Age of the Joker
Nuclear Blast Records
Power Metal/Hard Rock
With the recent spate of weak releases under Tobias Sammet, including 2008′s Tinnitus Sanctus and the recent Avantasia double album – The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon, each album marking his move towards AOR and mainstream hard rock, expectations were pretty low for their recent release, Age of the Joker, even though Edguy has always remained one of my favourite power metal bands, being one of the first bands that I listen to in my foray into metal proper. Despite so, the band has not given up their reputation as one of the most fun-loving bands, with this album seeing them simply taking the jester as their mascot, placed proudly smack in the middle of the album artwork.
While Age of the Joker is no return to their original Helloween-inspired power metal form, it is certainly an improvement from their previous album, Tinnitus Sanctus, and the music sounds more in the veins of 2006′s Rocket Ride (say what you want, but this has managed to make it as one of my favourite Edguy albums), with more progressive elements included. Opening track Robin Hood is a perfect example of the style that will be on the rest of the album, and reminds listeners of what could have come from the Rocket Ride album, a sleek heavy metal/hard rock fusion, melodic and catchy at the same time. But the progressive elements really come in during the later tracks where influences ranging from folk to blues are spotted. For example, songs like Nobody’s Hero incorporate some thrashy riffs, Rock of Cashel includes some folk metal moments that would sound fit on an Eluveitie album and Pandora’s Box makes it sound like a modern/power metal take on blues music, with the usage of the dobro. Of course, there are also the usual heavy and faster numbers like Breathe and Faces in the Darkness, along with the slower and emotional ballads like Every Night Without You that the band are known for.
One thing that is immediately obvious is that Tobias Sammet no longer pushes his vocal range as often as he does like on albums such as Hellfire Club, but his raspy vocal styles are still instantly recognisable. The usage of backup vocalists to harmonise Tobias’ lead vocals help to make a fuller experience as well. Also, the keyboards Sascha Paeth seems to play a big role throughout the album, with many tracks being shrouded by the ambient/atmosphere provided by the keyboards. There are even moments which are heavily keyboard-driven like on The Arcane Guild, yet managing to not sound overly cheesy. The trademark guitar solos of Jens Ludwig remain as usual, between melodic and emotional ones and those that display finger acrobatics, while rhythm guitarist Dirk provides the background for his performance. Usage of such instruments as the hammond organ also keep things interesting.
Of course, the tongue-in-cheek moments are still present, and one just has to watch the music video of Robin Hood to ascertain this. Furthermore, songs like Two out of Seven incorporate lyrics like “What the fuck | Suck my cock”, reminding the Edguy fan that this is still Edguy, with their dirty mind and funny lyrics, though admittedly, the sudden inclusion of that line definitely spoiled the moment a little.
Age of the Joker, if compared against the works that Edguy has presented throughout the 90s and early 00s, would certainly be considered a weak effort. However, looking at the direction that Tobias has been heading with recent releases of his bands and projects, Age of the Joker definitely stands as a good album on its own, and is recommended for people looking for a good record to sing along to, but not for the fan looking for an Edguy returning to 90s form.