Album Review: EDGUY Space Police: Defenders of the Crown
So far, 2014 has been a banner year for great power metal releases. Sonata Arctica and Iron Savior recovered from multi-album slumps to release some of their best music in years, and Freedom Call unloaded the best album they've ever recorded. Now it's Edguy's turn to throw their hat into the ring. The band's previous three albums have been lack-luster; is Space Police: Defenders of the Crown a further devolution into mediocrity, or have Tobias Sammet and company managed to rediscover what made their early and mid-period albums so compelling?
Edguy began as a fairly straight-forward Iron Maiden worshiping power metal band in 1992. Their debut and sophomore albums, Savage Poetry and Kingdom of Madness, are both strong releases in their own right. But, beginning with 1997's Vain Glory Opera, the band found its voice when the members began incorporating operatic and symphonic elements into their music. Singer Tobias Sammet started utilizing muti-tracked vocals to add a choral effect to his voice, while orchestral keyboard arraignments added an epic atmosphere to the music. The addition of these musical elements where by no means original; Rhapsody, Blind Guardian, and HammerFall had already been doing the same thing for years. However, unlike those bands, Edguy retained a strong hard rock influence in their music that set them apart from their contemporaries.
After Vain Glory Opera, Edguy released a string of albums that got progressively more bombastic and entertaining. 2001's Mandrake was the culmination of the band's infatuation with symphonic power metal, and beginning with their next release, 2004's Hellfire Club, Edguy began shifting gears and moving toward a more traditional hard rock sound. Tobias Sammet's ever-present multi-tracked vocals became much less prominent and the keyboard arrangements took a back seat to Jens Ludwig's increasingly rockcentric guitar playing. Hellfire Club also marked a change in the tone of Sammet's writing as he started introducing playful lyrics into Edguy songs. "Lavatory Love Machine," a hair metal-y paean to the Mile High Club, is as catchy as it is kitschy. It's also one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album. The band's next three albums – Rocket Ride, Tinnitus Sanctus, and Age of the Joker – continued to move further into hard rock territory and also represent Edguy's weakest material to date. At this point in their career, the band had begun sounding repetitive and formulaic. In fact, the only memorable songs between these albums consist of material like Rocket Rides's "Superheroes" and Tinnutus Sanctus's "The Pride of Creation" which featured Sammet's less serious lyrics.
Longtime Edguy fans may be disappointed to learn that Space Police: Defenders of the Crown represents yet another move away from the band's power metal roots. However, unlike their last three albums, this is a step in the right direction. There're almost no remnants left of the band's Theater of Salvation era sound; instead Space Police is a fully realized exploration of the band's burgeoning party metal persona. Tracks like "Sabre and Torch" and "Space Police" still deal with vaguely fantastical lyrical themes that longtime fans will appreciate, but "Do Me Like A Caveman" and "Love Tyger," both nonsensical callbacks to 1980s anthemic hard rock, are standout songs here. Don't misunderstand, though; nearly every song on Space Police is a balls-out rocker. There's a bit of filler in the form of an unnecessary cover of Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" and the album closing "The Eternal Wayfarer" is 3 minutes too long, but otherwise Edguy haven't left much room for improvement.
It's hard to compare Space Police to Edguy's earlier albums like Mandrake and Hellfire Club because they're essentially a different band now. Even Sammet's vocal performance has changed. He's moved from aping Bruce Dickenson's powerful air raid vocals to a dirtier, gruffer timbre which meshes nicely with the hard rock sound the band has adopted. Fans who understandably abandoned Edguy after the disappointing combo punch of Rocket Ride, Tinnitus Sanctus, and Age of the Joker should give the band another shot because this is one of the best albums in their already impressive discography.
After several years of missteps, it seems like Edguy have finally found a balance between their old-school power metal roots and the Van Halen-esque hard rock they've been flirting with in recent years. Space Police is sure to please all but the most tragically grim metal heads (who don't listen to this type of metal anyway) with it's relentless parade of catchy riffs and fun, nonsensical lyrics. The album is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.