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A welcome case of earache - 85%

DarthVenom, November 29th, 2008

First impressions can mean a lot. For instance, I took one look at the bleeding-eared Jesus on the cover and thought, “That’s it, Sammet’s ego has finally gone nuclear”. But having been an Edguy fan for a longer time than not since I’ve been into metal, this album lived up to my expectations and perhaps a little more.

While I somewhat panned Sammet’s singing on The Scarecrow for not being quite as adventurous as that album’s numerous guest vocalists and for occasional misplaced dynamics, he more than holds his own here – Tinnitus Sanctus might be the album defining his career as a vocalist to this point. Taking a cue from acquaintance Roy Khan, Tobias takes the lyrics, then twists and bends them in numerous influxes that display steady growth as a vocalist – there are times when he matches Dickinson’s infamous snarl. Commendable performance.

The other band members put on a less-remarkable job, content with hovering around the level of “solid”. They’re pleasant to listen to as a unit. The melodious, energetic solos are enjoyable – not something that will stick in your head for hours after ejecting the disc, but once again, solid. The rhythm section remains undeterred by the record’s boisterous frontal members, instead preferring to provide a grounding point that keeps the whole experience tethered and focused.

The album flows solidly from front to back, but each and every song works in its own way as well. Long-time fans of the band will know what to expect on a base level: you’ve got the stomping, blazing riffs courtesy of Ludwig and Sauer, paving the path for Sammet’s exceptional, attitude-filled singing and your love-them-or-hate-them multitracked choruses. If you liked Paeth’s production job on The Scarecrow (I did), you’ll be pleased to know Tinnitus Sanctus retains much of that album’s balanced dynamic and organic feel.

The Pride Of Creation, as of now my favourite from the album, shows these classic Edguy elements put to work in a way where the synthesis of their sound’s elements all just comes together and clicks. I cherish those moments in a band’s catalogue, in this band’s case their Theater Of Salvations and their Piper Never Dies and such – and now this hyper-catchy, pounding and somewhat varied tongue-in-cheek religious critique. Guaranteed that if you’re a fan of positive bombast in your music, this number will get you moving.

The album has many standout moments: the memorable stomp of Ministry Of Saints, the whole of the adventurous and forward-thrusting Speedhoven reminding somewhat of older track Judas At The Opera, the odd quasi-chanted chorus of Dragonfly – but this is a record that seems determined to entertain you by going at its own thing, and doing it well. Sure, it’s not that technical, and it doesn’t push many boundaries. But damn if it isn’t one of the most –fun- albums I’ve been introduced to this month, and given the choice between mindless technicality and a tried-and-true method with heart and soul, I’ll take the latter most days.

Aren’t You A Little Pervert Too?! Deserves special mention as perhaps the band’s most unique humour-based song. While Edguy is running on a track record of one of these joke songs nearly once per album, this is the first one to simultaneously display a legitimate if silly message, while not even being comparable to the rest of the album musically. Exactly what do you do with a two-minute song about how many ways there are to get your rocks off, with equally-silly country overtones? With a grain of salt, that’s what. Musically there's not a whole lot going on, but the lyrics had me rolling, for what it's worth. Interesting idea, though.

Now, this album isn’t power metal, excerpt for perhaps The Pride Of Creation. For purposes other than explicit categorization, I find it sometimes detrimental to paint bands in such broad genre strokes – just imagine how brilliant, experimental albums like Virgin Steele’s Visions Of Eden or Sigh’s Imaginary Sonicscape could have seemed disappointing if one were to view them through the strict, respective genre-toned glasses that lead some listeners to dismiss something because they had different expectations for an album on a fundamental level. I don’t wish to compare this more straightforward effort to those albums – but it just goes to show that while subgenre labeling is extremely useful for recommendations of similar bands and other things, I prefer to cast aside all labels when I spin a CD and see what I make of the music and nothing else.

No, this can most easily be described as forward-driving hard rock with a shot of that distinctive Edguy bombast. Many had their doubts as to this band’s future after the silly aesthetic of the occasionally stagnant Rocket Ride, and after Avantasia’s more radio-friendly approach with portions of The Scarecrow. I remain a fan of the latter and a curious observer of the former (If nothing else, Rocket Ride was a thoroughly catchy endeavor and still had that genuine energy of a band enjoying themselves). But Tinnitus Sanctus shows the band still thrusting forward with the spark still burning, this time in a way far more confident than Rocket Ride ever was. There are moments, as with any post-Hellfire Club Sammet project, that I’m sure will turn off some strict metalheads – 929 could very well pass for a Bon Jovi song with its simple but driving structure and pleasing, anthemic chorus. But songs like that are unpretentious and straightforward enough for me to enjoy them for what they are.

Lyrically speaking, this album knows its aims and hammers them in effectively – sex, relationships and religion. I do think Dragonfly is the band’s first drug-related number, if my interpretation of those cryptic lyrics serves well. Well, going back to my very first impression – that probably explains what a bloody-eared Jesus is doing on the album cover. Insert snarky emoticon here.

The bonus CD, Live In Los Angeles, is a sure treat for those of you who missed out on the live DVD from the same tour of questionable legality, Live In Beijing. There isn’t too much to say about the bonus disc except for it possessing the same energy and enthusiasm, perhaps more, than Edguy puts forth on their studio efforts. Sammet’s crowd interaction is as entertaining as ever, and of particular note is his introduction of a certain synth-driven crowd favourite as, “Vain! Glory! Countdown!”…if you don’t get it, there’s a Europe song you should probably hear. Well, at least I thought it was funny.

In total: Edguy fans should not be disappointed. This is, all in all, an album that strives for honest fun above all else, and it gave me just that. Highly recommended; eighty-five percent edges into an A-rank.

One last note – I like how TS’s booklet follows an identical layout to that of The Scarecrow, as far as lyrics, band pics, etc. are concerned. It’s not a huge thing, but it puts yet another line of continuity between the two projects.