Edguy and I have an abusive relationship. I loved their early stuff so much that I allowed myself to be taken advantage of and settled for subpar albums like Rocket Ride, though it made me feel dirty and shameful. Making it all the worse, at times it seems Edguy deliberately sets out to troll their fanbase, offering equal doses of quality power metal infused with hard rock alongside mega-cheesy, sleazy cock rock that would make Larry Flynt blush. Age of the Joker certainly did plenty of that; tantalizing with glimpses of greatness while delivering tongue-in-cheek-juvenile shtick masquerading as power metal. When I saw the title to this new platter and that completely asinine cover, I expected it to play like the goddamn troll national anthem. But a funny thing happened on the way to the troll forum. They delivered a consistently rocking album featuring their most successful fusion of power metal and hard rock to date, and all with minimal troll droppings. Go figure, huh?
Opener “Sabre and Torch” harkens back to their Hellfire Club days with the same punchy urgency as classics like “Mysteria.” Aggressive riffing teams with Tobias Sammet’s increasingly shrill siren wails and come chorus time they serve up a big Edguy-esque anthem with plenty of whoa-oh-ohhs for good measure. While I expected utter stupidity on the title track, it’s actually annoyingly addicting with a hooky chorus, fun riffing and spacy keys. Even Sammet’s attempts to undermine it on the back-end with vocals that sound like a blue haired matron having a panic attack in the local hair salon don’t spoil the fun.
Equally surprising is how much I don’t hate “Love Tyger,” though I clearly expected to. Though it’s a return to their loathsome cock rock fascination, it’s a fun, dumb song with a winning attitude and smart chorus and I hatefully like it. Other good moments come with the aggressiveness of “The Realms of Baba Yaga” and the fiery “Shadow Eaters,” both feeling like older Edguy mixed with mere hints of their current hard rock obsession. “The Eternal Wayfarer” is a return to the big, bombastic epics of their youth, with a heavy dose of the dramatic and enough pomp to sink a clam boat. It’s a very good tune and makes me wish they did more of these instead of saving them all for Avantasia.
Even some of the songs I expected to despise ended up being enjoyable, like the tragically titled “Do Me Like a Caveman.” Despite the teen weenie name, the song goes for a dark goth style like Lacrimas Profundere and features zippy guitars with a simple keyboard line and a rare restrained performance by Sammet. Likewise, the sap-tastic power ballad “Alone in Myself” is pretty respectable as overblown power-ballads go. The limited edition features two additional ballads: the hysterical ode to Steve Harris that is “England” and “Aychim in Hysteria” which is a straight-up ripoff/homage of Def Leppard‘s Hysteria sound, but nicely done.
Are there serious missteps here? If you consider a cover of Falco‘s “Rock Me Amadeus” a misstep (and you should), then yes, and putting it in the meat of the album was clearly the troll they couldn’t live without. Add in truly braindead lyrics on some songs and the pattern of defying you to like them continues unabated. The trick is to completely ignore the lyrics because they’re as dumb as a special needs pet rock.
Sammet does a good job here, though his upper register continues to fray and sound forced as time goes on and he’s clearly paying for its overuse live. His keyboards are smart and fairly restrained, adding character on songs like the title track. The guitar-work by Jens Ludwig and Dirk Sauer is way more aggressive than on Age of the Joker and the overall energy is much higher. Space Police is also far more consistent in terms of song writing and overall quality.
I expected to hate this thing and bash it into the dirt, but I find myself liking it more with every spin and I hate Edguy for that. If you liked their Hellfire Club period or enjoy rowdy power metal, this will rock your socks. Will the abuse never end?