2019 saw Sammet return with the next album from Avantasia. Again, there are plenty of guests, including past collaborators ex-Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate, Pretty Maids frontman Ronnie Atkins, Michael Kiske of Helloween, Jørn Lande (ex-Masterplan), Eric Martin (Mr Big) and Magnum’s Bob Catley. This time around we are also introduced to Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian, Kreator’s Mille Petrozza and Blackmore’s Night frontwoman Candice Night. Work started on the album following the previous Avantasia tour. As Sammet says, “For the foreseeable future none of my bands were scheduled to do anything but an anniversary celebration of Edguy. For the first time I had no deadline or contract… nothing. I was completely free. The plan was to take a break, but the freedom I found presented me with more and more ideas. The material had time to grow. It was a very relaxed way of working, especially because with the help of Sascha Paeth I had built my own studio which helped me to work at my own pace whenever I came home from creative breaks in England, which I found to be extremely inspiring.”
“In a way, its lyrical topics are quite dreamy,” theorizes Sammet. “There’s no end of the world touch; I see these songs as having a Tim Burton-esque eeriness.” Another commonality with ‘Ghostlights’ is that ‘Moonglow’ is conceptually based. “Each song is a chapter based upon a creature that is thrown into the world but fails to find its place. It cannot connect with that environment and turns instead to the dark in the hope of finding shelter there. The lyrics are very personal but wrapped up in a fantastic surrounding inspired by writers of dark romanticism, especially gothic novels of the Victorian era by the likes of Arthur Machen or Algernon Blackwood. Yes, it’s a concept album but don’t expect elves walking through the forest,” laughs Tobi. No elves, but there may be orcs, as in many ways the word ‘Moonglow’ is a great title as this is an album which musically and lyrically can be very dark, but never overpoweringly so and there is always that hint of light, that glimmer which shows the way in the dark.
While all his albums are linked in terms of style, this feels as if it is just a continuation of the last album as the heavy over the top Steinman, Wagnerian and Mangum-esque styles are here again in spades, yet there are plenty of times when Sammet also reverts to the more power metal style associated with his day job. The use of different singers is again a real strength of the album, with “Book of Shallows” (one of the outright heaviest songs on the album), definitely benefitting from that approach.
But, there is something very important you need to understand before playing this album, and that is not to play the final song. Just play the other ten and all will be right with the world, you don’t really need to listen to a symphonic metal version of “Maniac” – yes, the same one from ‘Flashdance’. They try, they really do, but nothing can get away from the fact that it is still the same song. It’s a real shame as it is a great album until that point, but at least they put it at the very end, so it is easy to ignore. Another incredibly solid album from Tobias Sammet.