Edguy - Space Police: Defenders of the Crown (Nuclear Blast)

A make or break album?
Release Date: 
18 Apr 2014 (All day)

In the power metal community, anything that involves Tobi Sammet is noteworthy; Whether it be a new album from his band, Edguy, or his all-star metal opera project Avantasia, expectations and excitement are always high as the release date of new product rumbles into view. A brief flick around the various forums where such things are discussed shows that Space Police… would appear to be something of a make or break album for Edguy as far as long term supporters are concerned; the hardcore are definitely of the opinion that Tobi saves his best material for the Avantasia albums, and they are desperate for a return to the purer, more straightforward power metal  sound Edguy displayed on albums such as Rocket Ride or Mandrake. Did they get their prayers answered? Red on…

Opener Sabre & Torch is at least fast and heavy; it’s the sort of classic Teutonic speed metal album opening track we’ve come to know and love over the years, straight out of the Kai Hansen songbook but retaining the stamp of strong songwriting that is the hallmark of all Sammet’s best work. Things are looking up. However partial title track Space Police is complete Avantasia, carrying the sort of singalong chorus you can imagine Biff Byford belting out on stage at an Avantasia show somewhere in Germany. Me? I bloody love it, but I’m a patsy for these big production numbers that Tobi does so well. But it’s gonna worry those diehards I was talking about earlier.

And so will the other partial title track, Defenders of the Crown. For me, it’s another winner, a double-kick propelled barnstormer, a Germanic thrash masterpiece that this time brings to mind classic-period Blind Guardian (as well as having all the obligatory Helloween references, natch). But again, through all the bluster, and the sturm and drang of the excellent guitar duelling of axemen Jens Ludwig and Dirk Sauer, you get little washes of ‘showbiz’ keyboards coming in to take the edge off of matter, almost as if the band is just a little nervous at letting their metallic impulses take full rein over proceedings. It’s confusing, that’s for sure.

Love Tyger is more trademark Tobi; a deliriously ‘pop metal’ riff bolstered by Sammet’s impassioned vocalising and a big, big, chorus. There’s definitely a place for this kind of stuff on an Edguy album, but again I don’t know if it was what was wanted on this particular Edguy album. (remember, this is the Edguy record that Sammet himself has championed as being ‘the strongest and heaviest’ the band has yet recorded).

With all this in mind, next track The Realms of Baba Yaga is much more up the right strasse. Sure, it’s got another big Avantasia-worthy chorus, but musically it’s pure, old-school Edguy; fast, furious, exciting and with a marvellous staccato riff that will not fail to have you reaching for that air guitar of yours at first listen.

And then comes the track that is going to cause more ructions than any: Edguy’s cover of Falco’s Euro pop classic Rock Me Amadeus. For people from the Germanic nations, …Amadeus is an iconic rock/pop classic, a piece of eighties kitsch that has been elevated to the pantheon of Euro greatness. For everyone else, well, it’s the sort of song that’s chortled at in ‘ironic’ and ‘post-modern’ tv countdowns listing ‘one hit wonders’ or such like, and it just doesn’t carry the importance it might for someone listening to the record in Zurich, Munich or Vienna. The version is a faithful one – actually I’ll go further and say it’s really rather good – but maybe it has no place on Edguy’s heaviest album? Just sayin’…

Do Me Like a Caveman is as mundane as its title suggests, but Shadow Eaters gets things back on an even metallic keel; It’s another up-tempo number, with drummer Felix Bohnke again working overtime on the bass pedals; It’s straightforward, no frills, glorious power metal and it’s one of the highlights of the album. Melodic for sure – this music absolutely should be so, after all – but without the dips into commerciality found elsewhere. It’ll be welcomed by the faithful, of that I’m sure.

Penultimate track Alone in Myself is another song that maybe should have been saved for the next Avantasia opus; it’s a big, big ballad with a multi-voiced chorus that somehow brings to mind bands like Foreigner at their most pompous and overblown. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song, but again I’m asking, is it the right song for this album? I think the answer is no.

Closing track The Eternal Wayfarer starts off sounding like a latterday Whitesnake epic, but quickly morphs into well, a latterday Sammet epic. Nearly nine minutes in length, it’s a grinding, pomp metal tour de force with echoes of Rainbow and Savatage mixed with some good old Tobi bombast in grandiose and, it has to be said, brilliant fashion;, proof once again (s if it were needed) that Sammet really is one of metal’s pre-eminent somgwriters in 2014.

So, there you have it, another Edguy album. For me, it’s an almost-consistently strong album with at least two gorgeous flashes of the old Edguy we were promised. But it isn’t the heaviest thing this band has ever delivered, and fans of the band who can take or leave the AOR dabblings of Avantasia will still find a little too much of that influence seeping into Space Police. In summary: a great album, but an unsatisfactory result.