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Falling to rise - 60%

LordAquila, November 8th, 2011

Number two from the guys of Ed and contrary to what that description may imply it’s not a piece of shit. This is their first official release, meaning that they didn’t have to pull all their allowances together again to install microphones in the dumpster where they recorded Savage Poetry. Granted they were nineteen at this point, I will stop the age-related jokes, (Babies) right about now. Kingdom Of Madness is not to be confused with a recent Freedom Call-tune, but does relate to a 1978 Magnum-album of the same name. World champion of wearing pants with silver stars on them, Tobias Sammet outed himself as a Magnum-fan multiple times and not only did Edguy record a cover of their song “The Spirit”, but front man Bob Catley himself has held a guest spot on Avantasia’s last three albums. Still, lazy title, especially since they would record another one called The Savage Poetry. How creative are these guys?

Despite being signed by AFM Records and having a professional budget and guidance, Kingdom Of Madness isn’t that well-produced. The drums are obnoxiously everywhere and the guitar sound doesn’t have the crunch to make the riffs really punch. For a comparison, see the re-recorded version of “Wings Of A Dream” from the Painting On The Wall-single, among others . That’s how you do a good song justice. Overall, the mix is too poor to make the often strong material shimmer, and this feels like a somewhat lost opportunity. Someone in the recording room must have taken the title too seriously and set his elbows on fire during the post-production.

We open with “Paradise”, which is easily the weakest starting shot on any Edguy-record. Some nice acoustics set the mood for what is regretfully an overlong, slow-burning, and particularly unmemorable song. As an avid Edguy fan I can bring the chorus of every opening song to mind in an instant except for this one. I bet you the word “paradise” is in it, though-let me just put on my clever-hat. “Wings Of A Dream” picks up the pace and it’s no wonder they picked this one for a makeover, since the melodies are catchy as an eel soaked in butter and soap isn’t. Alas “Heart Of Twilight” puts on the breaks again, and while it has a better refrain, it’s also a tad too lengthy. An interlude with the menacing moniker “Dark Symphony” is a fun but unnecessary lead-in to the second half of the album.

The next three up-tempo songs “Deadmaker” ,”Angel Rebellion”, and “Steel Church” are fairly in the same range, the latter probably being my favorite on this whole release. It has an exciting chorus that’ll stick with you like dog crap on the soles of your shoes. This would be a nice run of speedy power metal tunes were it not that the sappy “When A Hero Cries” has to break it up. Of all the whininess Tobi has written over his long career, (his later ballads would be a lot better than this though) this is the worst. So it’s stinted and uneven that we reach the final song, the monumental “The Kingdom”, and Edguy’s first attempt at an epic. With its whopping eighteen minutes it is their most voluminous track, and it’s understandable that Tobias has never aimed to outdo it in length.

You see, as epics often go it’s a string of decent and less successful ideas strung together by uniform lyrics. Somewhere in here is a shorter and frankly better song without ponderous instrumental breaks and (unintentionally?) hilarious spoken words (see further). At one point Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl shows up as an inquisitor and does some evil laughing. It’s ludicrous on tape but if you picture the man doing it, (who looks more like the grim reaper than Grave Digger’s keyboardist who is wearing an actual reaper-costume) it’s secretly terrifying. In any case, not a great album closer.

Aside from the production, Tobi’s voice wears the album down. He’s at a stage here where he has no exact idea how to sing, so he just mixes several styles. One moment he’s belting out clean dual harmonies with an overdose of vibrato, and the next he’s shrieking like a stroke victim hooked to a car battery. He’s quite a marvelous vocalist today, but here you sense that he is still searching for that perfect pitch.

Attentive listeners shouldn’t be surprised that the main theme of Kingdom Of Madness is insanity. I’m barking mad myself, so I only got if after I chased the green rhinoceros with the lovely soprano voice out of my living room. On “Wings Of A Dream” and “Heart Of Twilight”, that lunacy leads to death, both songs being told from the perspective of a dying person. “Paradise” and “Deadmaker” introduce characters hell-bent on destruction, while “Angel Rebellion” and “Steel Church” continue the religious themes from “Savage Poetry” without losing the focus on the deteriorated mental health of the narrator. Of course, there’s also room for some witticism like this one from “Wings Of A Dream”: “Sometimes it’s good to be schizophrenic, cause when I’m close to the end I’ve got always a friend.” People stare at you clutching their umbrellas like makeshift weapons when you sing that out loud on the bus, speaking from experience.

In conclusion, Kingdom Of Madness is Edguy’s low point, but not without some merit from several agreeable tracks. The execution is far from ideal and maybe a re-recording for this one is also called for. The building blocks for future glory are here and this is the last “okay” one before things got really amazing with Vain Glory Opera. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Time for everyone’s favorite segment:

Best silly joke: Tobi questioning himself as both relentless inquisitor and evil sorcerer/sorceress in “The Kingdom” is ridiculous. He would later do it right on Avantasia’s “Malleus Maleficarum” with an equal amount of torturous screaming, this time from Ralf Zdiarstek and an unspecified female. Somewhere in his house, beneath all those dressing rooms filled with Lady Gaga-defying wardrobes, there must be a dungeon where witches rattle their chains and bounce their last mortifying wale off the dark stone walls.

Originally written for: www.blackwindmetal.com

A forgotten masterpiece - 91%

kluseba, May 24th, 2011

Edguy had already reached a standout quality at such a low age with their major label debut album which is "Kingdom of Madness" and this brilliant album justifies the band's rise to fame. The songs are surprisingly complex, professional and diversified. The only things that one could criticize on this record are the cover artwork and the very poor sound quality. The rest is a treasure for any fan of European power metal and this rather unknown record should be more famous by now. Even people that usually criticize Edguy for their weird humour and hard rock influenced sounds in the last years might be surprised and convinced by the quality of this band with this record. The band does diversified melodic metal with some surprises and even if they play very joyful tracks, they already establish complex and dark atmospheres and keep the tension and attention high and they still have some of their typical trandmarks in their sound like the unique voice of Tobias Sammet or the melodic anthem choruses minus their later humour.

One strong track follows the other on this record and all are worth to be mentioned. "Paradise" starts with country vibes but turns out to be a great mid tempo banger with a memorable chorus. It's one of the band's best album openers ever. "Wings of a dream" is a little bit faster but has still many breaks and the chorus is once again very epic and catchy with a tolerable tendency towards the cheesy kitsch factor that many European power metal bands incorporate. "Heart of twilight" is a little bit darker and slower and turns out to be a very melodic ballad after a simple and heavy introduction. The guitar work is very good and Sammet varies a lot with his voice as well as the entire band that creates a very harmonic hard rock ballad without the usual stereotypes. "Dark symphony" is a soundtrack interlude that could fit to an epic computer role play game and leads to "Deadmaker" that makes me think of early Stratovarius but the vocals are more diversified and the track is a lot slower and lacks of a truly outstanding passage. It's probably the weakest tracks on this great record. "Angel rebellion" is one of the most diversified and complex songs and grows each time I listen to it again. Edguy prove that they can write longer tracks without falling into boredom or endless solos. Especially the calm ballad passages are very dreamy and atmospheric and add a human soul to the song. "When a hero cries" kicks off with a melancholic piano melody and one might expect a cheesy and commercial ballad but Edguy deliver true emotions and a profound and rather calm gem that is amongst their best ballads ever written. "Steel church" is one of the band's hardest and thrashiest songs and a great banger after those quiet moments. Sammet chose a completely new side of his vocal skills and sounds quite rough and agressive. The song still has some calmer changes of style and never gets boring. "The kingdom" might be the best epic song the band has ever written and tells an epic Middle Age story. The track is full of different atmospheres and styles and could have perfectly fit on the first "Avantasia" albums. I am sure that this epic track opened Sammet’s mind for a different project. Any fan of “Avantasia” should immediately check this brilliant prototype out. The participation of Grave Digger's unqiue vocalist Chris Boltendahl crowns the kingdom of madness that we can hear in here.

In the end, the songs in here all have a great potential and many different ideas without losing a clear line and style. Some of the band's best tracks can be found on this record such as the diversified and emotional "Angel rebellion", the honest ballad "When a hero cries" or the unforgettable epic "The kingdom" that has no second of boredom in over eighteen minutes because of an intriguing story and many soundtrack elements and narrative passages that visualise this piece of art.

In the end, the album sound and production create surely a certain charm but I would like the band to honour this album by recording a completely new or at least technically improved version with a better sound if they will ever do a remastering of their albums. The band has even improved its skills and much more possibilities and support than back in the time. If they don't want to lose their time on digging in the past, then I would like those guys to play a couple of tracks during their concerts to keep this unique record alive and make it more popular.

Humble Beginnings - 75%

Dragonchaser, November 1st, 2008

It's hard to remember a time when the word Edguy didn't crop up in the modern Power Metal lexicon, but their cataclysmic shift from complete obscurity to virtual superstardom had to begin somewhere, and while their beginnings are certainly nothing short of meek, their label debut "Kingdom of Madness" is still an important album in their discography, and one that had enough promise to grant them another go, which resulted in their breakthrough sophomore release, the inescapable "Vain Glory Opera".

Following nicely from their original debut, the much underrated "The Savage Poetry" in 1995 (which the band would later re-record) "Kingdom of Madness" slaps Edguy's ambitions straight onto the table, with their driving yet melodic blend of Iron Maiden/Helloween styled Power Metal echoing much of their homegrown heroes in tracks like the speedy "Wings of a Dream" and the 18min+ epic "The Kingdom", but retaining enough originality to make songs such as "Heart of Twilight" and the reflective "When A Hero Cries" distinctive and easily recognizable. At this point, band leader and songwriter extraordinaire Tobias Sammet hadn't really explored himself as a vocalist, and as a result, his vocals are extremely volatile and shaky, but retain enough of the Bruce Dickinson-esque wail to get him through some of the higher sections. But what really makes the album of note are the arrangements. The heavy, chugging guitars and straight-forward drumming give the album a dark, feral quality, something Edguy had completely abandoned by the time they came to record the theatrical "Vain Glory Opera". During "Deadmaker" and the hostile "Steel Church", we find the band settling into a lyrical and musical enmity that shows a completely different side to the happy-go-lucky German funsters that would end up penning the likes of "Lavatory Love Machine" and "Trinidad". As usual, there is a lot of drama to be found on "Kingdom of Madness", and despite the hackneyed production job and inferior performances, the album still remains listenable and actually very enjoyable.

Those who started with Mandrake and have watched them grow with "Hellfire Club", "Rocket Ride", and the equally as inventive "Tinnitus Sanctus" will probably instantly dismiss this as their cagey activation, but "Kingdom of Madness" can be very rewarding, provided "Fucking with Fire" wasn't your choice pick of their career thus far...

Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com