Saturday, 31 May 2014

Edguy's 'Space Police: Defenders of the Crown' - Album Review

As I said in my Music of 2013 write up, Tobias Sammet is probably one of the most consistent songwriters in metal today. Last year, he put out The Mystery of Time with his side-project Avantasia (which was one of my favourite albums released in 2013), and this year we have a new Edguy album! Space Police: Defenders of the Crown is the band's tenth studio album and contains all the hallmarks that have made them so popular in the metal world. Their last couple of albums have not been as well received as their older work. It is true that they are not as strong as the previous albums, but there is still a lot to enjoy - particularly on 2011's Age of the Joker. Nevertheless, Space Police: Defenders of the Crown has the feel of a true return to form, despite the fact that - in my opinion anyway - Edguy never lost any form! There is a definite back-to-roots vibe about some of the songs here. Some of the songs are heavier and more riff-orientated, similar to the material found on 2004's Hellfire Club and the preceeding albums. There are still plenty of keyboard melodies woven throughout the material to remind us of the band's more recent work though. Some of the songs also have an Avantasia-light feel to them, which is no bad thing in my opinion. Space Police: Defenders of the Crown does not have the scope that The Mystery of Time has, but then it was never supposed to. Avantasia and Edguy are totally different beasts, despite having some crossover in sound. While Avantasia are about epic arrangements, Edguy are more about focussed, tighter metal songs. Sammet's fine voice and distinctive songwriting style is the connection between the two bands, and he delivers again on this album. He sounds as strong as ever vocally, and his songwriting has not let up one bit. His bizarre sense of humour is present on many of the songs as always, and this will no doubt annoy many of the serious metalheads who like everything to be deadly serious. The album is well produced and sounds nice and heavy. Sascha Paeth and the band have done a good job making this album sound the way it does. I usually do not like Paeth's production choices, but I have no complaints here. The drums are punchy and the guitars have a good crunch to them without losing any tone. The keyboards, when they do appear, are just retro enough to sound good and never fall into parody territory.

The album gets off to a good start with the riff-heavy Sabre & Torch which is in a similar vein to Mysteria from Hellfire Club. Jens Ludwig and Dirk Sauer's riffing is solid and tight and Sammet gallops his way through the verses, before the 'woah woah' type chorus takes hold and manages not to sound stale. It is not one of Sammet's better choruses, but it works and the song is a solid slab of melodic heavy metal that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The next song, Space Police, really steps it up a notch. The mid-paced riff, complete with a tasty keyboard accompaniment (think Dio's Rainbow in the Dark), leads into a spacy, atmospheric verse. I like this song's tongue-in-cheek lyrics too, just read them, they are hilarious! The song's chorus is the high point though, and it is one of Sammet's best ever in my humble opinion. It is one of those melodies that, even after one listen, is ingrained in your brain. If this song does not get played on the ensuing tour, then I will be very surprised! Defenders of the Crown follows (yes, the album has two title tracks!) and it is a real driving rocker. The intro has some excellent lead guitar lines from Ludwig and drummer Felix Bohnke trots out all the classic power metal rhythms. It follows the Gamma Ray and modern Helloween blueprint pretty closely, but sounds powerful and the fist-pumping chorus is likely to go down well live. Ludwig solos well, and overall this is another solid metal piece. The light hearted Love Tyger is up next and - complete with a silly cartoon video - it is a lot of fun. It is a real hair metal anthem and sounds like it belongs in the 1980s. The chorus is catchy and the lyrics are silly, but if this song does not put a smile on your face then you take your metal far too seriously. I would say that it is typical Edguy, but in all honestly there are not really any other songs by the band that sound like this. It has the typical Edguy spirit and sense of fun though, and that makes it feel at home on the rest of the album. The Realms of Baba Yaga is another speed-metal workout with a really excellent riff and some Dio-esque choruses. I assumed this was going to be another joke song, until I read that Baba Yaga is a demon in Slavic mythology - so perfect power metal subject matter then! It is not a standout track overall, but it is solid and enjoyable none the less. It is the sort of song Sammet probably writes in his sleep, and has been Edguy album fodder for years.

The band's cover of Falco's Rock me Amadeus is where the album gets truely silly, and I must say that I do not really care for it. To be honest, I never liked the original version of this song, so it was highly unlikely that this was ever going to float my boat. It suits Sammet's wacky personality down to the ground though, and I do like the fact that it will probably annoy a lot of people who take music too seriously! Before I heard it, I thought Do Me Like a Caveman was going to be a dirty, Steel Panther-esque song, but instead it is just another solid rock song. The verses are a little more restrained than others, with Tobias Exxel's big bassline driving it, mixed with some nice stabs of piano. The chorus is another melodic feast, with plenty of memorable lines that Sammet sings with ease. Ludwig's solo here is a little more restrained (seems to be a theme here..) but it fits the mood of the song and adds to it melodically. Shadow Eaters gets back to a fast rock of the earlier songs with a massive Helloween vibe that encompasses the whole song, but especially on the chorus where Sammet actually sounds a bit like Andi Deris at times. I would imagine that Helloween were a big influence on Sammet growing up so it nice to see him pay tribute to them, even if it was not intentional. Alone in Myself is the album's obligatory ballad which is enjoyable enough, if a little throwaway. Sammet has certainly written better ballads, but this ticks all the boxes and is pleasing if not anything else. All metal albums seem to need a slower song, and this is it. The album's final song, The Eternal Wayfarer, is definitely a moment of Avantasia-light that I mentioned earlier. Sammet does longer songs better with Avantasia, where the full orchestra, guest vocalists and grader scope helps to flesh them out - but Edguy have their share of good long songs too. This is a good example and provides to be an excellent end to the album. I like the fact that the orchestras of Avantasia are replaced by some really dated sounded synth orchestrals, but it suits Edguy's tongue-in-cheek attitude very well. The chorus is very good, and overall it is just another good Sammet song - one of many! Overall, this album is a winner. It is nothing groundbreaking, but it is really good, solid heavy metal that is lots of fun to listen to. Whilst Sammet seems to get more plaudits for Avantasia these days, I am glad he still keeps his original band going, and still releases excellent albums with them.

The album was released on 21st April 2014 via Nuclear Blast Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Love Tyger.

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