Over the last couple of years I've seen my interest in power metal simultaneously strengthen and bow and break. Without going into a band-by-band analysis, it's hard to explain why one band's work remains viable and another band's doesn't. There have been serious surprises and there has been more than enough writing on the wall. Still, the one thing I didn't see coming was my growing disinterest in Germany’s Edguy. As with any lingering feeling, it didn't happen overnight and it didn't just happen due to the last album (which would have been more than enough to justify it) but it was growing even though I failed to admit it. So, if this paragraph is any indication, I've come to accept Edguy isn't the band I loved only a few years back. I've grown and they've grown (into what sometimes I haven’t a clue) so the very least I can do is be honest about it.
The problem with Edguy is ironically alluded to with the title of this album, Age of the Joker. First let's start with the word "Joker." Edguy has always been known for their wacky antics, and you don't have to look too far, especially on newer albums and singles, to see this in action. For years I found this quality endearing, but once tracks like "Lavatory Love Machine" (*groan*) started making their debut the hesitation to dive in head first started to build. This feeling magically disappeared when Rocket Ride was the hot thing but even that managed to boomerang back in a negative way a few years after its release. Still, I knew I had grown tired of Edguy's humor the minute I heard "Sex Fire Religion" on Tinnitus Sanctus. Trust me; it’s as bad as it sounds.
This brings us to "Age." The sad fact is Edguy's humor doesn't age well. Can anyone really listen to "Save Us Now" on 2001’s Mandrake and not get the immediate urge to change the track? Alien drum bunnies may have been funny in 2001 but all it is now is a less-than-impressive filler track on an overstated "breakthrough album." Yet this is only one take on why the word "age" is so important when it comes to Edguy. Age has a lot to do with this new "rock" sound Edguy has cultivated since Tinnitus Sanctus. Now, I'm not going to say that power metal style the band adhered to before was the most fertile valley, but Edguy was good enough – and smart enough - to make it their own. This failed to be case with the music on Tinnitus Sanctus where the material sounded extremely dated, which is just ludicrous considering this is still a relatively young band. So given that Age of the Joker continues to explore this sound while being a lot more mindful of the likes and dislikes of the people the last album turned off, how does it fair?
Well, the music still sounds a lot older that it really should, but the album successfully bridges the gap and deserves some serious props. The most obvious plus is this is a grower album. It's the kind of album you definitely need to listen to more than once for it to make its impact and reveal everything within. I don’t think there is a preverbal goldmine in here but it’s far from a cellar dweller. Unfortunately, as enjoyable as the experience can be – especially when taken in as a whole - the experience over before it really begins. Unlike previous Edguy albums which could hang around and could be viable months or even years after their introduction, Age of the Joker has an incredibly short shelf life. It took me about a week to get “into” the album, from there it only took two weeks to enjoy what it had to offer and put it away. There was no clear cut decree that I was “done” nor did I really get “sick” of the album, it had just run it’s extremely short course. I don’t even have the desire to listen to my favorites like “Two Out of Seven,” “Breathe” and “The Gates to Midnight World” on a stand alone basis. I came, I saw (err… listened) and I left.
As disappointing as the above is, I have to wonder if the Age of the Joker the beginning of a reconciliation been a band and a listener or merely a small reprieve before the rift between the two becomes insurmountable. I wish I had the answer. Still, the album has been the first measurable glimmer of hope between the two for a long time and as shaky as the truths is I'm willing to admit it was fun while it lasted. That said; let's hope Edguy makes the most of this opportunity.