Avantasia (an amalgam of Avalon & Fantasia, said to mean a world beyond human imagination) is a German supergroup metal opera created by Tobias Sammet. The sometime vocalist with Edguy follows up 2016’s Ghostlights album with yet another album full of musical adventure, entitled Moonglow. Sammet says “I believe this is the most unadorned and detailed work we’ve ever produced. Avantasia is the ultimate playground for a musicians fantasies to come true”. Hyperbole or has he got a point?
If you’re a fan of operatic metal and enjoy all the grandiosity and bombast accompanying it, this album could be one for you. It’s an album which includes swathes of hard rock, symphonic rock and even the occasional lapse into pop. There’s plenty of variation in speed and tempo, and there’s no denying the quality of the musicianship which, along with the production, is on an epic scale. It’s a testament to how well regarded Sammets’ held that he can attract musicians like Bob Catley, Geoff Tate, Hansi Kursch and Ritchie Blackmore’s paramour Candice Night to offer their talents.
Moonglow explodes into life with ‘Ghost in the Moonlight’ and ‘Book of Shallow’, where Sammet urges us all to “chase our dreams”. These are fast and furious rock workouts and, with sonic overkill in places, they set the scene for much of what follows, with tracks like ‘Raven Child’, ‘Alchemy’ and ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ (don’t be fooled by the title, this is a light year away from the psychedelic whimsy of the Floyd’s classic debut album) continuing in the same vein, and with Sammets’ impassioned vocals doing a credible impersonation of Bruce Dickinson. But, it’s only when you get to tracks like ‘Moonglow’, ‘Starlight’ and ‘Invincible’ (which for me is the best track on the album), does the pace ease and melody takes centre stage, with no attempt to include as much as possible. ‘Invincible’ in particular has sparse, minimal backing and it works beautifully. These three songs demonstrate less really can mean more.
The problem I had with this album, however, is very few of the songs are memorable. As good as the music is in places, there’s very little which lives on in the mind after the song finishes. All the way through, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was nothing Dutch progger Arjen Lucassen hadn’t done better with his “Ayreon” production, where he proved you can be over the top and bombastic, but also accessible. I’ve no doubt Avantasia would be an amazing ‘live’ experience but, shorn of the visual impact, overkill doesn’t always work.