Nuclear Blast Records
September 13th, 2011
Release length: 1:05:28
Surprisingly, Age of the Joker starts off with a slightly restrained feeling in the audio, which largely stems from what sounds like a slight rawness to it that can feel a bit foggy. It’s as if the band were recorded at a very high level, but the music came through really low. This is notable during “Robin Hood” when the background female vocals happen, and you can just hear them pushing towards breaking up into noise from having such a loud quality to them. But, at the same time, the music does come off rather loud as well, but far from what the foggier quality really should be putting out. +The guitars have a nice heaviness to them that sticks out, and the bass feels a little masked in the background, but still does an alright job backing the guitars up with a deeper presence. The drums have a strong thud to the kicks, a bit of an echo to the snares that feel a little louder than the somewhat hidden kicks, and the cymbals really shine through, but far from the guitars or vocals, the latter of which is obviously going to be loud to any fan of Edguy considering the band’s track record and typical push to this element of their music.
But, even with that said about the audio, it doesn’t really impact the quality of the music, though it may have you restraining how loud you make the volume yourself. Edguy is known for incorporating a bit of a serious approach to the music, but still having a little fun with it, and for the most part, that’s what you get with this album, and sadly that’s what was being pushed by the label to promote this final product. Age of the Joker starts off with the single “Robin Hood,” a nearly eight and a half-minute song dedicated to the legendary man. For the most part, the track really does strive to be a more serious song, with a strong addition from keyboards that clearly sound a bit too loud no matter what volume you approach this at. It all gives the track a bit of a Symphonic Power Metal sound, which isn’t really what this album is about. The grander approach here doesn’t really set the album that well, but still an enjoyable track overall. It does feel a bit drawn out after a while as the band incorporates a slower section with narration that is handled more in a comedic tone, and the obvious lyrics toward more modern ideas such as referring to riches as “bling,” and even the traditional sexual push towards the end with an innuendo directed towards Little John that will immediately make you groan at how bad it is, as well as how overused by the time Edguy had even wrote it into the song.
What easily should have been the single to this album is “Nobody’s Hero.” This is perhaps the best and more accurate representation of this album, but perhaps not of Edguy in general up to this point in their career. The more traditional Power Metal approach is met with expected grandiose approach in the vocals as well as the much tighter and energetic sound that feels high-class. The additional keyboards during the chorus are very subtle, but still make a strong impact to tie in a little more emotion against really heavy music that is absolutely infectious to the point where you’ll head bang along through every twist and turn in the music and speed, both executed very well with plenty of solid transitions at work, and even find yourself belting along vocally or with a specific instrument if singing along isn’t your thing. But the energetic tracks like this are not the only ones that stand out here, as “Pandora’s Box” offers up a nice slower pace and Country push that is molded nicely with the band’s Metal sound, though I can’t help that certain chords are directly ripped off from a song I’ve heard in the past on the local Country radio station. The chorus basically removes that additional style and heads into the more grand sound, but in the end it’s transitioned very well, suits the flow of the music, and additional powerful vocals that are layered really just send it over-the-top in all the right ways.
“Two Out of Seven” is another track that seems to vary in style input, and definitely brings in a completely different environment. This track carries a hint of a ballad approach with a very pushy keyboard presence that actually gives it a bit of a bubbling Electronica sound that you could consider Synth-Pop, but still far heavier than much of what the style would churn out. The song feels a little more traditional musically, as well as restrained for Edguy, and finds itself pushed a lot by the vocals and the lyrics. The more emotional drive behind this track works in its favor, and really picks up towards the end when it basically starts to bring in a bit of a fun atmosphere that also seems to be geared towards a bit of an uplifting track through self-acknowledging lyrics that become rebellious and literally take a “fuck you” attitude right at the very end, all wrapped around something a number of men and women deal with as far as their looks go. “Fire On the Downline” also shines with a bit of an eighties Rock touch. This is felt a lot better in the chorus that screams Glam Rock band in a crowded amphitheater, but with a more serious performance. The music is really simplified through the song, but this time the main focus, at least in the chorus, is with the keyboards that establish an atmosphere that feels a bit sleeker and with a raw rebellion to it.
The rest of Age of the Joker is honestly full of solid material. You won’t really feel bored by the rest of the songs, but they don’t quite stand out as much. With this album, Edguy really brings in a great deal of additional influences in style to the mix, and it works out well to the point where a more traditional Power Metal sound just feels a little too bland. These are more in the later half of the album’ Faces in the Darkness” does grow into an enjoyable song, having a bit of a chugging and commanding sound behind it, but it feels very typical for the style despite how heavy it is and the variations that the group brings into it. On top of that, the longer tracks both don’t really stand out too much, though “Robin Hood” is a far superior track compared to “Behind the Gates to Midnight World,” which just feels a bit too dragged out at times and could easily have been cut to a five-minute limit and have had a better impact due to a lack of what does feel like filler material. Even the closing song “Every Night Without You” doesn’t really feel like one of the band’s strongest, but the more emotional and depressing tone of the lyrics and the song can easily touch anyone’s heartstrings and leave an impact on the listener that way.
Age of the Joker is an album that fans of Edguy will surely appreciate, and anyone who bought into it expecting an album based on what “Robin Hood” has to offer will find a bit of a foul taste in their mouth afterwards. The band varies their music throughout nicely and even dabbles in sounds that you wouldn’t expect in Power Metal such as a slight Country approach. But, overall, the album has some good material that greatly dwarfs the amount of fantastic songs that really stand out for one reason or another. If it doesn’t seem like it’s experimenting with other styles, it can feel a bit too common for the Power Metal style with a bit of a fun approach from the band at times. Even with these faults, if you just sit back and let the album take control, there’s no real reason to walk away from the one hour plus experience feeling like it didn’t do it’s job. Age of the Joker is a solid album with enough strong material that you’ll come back to it time and time again and just be able to jump head first into it regardless of what song you pick. Well, with the exception of “Behind the Gates to Midnight World” obviously.
01. Robin Hood – 8:24
02. Nobody’s Hero – 4:32
03. Rock of Cashel – 6:18
04. Pandora’s Box – 6:46
05. Breathe – 5:03
06. Two Out of Seven – 4:28
07. Faces in the Darkness – 5:22
08. The Arcane Guild – 4:59
09. Fire On the Downline – 5:47
10. Behind the Gates to Midnight World – 8:57
11. Every Night Without You – 4:52
|Overall Score: 7.5/10