There was a time once, when Avantasia was magic. I’m not even just talking about the first two Metal Operas; there was a lot of depth and emotion to every bit of Avantasia’s discography right up until a few years ago. Moonglow had its moments - the stellar soar that was The Raven Child - but in hindsight it was a lackluster venture into Tobias Sammet’s mind space. Given the man’s descriptions of A Paranormal Evening with the Moonflower Society before its release there was no reason to believe 2022’s fresh Avantasia album would be any different. And it really wasn’t, that’s about how to summarize it; like Moonglow but less interesting and with more of a mass production feel to it. Sammet has been given total creative control (or so he says himself), and it shows. Gone are the days of guitarist guest spots or someone new and interesting to join in on dual vocals. It’s the same lineup as previous, slightly mixed up. Sure, Floor Jansen (Nightwish) shows up, but her two songs are among the most boring – and obviously includes a shit ballad where Sammet takes lead himself, making a mess of pronouncing “angels”. Oh, and Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear) gets to join in on the fun for four minutes. Though to be fair, The Wicked Rule the Night is one of the better numbers on the album. The rest of the guest vocalists are just the same old, hopping in for a meaningless duet with Sammet.
Musically, it’s also dropped down several pegs from what we know historically Sammet has penned, though much of it rehashes what he’s already written. Simplistic AOR tunes like I Tame the Storm and Kill the Pain Away mingle with the same old Meat Loaf and Magnum worship tunes, and obviously got to toss in a power metal anthem with Michael Kiske (Helloween) in there - but The Inmost Light lacks any power and charisma needed to make it even a decent tune. The opening ten minutes are actually quite captivating; they make you think things are going to take off, though sadly they stagnate toward Kill the Pain Away. In fact, opener Welcome to the Shadows is probably the best track on the album, with some killer atmosphere and invoking a blend between The Mystery of Time (2013) and Sammet’s many Meat Loaf-ian numbers. It picks up for another ten minutes around The Moonflower Society and Rhyme and Reason, the former being Bob Catley (Magnum) goodness and the latter likely Eric Martin’s (Mr. Big) finest Avantasia moment to date. - and an example of few interesting songs on the album, guest vocalist taking the front position and a fine solo tossed in as well.
Between the highlights though you will find meandering rock songs with little personality or charisma – the man seriously dragged Jørn Lande into I Tame the Storm (which is about as a wild and stormy as a light autumn breeze). And don’t get me started on Paper Plane, which has to be the most boring song ever put on an Avantasia album. Obviously things are catchy as you please, Sammet isn’t a bad songwriter after all. But there’s little in ways of depth to any of the stuff on here, Sascha Paeth’s guitars just doing their thing, plodding melodically on. There are some neat melodics and a good solo or two, but nothing really noteworthy. And that in itself is noteworthy. The biggest problem with A Paranormal Evening with the Moonflower Society seems to be Sammet’s total control, however. All the Sammet-isms are turned up to ten, placing himself front and center, in several cases letting the guest stars act like background singers – again, I Tame the Storm is a bigass sinner, the striking viking utterly wasted. This is very likely Avantasia’s – and maybe Sammet’s – weakest album to date. Time will tell if the little quirks will reveal late bloomers or hidden gems with multiple plays; ten minute closer Arabesque really wants to go there. But as it stands, A Paranormal Evening with the Moonflower Society has you nodding off in your recliner before any spooks show up.
Standout tracks: Welcome to the Shadows, The Wicked Rule the Night, The Moonflower Society