Executed with a little more spark, conviction and oomph

There’s something inherently likeable about Tobias Sammet and his Edguy cohorts.

So much so that even an average record from the German hard rockers gets a pass from many people. Thankfully, new disc Age of the Joker is a return to the form of 2004’s Hellfire Club, meaning fans don’t have to settle for a sub-par product.

Grandiose, cheery anthems boasting soaring vocal hooks, glam-infused ballads, riffs with more crunch than a Smith’s Chips factory and Sammet playing the role of a heavy metal Richard Simmons are the cornerstones of their sound. That doesn’t really change at all on this album, but the difference is all of the above elements are executed with a little more spark, conviction and dare I say it, oomph. For the uninitiated, Maiden-informed opener ‘Robin Hood’ encapsulates much of their appeal in eight frenetic minutes, from an ominous intro to hard-rocking riffs, from a more infectious-than-swine-flu chorus to orchestral touches. The Hellfire Club-esque ‘Nobody’s Hero’ practically drips with charisma and energy. ‘Rock of Cashel’ boasts slicker-than-whale-shit-on-an-iceberg melodies and even a little folk music flavour.

‘Two Out of Seven’ contains the cheesiest electronics since, well, Sammet’s gloriously over-the-top side project Avantasia’s last album, but arguably the record’s best chorus – as well as an amusing final passage showcasing their goofy, hardly subtle yet engaging sense of humour. ‘Faces in the Darkness’ and ‘Breathe’ are both winners and ‘The Arcane Guild’ meshes their power metal roots with well-placed organ and an outstanding guitar solo. There’s even a hint of country on ‘Pandora’s Box’, which actually doesn’t sound out of place. Bombastic power ballad ‘Every Night Without You’ fittingly closes proceedings. Predictable? Yes. A hell of a lot of fun though? You bet. The only significant shortcoming is that the 65-minute record outstays its welcome by a fraction.

As thoroughly an entertaining live band as they are, this reviewer’s interest in Edguy on record has waned somewhat in recent years. Age of the Joker restores a lot of faith in them.

1. Robin Hood
2. Nobody’s Hero
3. Rock of Cashel
4. Pandora’s Box
5. Breathe
6. Two Out of Seven
7. Faces in the Darkness
8. The Arcane Guild
9. Fire on the Downline
10. Behind the Gates to Midnight World
11. Every Night Without You