I was starting to get concerned about EDGUY after the release of 2009's "Tinnitus Sanctus", an album that sounded as though the German melodic hard rockers had lost their spirited edge and ability to pen the kind of bombastic anthems heard on supreme efforts "Rocket Ride" and "Hellfire Club". Though not a poor disc, especially by hard rock standards, it did seem uninspired and, the 7/10 was probably pushing it, seemingly more indicative of an allowance for the benefit of the doubt than any kind of ringing endorsement. I don't even recall returning to it for purposes of pure enjoyment, something I do with some regularity with "Rocket Ride" and "Hellfire Club". In any case, "Age of the Joker" restores the roar and fuel-injects the engine, carrying with it a vibe most reminiscent of both of the above mentioned classics.
Letting it all hang out right from the start with a prototypically catchy "epic" in the eight-minute "Robin Hood" welcomes the return of big fun and even bigger hooks to the EDGUY experience. Even the vocals give one the feeling that Tobias Sammet has regained a spring in his step, a trait that continues right on through to album closer "Every Night Without You", a grand example of '80s glam power balladry done right. The hard rocking power is heard front and center on "Nobody's Hero" and "Breathe", the latter's giant hook somehow trumped by an even bigger one on "Rock of Cashel", folk moments and all. Tongues in cheeks and creativity with catchiness in a way that only EDGUY can pull off with such aplomb is defined by "Two out of Seven" with an electro-melody line that brings to mind the approach taken on "Superheroes" and some hilarious chorus changeups on the cusp of the fadeout. That's also the case with the incorporation of country flavored acoustic picking and swampland harmonica bits on "Pandora's Box", yet another cut with an addictive chorus. Fun remains at the forefront and the rock keeps on rollin' with "Faces in the Darkness", "The Arcane Guild" (the '70s organ sounds great here), and "Fire on the Downline". Though no disappointment, it is only during the mix of sweetness and muscle that is "Behind the Gates of Midnight World" that we hear a track that doesn't strike with quite the same power; that said, it moves in a manner that belies its nine-minute running time.
"Age of the Joker" sounds, feels, and looks like an EDGUY album and damn if it doesn't get better with each spin, another good sign. Songs that originally seemed decent end up becoming favorites later on down the line. That's the EDGUY you know and love. Sing-along sessions characterized by fist-pumping and smile-painted faces are what EDGUY is — and should always be — about. And that's definitely the case with "Age of the Joker".