Review Summary: A new, yet familiar story.
One of the reasons that heavy metal is pure magic, is that it builds fictional worlds; worlds where listeners can visit using their minds and creativity. Tobias Sammet has been one of the best in the business of tickling our imagination since the mid ‘90s with Edguy, but it’s with his metal opera vessel where he really fulfilled his musical vision. Being one of the first out there to use the term metal opera and enlist a number of different vocalists on each album, he never intended to create more than the first two Metal Opera
LPs. However, 19 years down the road since Avantasia’s debut, he created another fantastic universe where the protagonist is himself, or are the vocalists, or is it the songwriting?
The story on Moonglow
is unlike previous Avantasia efforts, as there is no complete story with a beginning, middle, and end that runs throughout the album. Instead, each song describes the central character’s experiences in the Moonglow universe like a poem. The central character is an entity that is born into an environment where he feels as if he doesn’t belong in. He cannot connect or compromise with anything that surrounds him, including the reality of that world and others’ expectations. Therefore, he turns to the dark by opening a door to a parallel universe where he finds a safe haven by being invisible. In essence, the story looks like your typical teen metalhead’s everyday life, but it also opens a window into its creator’s psyche and the burden that he feels due to expectations regarding releasing new music and touring continuously.
In terms of influences or similarities, Moonglow
brings together Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Meat Loaf, and euro-power metal into one platter of fine cheese. Of course, the outcome is bombastic, quite excessive, and not for everyone. However, at the same time, the songwriting is solid – even though the album does seem to drag towards the end – and Tobias Sammet’s superhuman ability of creating numerous hooks and catchy melodies is on full display. In addition, the songs seem to work better within the context of the album, as expected from a metal opera that respects itself. For example, the title track, one of the two ballads on here along with “invincible”, featuring Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night) didn’t do much for me when it was released as a single but fits the overall atmosphere quite nicely. However, there are tracks that work regardless, such as the epic “The Raven Child” with Hansi Kursch and Jorn Lande on vocals or the opener “Ghost in the Moon” where the aforementioned Meat Loaf elements shine brighter. A surprise inclusion in the list of vocalists – even though not a big surprise to those who remember his appearance on Edguy’s Hellfire Club
– is Mille Petrozza (Kreator) on “Book of Shallows”, arguably the LPs heaviest track. Unfortunately, album closer “Maniac”, a Michael Sembello ‘80s hit, is an unfortunate and rather puzzling choice by a veteran like Sammet as it reduces the album’s majestic feeling.
In a nutshell, Avantasia’s latest offering is fun, memorable, and a very deserving addition to the band’s catalog. The few hiccups here and there don’t reduce significantly the overall experience and even though I’d love to listen to more folk/Celtic elements like those on “The Raven Child”, Tobias Sammet seems like he can do no wrong at the moment.