Age of the Joker
Bewareth, the metal jokers have returned, and it’s better than 2 out of 7
Edguy has been a talking point around the metal water coolers of late; their change of direction from ‘Rocket Ride’ onwards has almost split the fans right down the middle. Vocalist and chief song-writer Tobias Sammet’s other band Avantasia has also not escaped the direction change, starting with ‘The Scarecrow’ and moving on from there. While ‘Rocket Ride’ was a great album, the follow-up ‘Tinnitus Sanctus’ was not as good, but still boasted some kick ass tracks. Now the German jokesters have returned with yet another interesting album as only Edguy know how to make. Enter ‘Age of the Joker’.
Before reviewing this disc, I spent quite some time listening to it over and over, as my initial first few spins didn’t leave me overly happy. The last time I took this much time spinning a disc before reviewing it was back with Sonata Arctica’s ‘Unia’ and we all know how different that CD was from the band’s norm. ‘Age of the Joker’ does take some time to get used to and to get into as well, as one of the first things I realised from the constant spinning, is that the album isn’t very heavy at all, and I’d go as far as saying that it could be the most un-heavy Edguy album to date. Sure there are great guitar riffs and solos throughout, but with almost every track on a mid-paced level, the music Tobias and co. have come up with here does not have the epic styling’s and hard-edged, deep penetrating riffs that we are used to from Edguy.
Due to the album not being as heavy as previous releases, it is a slight disappointment when listening to the album and you really want the tracks to fully take off but sadly it doesn’t and that can become quite frustrating for both me and the Edguy fans. You really wanna like it, love it almost, but the lack of heaviness seems to refrain you from truly enjoying it to the level you wanted. The heaviest, or better yet, the riffiest track on ‘Age of the Joker’ would be the impressive “Nobody’s Hero”, which contains the typical Edguy style and quick riffs that we’ve come to expect from this band over the years. An emotional, catchy and melodic chorus really picks this track up, but it’s still overall not as heavy as to what’s come before it previously on past albums.
Nevertheless, ‘Age of the Joker’ boasts more quirky, yet interesting and entertaining tracks that Tobias has been writing from ‘Rocket Ride’ onwards, and I guess this style they have undertaken will stay for at least another album. One of the better quirkier and humorous tracks (in vein of previous humorous tracks like “Lavatory Love Machine” and “Trinidad”) is the excellent “Two out of Seven”. Smothered in layered keyboards, the track is quite melodic; almost a throwback to 80’s melodic rock in fact, but it’s the catchiness of the song that really grabs you. All the while, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll find Tobias’ typical low-brow humour, that makes you chuckle right at the end just before it begins to fade out.
Another interesting track, which also happens to be one of the best, is “Pandora’s Box”. Sound-wise, the track is quite different to anything Edguy has created before as it contains a southern dirty rock styled riff throughout the song. Both catchy and extravagant, the big melodic choir sung chorus is the first of the two key elements to this song being so good. The second key element – the sensational dirty southern rock guitar solo in the middle that I personally can’t get enough of. Two other songs on the album stand out as killer tracks (or close enough to), and they would be the powerful “Faces in the Darkness”, a sort of semi-ballad that contains pulsating and memorable low end guitar riffs and wonderful melodic vocals from Tobias; and also the keyboard-laden 80’s hard rock reminiscent “Fire on the Downline”, which has one of the best and catchiest chorus’ on the entire disc. Although not really one of the best songs on the CD, “Robin Hood”, is a decent song, but I feel that it drags on just that little bit too much and it basically comes down to you either like it or don’t.
In the end ‘Age of the Joker’ is a good to pretty good album, that is quite diverse, definitely catchy and overwhelmingly creative; that unfortunately does not leave you entirely satisfied. I personally feel that the previous album ‘Tinnitus Sanctus’ has heavier and more memorable tracks than ‘Age of the Joker’ does. One thing that can bring the quality of this disc up a notch or two is if you are to get the special edition version, which contains a second disc that has six tracks including a shortened single version of “Robin Hood”, plus two very good non-album tracks and a cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize”. The album, I feel, is still worthy of a purchase for Edguy fans, who will enjoy it no doubt, but like me will leave you feeling a little empty; like they could have lifted the intensity slightly higher. Let’s hope that on the next Edguy release, Tobias and the crew can re-focus and deliver something with a bit more consistency and something with much more grunt as well.
(Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment)