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Space police took my weed and did it themselves - 78%

Empyreal, April 25th, 2014

Tobias Sammet is kind of the 800 pound gorilla in the room so far as metal goes these days. As much as some people hate his recent work, he’s just got too much talent and style to really just ignore and shoo away like an annoying fly (not like, say, Geoff Tate or something) – he keeps coming out with new, bigger and better stuff all the time, more grandiose, more ridiculous.

Even when he puts out a song like “Love Tyger,” with its self-indulgent lyrics and goofy 80s cock rock posturing, or mixes up an album half-full of heavy as fuck, galloping power metal with a cover of “Rock me Amadeus” – you can’t just sweep him under the rug. Because it’s just too fucking good. Even those who don’t like it, well, they’re participating anyway just by paying attention! It’s just such a piss take because Tobi writes such consistently energized, fun, good music, but on new album Space Police – Defenders of the Crown particularly, he’s almost trolling his audience.

Not that I’m complaining. This is a hilarious album, starting with the amazingly corny cover art and going down from there. They’ve really amped up the comedy on this and honed their ability to make funny metal that isn’t just a weak-ass parody of the genre. The music is as good as ever – chugging guitars, soaring leads, double bass drums and 80s style keys – but the attitude is pure kitsch hilarity. Listen to the end of double-bass speedster “Defenders of the Crown” – goofy maniacal laughter followed by Tobi intoning “WE WILL EAT YOU!” Then the song is over. Or the other title track “Space Police” – with its bouncy 80s synths and staccato riffing over lyrics telling us we’re making a fool of ourselves and crossing the intergalactic Space Police of the title. The song ends with a shout of “Freeze! Space police!” followed by laser gun sounds.

It’s hysterical. They’ve mastered the art of doing comedy-infused metal where neither side is done poorly. I mean, if you’re going to write about fantasy and sci fi themes, what the fuck’s wrong with taking a goofy slant on it? Not like you’re going to hurt anybody. Nobody's gonna be offended if you take the piss on fantasy and sci fi shit. It’s kitsch by nature. Edguy knows that and takes advantage of it like a lawyer on the 18th hole with your local congressman.

The claims of a return to Mandrake and Hellfire Club style are actually pretty accurate. They’ve lost a lot of the hard rock influence from Tinnitus Sanctus and this is a more immediate, digestible album than Age of the Joker. Songs like “Shadow Eaters” and “Do Me Like a Caveman” are packed with old school power metal melody and Tobi trades in his Bon Joviesque croon for a power metal wail, and pounding opener “Sabre & Torch” is right off of Hellfire Club with its gritty guitars and high pitched vocal performance. “The Realms of Baba Yaga” listens like something off of their most recent albums with a more aggressive and present guitar performance – plus Tobi cackling like a witch and then howling like Bruce Dickinson at the end. Fucking awesome. Maybe the best song on here.

Overall I don’t find this as engaging as their previous two albums – in particular it lacks the epic sweep of Age of the Joker, an album I thought was a “once in a lifetime” thing they may never top. However it is a more agreeable and digestible album, shorter in length and more conventional, and there are benefits to that too. It’s a fun album, and the band sounds comfortable in their own skin – a virtue many people don’t seem to recognize as a huge plus. While there are no songs as good as "Pandora's Box" or "Breathe," and although the ballad here can't touch "Every Night Without You," every song is solid, and I can listen to this and enjoy it all the way through. Sometimes a solid, consistent experience like that is just what you need.

Fans of the old stuff will like Space Police better than recent albums, as it is heavier, more melodic in a power metal way and more traditional. Me, I don’t think it’s quite as good. However I’m still playing it like it’s aural crack, so I can’t complain. Go get it if you’ll like it; you know who you are.