Age of the Joker

01. Robin Hood
02. Nobody’s Hero
03. Rock of Cashel
04. Pandora’s Box
05. Breathe
06. Two Out Of Seven
07. Faces in the Darkness
08. The Arcane Guild
09. Fire on the Downline
10. Behind the Gates to Midnight World
11. Every Night Without You

[Nuclear Blast]

It’s been three years since Edguy‘s last studio release, Tinnitus Sanctus, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been lazing around. Singer/Songwriter/All around ladies’ man Tobias Sammet has been busy releasing two albums under his Avantasia moniker, and taking part in several world tours.

If you’ve paid attention to Edguy’s career, you know they started out releasing album after album of splendid and genre-defining power metal goodness but underwent a huge aural spin with the release of 2004’s Hellfire Club. This release saw them incorporating a more hard rock style into their music, grittier vocals, and less double bass, but still keeping their tongue-in-cheek lyrical direction. This trend would continue with 2006’s Rocket Ride and 2008’s Tinnitus Sanctus, adding in the styles of blues, country and other oddities to their sound.

With these three releases an obvious split was also created within the fan base; those who supported the ever-changing sound of the band, and those who felt like Tobias Sammet was “selling out” for a radio friendly sound. Whether or not that’s true, this reviewer cannot say. I can, however, say that with Age of the Joker, Edguy are continuing the trend of evolving their sound, all the while maintaining that edge and humor that has always drawn me, and countless others, to them.

The first thing you’ll notice about this record is just how well everything is put together. Whether it’s the usual power metal stylings of songs like “Robin Hood” and “The Arcane Guild” or the more hard rock sound of “Nobody’s Hero” and “Rock of Cashel” (the latter of which will surely become a favorite of every Edguy fan), everything just seems to work together in a very coherent manner, something that I can’t really say about the last few Edguy releases.

As I said before, this album continues in the vein of the previous albums, and there’s quite a bit of experimentation on this disc. The most striking of which is the hard edged country sound of “Pandora’s Box”. The song starts out quite softly, with a very country-esque riff, and some crooning vocals from Sammet, then the song explodes in the chorus with Sammet’s melodious vocals and catchy lyrics being put on full display. The biggest surprise of this song takes place during the middle, when it breaks down to a very raw and humorous acoustic section. This song might be a bit jarring for the more heavy-minded of you, but once it clicks with you, it’ll take some time to get it out of your head.

The biggest drawback for this album is, ironically, the songs that follow the usual Power Metal format. Songs like “Breathe”, and “The Arcane Guild” are both nice examples of the genre, but “Two out of Seven” and “Fire on the Downline” are just cheesy and downright boring. Often times they sound like throw away tracks from the last couple Avantasia albums, and the only saving grace for them are the sort of humorous lyrics, like at the end of “Two out of Seven”. The closer to the album, “Every Night Without You”, is no better, it just sounds like a generic ballad that could be found on any hard rock, or power metal, album if you changed Tobias Sammet with “Generic Vocalist X”.

Another problem I had with this album was the production. The last three Edguy and Avantasia albums have all been produced by Sascha Paeth, a very good producer in his own right, but since they haven’t used anyone else for so long they seem to have fallen into a creative rut when it comes to production. This album, and the last two or three Avantasia albums each have the same sort of tone and progression. And, while I love all of those albums, I can’t help but hope they go in a new direction with the next few albums. It would be a shame if the only part of Edguy that does not progress is their production.

As far as Edguy releases go, and power metal in general, Age of the Joker is really quite good. It’s fun, lively and the band’s willingness to experiment, and stray from genre clichés really puts it far and ahead of any power metal release this year. There are some obvious duds on this record, but overall the album is splendid, and has several hooks and choruses that will be playing in your head for days, despite some boring production and lackluster tracks.

Edguy – Age of the Joker gets…

4 / 5

– EC


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