Just so you feel appropriately thankful, Steel Druhm survived storm, surf and medieval living conditions to bring you this damn review. With that out of the way, there’s a new Edguy album out, its called Age of the Joker. Now, I like old Edguy quite a lot. They had a really classic Euro-power metal sound and some serious songwriting chops. As they went along however, they went from their original power template into more of a hard rock/arena rock style and with an increasing sense of tongue-in-cheek silliness that I didn’t care for (Rocket Ride is a mighty lame album with a few good songs mixed in). Of course, main-man Tobias Sammet is also the mastermind behind the Avantasia albums and I’m a fanboy, especially of 2010’s The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon releases. The man can sing and the man can write, there’s no denying it. Therefore it’s quite a letdown to hear how mellow, safe and uneventful a lot of Age of the Joker is. Sure, there are the usual big Edguy anthems here and there, but by and large, this is a pretty tepid, pedestrian release by a band capable of much much more. Way closer to pompous cock rock than classy Euro-power, it goes down a road I’m not that into but it still has its moments of charm and fun.
Lengthy opener “Robin Hood” is a study in why the current Edguy is a mixed bag. At times classic mid-paced power metal, it features cringe-worthy lyrics and a glib sense of humor that doesn’t necessarily help the music. It also has its great moments like the memorable, anthemic chorus and the segment around the half way point that sounds like something off the almighty Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. With all that in one single-serving song, its tough to know what to make of it. After that its a pretty diverse selection of moods and styles, some work, some don’t. The tracks with a more classic Edguy sound like “Nobody’s Hero” and “Breathe” are good, entertaining songs with big, hooky choruses. Others that deviate in interesting ways like the album standout “Rock of Cashel” (very cool Irish jig music interspersed) are a lot of fun. Semi-power ballad “Fire at the Downline” is also interesting and sounds like classic Krokus, yes, Krokus! However, the honky tonk/country western tinged “Pandora’s Box” takes awhile to get itself going and the cheeseball 80’s MTV rock of “Two Out of Seven” (think “99 Luft Ballons”) isn’t too good (and is marred by out of place profanity). On top of that, there are TOO many power ballads (“Behind The Gates to Midnight World”, “Every Night Without You” “Fire on the Downline”) which drags the energy quotient way down. For all its accessibility, its a much less interesting and far less rocking affair than 2008’s Tinnitus Sanctus.
Nothing is wrong with Sammet’s voice. He sounds solid as always and carries the songs and shines during his big theatrical choruses. He’s the lifeblood of Edguy and he performs well vocally. It’s his songwriting muscle that seems partially deflated this time around. There are a few solid Edguy numbers for sure but more than half of the material here feels like stuff left over from the Avantasia project or previous Edguy albums. Songs like “Behind The Gates” and “Two Out of Seven” are good enough for B-side releases but not for a the big show. The musicianship is tight as always, the guitar riffs and solos have their moments but the guitar sound is too often muted, relegated to the background and dominated by the keyboards and vocals. Many of the songs lack any real heft or punch because of that.
While I don’t really like the silly, cock rocking direction Edguy continue to move in, Age of the Joker does grow on you if you give it time. It isn’t very heavy or aggressive and it doesn’t come anywhere near the level of classics like Hellfire Club (or even Tinnitus Sanctus for that matter) but you can do far worse in the power metal world. Tobias is a unique personality and does what he wants, I’m not going to fault him for that. However, I won’t be listening to this album much either. So, when does the next Avantasia album come out?