Avantasia – A Paranormal Evening With the Moonflower Society Review

Mega-luxury cruiser Avantasia is back in the water once again, folks. That means another sumptuous feast of extravagant, overstuffed yacht metal for those fans of excess who crave musical gout. With a title like A Paranormal Evening with the Moonflower Society you know big, cheese-stuffed fare is on the menu and there will be 54 courses of cumberbund-straining confection and rich. creamy puffery. The usual cast of friends and well-wishers have been assigned quarters and Captain Tobias Sammet uses the usual star charts and blueprints to plot the course. Restraint will be avoided and moderation is a disfavored destination. Those who’ve taken this cruise before know what to expect and will not be disappointed. First-time cruisers, brace for bombast, hooks, and over-the-top antics. Things are gonna get bumpy.

I’ll say upfront as we reach Avantasia’s 9th album, I go into these things almost expecting Sammet’s moar is MOAR template to finally go off course and wreck on the reef. It seems he’s had too successful of a run with a style that always felt too big to succeed. Well, A Paranormal Evening, like the albums before it, dodges the rocks for another shockingly enjoyable romp through bigness and boldness. Unmistakeably Sammet-crafted opener “Welcome to the Shadows” is mega-maudlin Jim Steinmancore that wrings every ounce of pathos out of the music, growing more pompous and blustery while keeping you on board with big, dumb hooks the size of anchors. Should it be a minute or 2 shorter? Probably. Will you care? Probably, but not much. Then come the star-studded duets, like “The Wicked Rule the Night” where Primal Fear’s Ralf Scheepers joins Toby for a power metal ripper that’s almost too heavy for an Avantasia platter. Scheepers sounds enraged and possessed and it’s like dragonfire hitting the cheese plate. To soften the mood we get Nightwish star Floor Jansen appearing on two larger-than-life pieces – the uptempo and rocking “Kill the Pain Away” and the classic Sammet power ballad “Misplaced Among the Angels.” Floor is a known quantity and does her part well as the nigh irresistible hooks set in. Lørd Jørn makes his inevitable appearance on the burly rocker “I Tame the Storm” and it’s always great fun to hear him roaring alongside Sammet’s manic wailing.

Other notable potables include “The Inmost Light” where Michael Kiske joins Toby for a very Helloween-y power metal ditty where his vocal gifts are used perfectly. Geoff Tate does a fine job on the dark, moody rocker “Scars,” and the immortal Bob Cately (the man is 75 and still sounds great) kills it on “The Moonflower Society.” There are no bad songs, though “Rhyme and Reason” feels a bit less stirring than the rest of the goods, despite a solid performance by Eric Martin (Mr. Big). 10-minute closer “Arabesque” is good, mining the same gold as other Avantasia epics like “The Scarecrow” and “Stargazers” and layering in a vague “Kashmir” vibe as Sammet, Kiske and Jørn do their big thang,1 but it could stand a few minutes trimmed off nonetheless. Surprisingly, aside from “Arabesque” the rest of the tracks are somewhat “restrained” in that they all sit in the 3-5 minute window. This gives the album an immediacy and energetic pace while preventing excess fatigue from setting in. The 54 minutes do not seem like too much of a grand thing and that in itself is impressive. If I had a major complaint, it would be that this needs MOAR Jørn. Why put him on 2 tracks when he could be on ALL tracks? Just saying…

More so than recent Avantasia platters, Sammet carries the bulk of the vocals with guests orbiting him in smaller ways. This works well and his voice is in fine form. He still makes excellent use of his contributors, allowing them to play to their strengths and provide maximum impact when they show up. Most importantly though, Toby managed to come up with another album of high-quality, hook-infested tunes that stick quick and bore deeper with replays. On my first spin, I liked the album but didn’t love it. By the third run though, I was a helpless brainslave. Long-time contributor and henchman Sascha Paeth once again does wonders with catchy, epic guitar lines and along with Sammet manages to make the keys and orchestration a boon and never a bane. That’s a rare gift indeed.

20-plus years into the Avantasia experiment, Mr. Sammet has kept the Good Ship Lollipomp sailing the high cheese with consistent quality, and A Paranormal Evening continues the adventure. Someday this thing is gonna sink harder than a titanium anvil, but today is not that day. Feel confident booking your trip, but maybe diet for a few weeks before boarding. This is truly an all-you-can-eat situation and that speedo can only take so much before critical failure.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 274 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: avantasia.com | facebook.com/avantasia
Releases Worldwide: October 21st, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. I especially appreciate the “Welcome to the freakshow” callback to Edguy’s mighty “Mysteria” track.
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