Released: 2011, Nuclear Blast
Edguy certainly seems to inspire debate in the Metal community. In a mere 15 years they have become one of the most prolific, best-selling Metal bands of all time. AGE OF THE JOKER is the bands 9th studio album and 18th release overall but to me it only seems like yesterday I bought KINGDOM OF MADNESS, my first introduction to the band. The prolific nature of the band is not the source of debate however. It seems the band followers have divided into two camps. Predictably, the battle lines are drawn into ‘Old Edguy’ and ‘New Edguy’. Yes, the band changed. After 10 years and the first six Power Metal style albums, the band shifted gears and they presented a more free-wheelin’, fun-lovin’, classic Hard Rock/Heavy Metal sound injected with liberal does of humour for the last few albums.
While I fully understand the debate (old vs. new) I’ve enjoyed everything the band has done. I sort of see them positioning themselves as the new Scorpions, sometimes heavy, sometimes fun, sometimes dumb, but always good music at the core. AGE OF THE JOKER walks that fine line of trying to please both camps I personally feel they have succeeded.
It’s an odd album in terms of pacing and sequence. The first single is an 8 minute, semi-joke song about Robin Hood! I mean, really, who release an 8 minute long joke song, loaded with Hammond organ, a spoken word middle bit, and sound-effects as the first single? Edguy does because it’s unexpected perhaps, but mostly because at this point in their career, they can. As an ‘album’ it lacks cohesion but as a collection of songs, it’s really, really good. You have the epic song, ‘Behind The Gates To Midnight World’ which could have easily fit on an Avantasia album, you have ‘The Arcane Guild’ one of the faster, heavier songs the band has done, you get the quirky cut ‘’Two Out Of Seven’ with it’s odd lyrics and pop sensibilities…this whole album is all over the map. AGE OF THE JOKER finishes with a ballad par excellence, ‘Every Night Without You’ with gentle acoustic guitar, a stirring chorus and a vibe that could match wits with any 80’s power ballad. I think I heard this song on a Heart album in the 80’s…it’s super fine!
I can’t fault the band, AGE OF THE JOKER is world class in all aspects; production, writing, performance and beyond. All the elements you expect/desire in an Edguy album are there, punchy drums, chewy riffs, soaring vocals, odd humour, a bit of speed here, a bit of power there, and then BANG!...a huge catchy, sing-along chorus with gang vocals. I love the opening riff/keyboard line of ‘Breathe’, I love the tempo changes of ‘Fire On The Downline’, and is that a bluesy, southern rock, geetar-twang sound I hear on ‘Pandora’s Box’? Hell, Sammet’s little vocalizations and the harmonica thang would make Stephen Tyler proud but it’s gonna piss off the ‘Metal’ legions.
So yeah…the True Metal Warrior in me is telling me that this album ain’t what it should be but the open-minded, hard rockin’, music fan in me says this is the best album since HELLFIRE CLUB. AGE OF THE JOKER will continue to divide the two camps. As Manowar said, “The battle is raging, choose your side”.