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Bewareth! It’s better than 2 out of 7 - 70%

TrooperOfSteel, September 6th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2011, 2CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, Embossed Sleeve)

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.

Originally written for (10/02/2012)

Age of the bad jokes - 36%

kluseba, September 7th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2011, 2CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, Embossed Sleeve)

A couple of years ago I wrote a quite emotional negative review of Edguy’s “Age Of The Joker” but I decided to let the album grow on me and give it a second chance. More than three years after its initial release, I must sadly admit that this is still the band’s weakest release in my opinion. Workaholic Tobias Sammet had put all its creative input into the Avantasia project and at that point Edguy was only a collecting tank for immature ideas that weren’t good enough to find a righteous place on an Avantasia record.

Most of the album doesn’t have anything to do with the band’s energizing power metal roots. That alone wouldn’t be much of a problem if the band headed for a new brave direction or performed at least some creative rock music but that’s not the case either. First off, we get overlong old-fashioned hard rock tracks that seem to be a mixture of faceless Avantasia leftover material and half-hearted worship of Tobias Sammet’s favourite bands like Deep Purple. The worst example is the plodding and unspectacular opener “Robin Hood” with its laughable organ sounds that is no comparison to previous majestic rock opera openers like “Sacrifice” or heavier introductions like “Mysteria”. The album’s so-called epic “Behind The Gates To Midnight World” suffers from the same problem. This song would have been a rather decent track with a running time of five minutes but almost nine minutes are way too much. This unbearable piece of boredom goes straight to nowhere.

The second kind of tracks we get on here are silly and overtly commercial drinking anthems like “Two Out Of Seven” with adolescent lyrics like “what the fuck, suck my cock” and extremely childish keyboard melodies that could also come from Marky Mark. “Breathe” sounds just as ridiculous even though the lyrics are slightly better. Edguy had a couple of humorous and still intelligent tracks on each album in the past but the intellectual level has consecutively been lowered since then. “Age Of The Joker” has reached the absolute nadir. Listening to the abominable “Two Out Of Seven” almost makes me feel ashamed to be a fan of the band.

Only two songs on here are at least good and would have been much better if they weren’t so artificially stretched to lengths above six minutes. These songs really prove that Tobias Sammet’s song writing qualities had decreased at that time and that he should have given more creative space to his band mates. “Rock Of Cashel” has a longing atmosphere in the verses, a joyful and catchy chorus and includes beautiful folk melodies in the middle part. “Pandora’s Box” sounds like a country rock version of “The Piper Never Dies” with a kitschy but somewhat majestic chorus borrowed from a recent Avantasia track. The sad truth is that even the best songs on here would have been filler material on records like “Hellfire Club”.

While the limited edition includes a few good tracks that should have made it on the regular album, this remains by far Edguy’s weakest release in my opinion. I can definitely not recommend this record. I only bought it because I own all Edguy records and have been a long-time fan. When I first listened to this record three years ago, I was simply disappointed and a little bit angry. Now, I happen to find this album extremely boring and embarrassing which is probably even worse. No, this release didn’t grow on me, I even dislike it more now than before and it had taken quite some dust on its shelf before I decided to grab and give it a few spins again. I’m sure it will accumulate loads of dust again over the next years.

Makes me want to punch a clown. - 35%

hells_unicorn, November 11th, 2011

The Kubler-Ross concept of the 5 stages of grief has broader applications than simply coping with death, and I don't mean to make light of the subject by saying so, at least not any more than the average sardonic metal head. But often outside of the original area that this concept was developed for, skipping steps is a bit more common, and my coming to terms with the death of one of my formerly favorite bands in terms of their credentials as a power metal band was a quick run through a couple of the steps. Denial was obviously out the window the minute I first beheld the lionizing of mediocrity that was "The Scarecrow" because it was so blatant that no evasion was possible, but anger was obviously an immediate result.

Since subsequent studio disasters out of both of Tobi's projects, my state of being could be seen as an odd combination of acceptance with a latent sense of bargaining, a sort of false hope that keeps me coming back to his albums hoping for a surprise. But reality has forced me to go the route of purchasing Avantasia and Edguy albums a few months after their release when a cheap used copy can be procured. By this eventuality, my annoyance at Tobi's continual pseudo-comical irreverence for heavy metal is less concentrated due to less money being lost in the process, but my sampling of "The Age Of The Joker" definitely left me with a heavy dose of it.

There's no mystery left to Edguy's music, save perhaps the reason why Tobias continues to keep Avantasia going as it is musically interchangeable with the former. This album goes through the exact same poor man's anthem with heavily cliche hard rock elements that "Angel Of Babylon" and "The Wicked Symphony" did, minus all the guest vocal slots. A faint shadow of the original formula resides buried under the overly exaggerated grit of the vocals and crunch of the guitars, to speak nothing for the annoyingly modern sounding drum production where the cymbals are as raucously loud as the snare, but it does little to sate the hunger for that vintage beauty of the band's pre-2002 majesty. This music is the opposite of majestic, it's awkward when it tries to be serious, and doubly so when it tries to be tongue-in-cheek.

Nevertheless, the real source of repulsion at this album is the fact that the whole band makes an occasional affair of demonstrating that they can still play power metal, but pulls it away like a carrot on a string in order to keep the rabbit running into directionless pop/rock mediocrity. The only song on here that can really be qualified as solid is "The Arcane Guild", which takes some elements of the older guy and manages to punch a decent speeder with a slight 90s Stratovarius edge through a lackluster mixing job with the obligatory Deep Purple organ sound. "Breathe" also takes a handful of mid-tempo nods from the glory days of 90s power metal and splices in some unnecessary quiet sections, but is fairly catchy and tolerable. But for the most part, everything meanders and crosses the borders between modern alternative rock and recent power metal meets AOR debacles. Sometimes it's overlong, sometimes it's a ballad or two, but it's consistently a musical drag.

Maybe I'm just a freak exception to the rule, but insofar as the death of Tobias' little niche in the early power metal revival, I just can't bring myself to deny it or fully accept it, and I keep revisiting the anger stage. But the fact that I can't seem to get it together doesn't mean that you need to spend your precious dough settling for mediocrity with a few cheap laughs. Those seeking good power metal of the brand that Tobi gave up on years back will find a more comfortable home in Symfonia, or just wait for the next Heavenly album. Even if it's as gratuitously off on subject matter as "Carpe Deim" was, musically it will still beat this easily.

The Age is in full stride. - 98%

Empyreal, September 19th, 2011

I have been waiting so long for this; damn Edguy for releasing the info so early and making me wait so long, salivating as I was, for my pre-order. But Age of the Joker is here, and it is an excellent collection of some of the band’s strongest songs yet.

I really think people who think this is noticeably worse than the band’s old stuff are looking at albums like Mandrake and Theater of Salvation with rose-tinted glasses. Yes they were good albums, but what’s the fundamental difference between them and Age of the Joker? From a purely objective standpoint, they all have the same big choruses, variety between fast and midpaced songs (with a few pop songs and humorous ones in the mix every time, even back then) and the same attention to big, grandiose epics. The only real differences are aesthetic ones like Tobias’s gruffer, deeper vocal tones on the new stuff and sometimes more stripped down arrangements. Like the old stuff better if you want, not gonna tell anyone what to enjoy, but for me Age of the Joker is where it’s at in 2011.

This isn’t quite as consistent as Tinnitus Sanctus, but the best songs here are better than the best on Tinnitus, so I do have to come down on the side of this one as the band’s strongest effort yet. This is a colorful album with songs about lots of different things, tied together with an excellent production job, booming performances and Tobias’s mighty, attitude-filled vocal heroics to top it off. Check out epics like “Robin Hood,” the hypnotic, creepy stomp of “Behind the Gates to Midnight World” and Edguy’s best song ever in “Pandora’s Box,” with its huge chorus and off-kilter, seedy Western blues for the rather proggy verses. This is clearly the song Edguy worked the hardest on here, and I love it. Listen to the eerie verses building up to that spine-chilling chorus – “Ride across the OCEEEEAAAAANNNN…” Excellent, emotional crest. If you can listen to this and not be swept up in the passion and singular, strange power of it, you are dead inside.

Or check stylish, attitude-filled snarkers like “Two Out of Seven,” the jovial and sweeping folk-isms of “Rock of Cashel,” “Nobody’s Hero” with its mean, Accept-like riffing and the excellently textured, mature “Breathe,” which is one of their best songs in that old-school power metal style. It’s a deceptively simple song, with colorful, bright melodies that unravel quite a masterful cascade of power and might. It’s a song about the daily grind, having little to no time to take a breath in life’s various tidings of work and business. I can relate to that and I bet we all can, and it’s matched brilliantly by the music, with an anxious, breathless set of vocal lines and fluttering riffing and melodies. This kind of creative matching of lyrics and music is a big reason why I love Age of the Joker. Every song fits incredibly well with its themes and presentation.

And more than that, these songs are unforgettable and instantly memorable. Edguy is an awesome band and this album has every reason why: the off-the-wall humor when you least expect it, Tobias’s huge vocal presence and spotless attention to melodic detail, unique songs that never take the turn you expect, that streetwise, balls-to-the-wall attitude and just straight-up honest music from the a band that can do damn near anything. The sky’s the limits. I will not stop listening to this one any time soon. This is the Age of the Joker, gentlemen, and it is fruitful and glorious.

Originally written for