The Kubler-Ross concept of the five stages of grief has broader applications than simply coping with death, and I don't mean to make light of the subject by saying so, at least not any more than the average sardonic Metal head. But often outside of the original area that this concept was developed for, skipping steps is a bit more common, and my coming to terms with the death of one of my formerly favorite bands in terms of their credentials as a Power Metal band was a quick run through a couple of the steps. Denial was obviously out the window the minute I first beheld the lionizing of mediocrity that was "The Scarecrow" because it was so blatant that no evasion was possible, but anger was obviously an immediate result.
Since subsequent studio disasters out of both of Tobi's projects, my state of being could be seen as an odd combination of acceptance with a latent sense of bargaining, a sort of false hope that keeps me coming back to his albums hoping for a surprise. But reality has forced me to go the route of purchasing AVANTASIA and EDGUY albums a few months after their release when a cheap used copy can be procured. By this eventuality, my annoyance at Tobi's continual pseudo-comical irreverence for heavy metal is less concentrated due to less money being lost in the process, but my sampling of "The Age Of The Joker" definitely left me with a heavy dose of it.
There's no mystery left to EDGUY's music, save perhaps the reason why Tobias continues to keep AVANTASIA going as it is musically interchangeable with the former. This album goes through the exact same poor man's anthem with heavily cliche Hard Rock elements that "Angel Of Babylon" and "The Wicked Symphony" did, minus all the guest vocal slots. A faint shadow of the original formula resides buried under the overly exaggerated grit of the vocals and crunch of the guitars, to speak nothing for the annoyingly modern sounding drum production where the cymbals are as raucously loud as the snare, but it does little to sate the hunger for that vintage beauty of the band's pre-2002 majesty. This music is the opposite of majestic, it's awkward when it tries to be serious, and doubly so when it tries to be tongue-in-cheek.
Nevertheless, the real source of repulsion at this album is the fact that the whole band makes an occasional affair of demonstrating that they can still play Power Metal, but pulls it away like a carrot on a string in order to keep the rabbit running into directionless Pop/Rock mediocrity. The only song on here that can really be qualified as solid is "The Arcane Guild", which takes some elements of the older guy and manages to punch a decent speeder with a slight 90s STRATOVARIUS edge through a lackluster mixing job with the obligatory DEEP PURPLE organ sound. "Breathe" also takes a handful of mid-tempo nods from the glory days of 90s Power Metal and splices in some unnecessary quiet sections, but is fairly catchy and tolerable. But for the most part, everything meanders and crosses the borders between modern Alternative Rock and recent Power Metal meets AOR debacles. Sometimes it's overlong, sometimes it's a ballad or two, but it's consistently a musical drag.
Maybe I'm just a freak exception to the rule, but insofar as the death of Tobias' little niche in the early Power Metal revival, I just can't bring myself to deny it or fully accept it, and I keep revisiting the anger stage. But the fact that I can't seem to get it together doesn't mean that you need to spend your precious dough settling for mediocrity with a few cheap laughs. Those seeking good Power Metal of the brand that Tobi gave up on years back will find a more comfortable home in SYMFONIA, or just wait for the next HEAVENLY album. Even if it's as gratuitously off on subject matter as "Carpe Diem" was, musically it will still beat this easily.
(Online December 8, 2011)