Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia releases their 8th album ‘Moonglow’ and it is possibly the best yet. It follows 2016’s ‘Ghostlights’ and could easily be part 2 of the same album. It again features a list of familiar rock names adding their vocals to the mix – faces old and new joining the rock opera party.

Written over a two year period following the end of the last tour, the album is a concept piece of interlinked songs telling stories of misfits in the world trying to find a home.

‘Ghost in the Moon’ opens with piano and builds to an epic ten-minute song with ups and downs in tempo and style. It is a perfect start and sets the scene well. ‘Book of Shadows’ is a heavier, faster song with snappy guitar and a real metal feel to it. Vocal duties are shared between Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Mille Petrozza (Kreator) and Jorn Lande. Some menacing vocals steal the piece. Title track ‘Moonglow’ is much more subtle, featuring the sublime vocals of Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night). She is strong and captivating on this, what will be the second single released from the album.

The stand-out track on the album is the 11 minute epic ‘The Raven Child’. It starts gently, with soft vocals from Lande and Kursch harmonising beautifully. It then turns, as you would expect, with driving guitar riffs, before mellowing again. The two voices work fantastically well together, complementing each other superbly. There is also some amazing guitar work – axeman Oliver Hartmann really nails it here. And Michael Rodenberg’s orchestration is truly epic, with tempo and style changes melding seamlessly.

Atkins again features, this time on his own, on the guitar driven track ‘Starlight’. It lives up to it’s name – showing the range of his voice in great light indeed. The next two tracks feature the amazing vocals of Geoff Tate (Queensryche). ‘Invincible’ could almost be ‘Silent Lucidity’ part 2, as it is similar in style and Tate was the obvious choice for this song. The vocals definitely, as the song lyrics say, “carry you away”.  ‘Alchemy’ follows, with the opening bars painting the scene from the start. Then the guitars kick in! Tate’s voice is in rockier mode now, but still a perfect fit as always – soaring vocals with soaring guitars and keyboards blending well.

‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ again features Tate, now alongside Lande, Atkins, Bob Catley (Magnum) and Eric Martin (Mr Big). It’s a great song to play “guess the voice” on, and I’m sure would be a live spectacular. Another high speed driving track featuring some fantastic drum work from Felix Bohnke.     ‘Lavender’ features Catley on his own – and his vocals fit superbly again. The song has a definite Magnum feel to it, making him the obvious choice for Sammet. ‘Requiem for a Dream’ starts almost hymn-like before slipping in to a fast guitar whirlwind. Helloween’s Michael Kiske’s vocals again sit perfectly, as if the song had been written especially. Some funky bass-lines get a nice spotlight too.

The last track is what may seem a strange choice. But wait – it is done very well! A cover of the Michael Sembello track ‘Maniac’ from the film “Flashdance” is given the Sammet treatment with vocals provided by Martin. Again he sounds superb, and blends well with the band’s sound.

If Sammet was a chef he would surely have four Michelin stars. He is a master at putting ingredients together in a perfect recipe to produce a veritable feast of delights. Which is exactly what this album is – superbly well-crafted with inspired matches of singers to songs.

The album is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. The live tour kicks off at the end of March, and visits London’s Kentish Town Forum for its only UK date on the 16th April.