaring majestic chorus with its choir vocals are chill-inducing, making it one of the albums highlights.

The Piper At The Gates of Dawn is another fast paced song that features Atkins, Lande, Tate, Martin, and Catley along with Tobi. Each vocalist gets their opportunity to shine here. The song is classic Avantasia with classic Edguy thrown in for good measure. Lavender is a mid-tempo rocker with a focus on piano. Bob Catley is featured with Tobi in a song that fits his warm vocal style. The choir vocals give the song a grandiose uplifting feeling in the tradition of classic Meatloaf.

In his lone performance on Moonglow, longtime Avantasian, Michael Kiske lends his powerful pipes to Requiem For A Dream. Kiske’s trademark upper register is on full display on the albums fastest track. Fans of Avantasia’s more power metal moments will love this track with it’s call backs to classic Helloween and Shelter From The Rain from the Scarecrow album.

The albums final track, a cover of the 80’s hit Maniac (from the Flashdance movie soundtrack) is a little controversial for me. While it is admittedly a great song and Martin and Tobi’s vocals are perfectly fine, the song is pretty much a carbon copy of the original. I may have felt differently if the song hadn’t already been covered by Firewind several years ago. I would have much rather been given another original song with this song being regulated to bonus track status. Apparently there is a bonus track titled Heart on the special edition of Moonglow. Since I have not been able to hear this song I can’t comment as to why it was left off the album with Maniac given the last slot instead. This is a small complaint, but it does prevent me from giving Moonglow a perfect score. Still, if you loved Ghostlights, then Moonglow will not disappoint you on any level. Tobi and company have done it again, adding another great chapter to the legend of Avantasia.

*Photos by Alex Kuehr

About the author

Honey Badger
I am a lifelong fan of hard rock/metal since I discovered my childhood idols KISS. Music is my passion and progressive and power metal are my favorites in the sub genres of heavy metal. I also work for the premier metal festival in the U.S. ProgPower USA as a co-admin for their official Facebook page. In my spare time (what little i have of it!) I enjoy working out and snuggling with my French Bulldog Molly!