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A pretty normal album by the Sammet society - 58%

GlobalMetalBlog, January 24th, 2023

As Avantasia reformed and morphed into a more regular melodic hard rock kinda deal after those two first phenomenal power metal albums, "The Metal Opera" ('01) and "The Metal Opera Part II" ('02), my interest gradually dwindled. And this is coming from a man who takes his stadium rock drop-dead seriously. Sure, Avantasia has put out solid albums with some heavyweight bangers on 'em since then, but said bangers are fewer and farther between. 2019's "Moonglow" was a nicely done album, but with no downright surprises and quite a bit of pulpy material. And its follow-up continues down the same route.

Mostly written during COVID, "A Paranormal Evening with the Moonflower Society" does come off a bit as though a certain portion of vocalist and all-round Avantasia mastermind Tobias Sammet's resources went elsewhere during the writing process. And it's apparent from opener "Welcome to the Shadows". Its semi-eerie, almost Burtonesque verse with its over-the-top theatrical, halfway-spoken vocals, bordering on downright silly, suddenly shifts into a huge, bombastic chorus with all the wonderful, melodic majesty that Sammet has almost made his trademark. While this is the one tune that's gonna be stuck in your head after the first coupla spins, the contrast here is simply too stark.

As always, Sammet amasses prominent guest singers. Lead single "The Wicked Rule the Night" features a bitchin' vocal performance from Ralf Scheepers, overlooked vocalist of overlooked German heavy metal band Primal Fear. While this is definitely the most metal track on the album, its verse figure kinda reminding me of even more overlooked German heavy metal band Iron Savior, the chorus is a pretty standard, pure minor key thing. It's catchy, but not very interesting for that or any other reason.

Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen is featured on two tracks. "Misplaced Among the Angels" is one of those slow, highly emotional songs of which every Avantasia album's gotta have at least one or two for some reason. Sammet's blowtorch vocals are as powerful as ever, and they complement Jansen's velvety, but powerful operatic soprano perfectly. But the song doesn't stick. And neither does "Kill the Pain Away", although the chorus is up to standard. This could have been on any Avantasia album since 2008. And sure, we all love our AC/DC, but with all the creative forces involved here, I'm simply expecting more – perhaps too much.

The better stuff comes past the middle. While "Paper Plane" is pure, shameless pop, it's definitely one of the album's biggest earworms. And it warms this Danish heart to hear my countryman Ronnie Atkins, Denmark's finest heavy metal vocalist, defying his stage 4 lung cancer and still sounding strong. Another old acquaintance, Mr. Big singer Eric Martin, joins on uptempo-shuffler "Rhyme and Reason", whose mid-chorus modulation kicks things into a welcome higher gear outta nowhere. And I'm glad to announce that Bob Catley from Magnum graces the best song this time around, semi-title track "The Moonflower Society", with his stalwart ceremonious tone, complementing an insistingly energetic workout-tempo tune that's both magically enticing, catchy, memorable, and hard-hitting. That is fucking how you do it.

On the complete opposite end, though, "Scars" featuring Geoff Tate (ex-Queensrÿche) is downright forgettable and uninspired, and it ends flatly and anticlimactically. As does 10-minute album closer "Arabesque", which seems to have been conceived as a descendant of Rainbow classic "Stargazer", but doesn't have any memorable hook apart from its lead theme (which is TOTALLY in one of those Arabesque tonal keys, OMG!!), and tries to prog a little, but ends up plodding as much as progging.

All in all, this leaves us in just around the same position as with the latest Behemoth long-player. "... Moonflower Society" is professionally constructed by every trick of the trade, and those who simply can't get enough of the band will dig it. But apart from the positive standouts, it's in no way very new or very interesting altogether. You'd prefer it ahead of most other music in the world, but not necessarily ahead of any of Avantasia's other albums. – Especially not those two first ones.


(Originally posted at https://www.globalmetalblog.com/l/avantasia-a-paranormal-evening-with-the-moonflower-society)