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I'm not normally one to make comparisons between Edguy and Helloween normally, mostly because I tend to go against conventional wisdom as a matter of principle, but in this particular case the analogy fits. After having a hand full of brilliant albums, Edguy has given us something sub-par. Only in their particular case, the principle songwriter leaving the band can't be used as an excuse.
There are 2 primary problems with this album that have, for the most part, not been an issue on previously releases. The first is that it has an absolute abysmal production. The guitars have no crunch to them at all, the drums sound flat and small, and the vocal tracks are way too rough. The second problem is that Edguy has pushed their satiricle tendencies way too far and have invited slapstick into their lyrics and sound. Pink Bubbles Go Ape suffered these exact same flaws in Helloween's case, hense the analogy.
One additional problem that is not quite as prevalent is that the ballads are a bit weak. "Forever" has a fairly strong chorus, but unfortunately a lack of development and poor production weaken it a bit. "The Spirit Will Remain" meanders like crazy, and is instantly forgettable. When listening to this album, I always eject it before it gets to the last track.
The rest of the songs on this release fall into 3 categories.
The Standouts: "The Piper Never Dies" is the greatest track on here, combining some rather nice Deep Purple inspired riffs with Tobias' operatic tendencies from the Avantasia albums and previous Edguy projects. It is a rather strange coincidence that Edguy is usually at their best the longer the song is. "We Don't Need a Hero" is fast and furious, and features probably the best solo vocal performance by Tobias. "Down to the Devil" is a nice mid-tempo rocker with another great chorus. "Under the Moon" is a bit similar to the previously mentioned track, but also has some excellent leads in it.
The Mediocre: "King of Fools" is melodic and catchy enough, but way too damn slow and under-developed. "Rise of the Morning Glory" is fast and catchy, but lyrically is a bit goofy and has a rather ridiculous vocal character to it. "Navigator" is another forgettable track with some equally uninspired riffs, I hit the skip button on this one. "Mysteria" would be a decent song if it wasn't for the overly dirty vocals, they are so piercing that it pretty much floods the entire arrangement .
The Ridiculous: "Lucifer in Love" is some odd sounding moans over top of the keyboard intro to "Down to the Devil", this is definately a jump the shark moment for this album, 30 seconds of slapstick with no punchline at all. "Lavatory Love Machine" has some of the goofiest lyrics I've ever heard out of a band. The only way I can make sense of it is by assuming it to be a bad attempt to recreate the satiricle wit of "Rise and Fall" by Helloween.
In conclusion, this is bargain bin material, buy it at $7 or less. Every band falls a bit after peaking, as this band did on Mandrake, but I think this is a little too far to fall for a band as capable as they are. I am optimistic that the next release will be stronger, as was the case with Pink Bubbles Go Ape.