Edguy – King Of Fools
At this point in his career Tobias Sammet not only felt too creative to bundle all his good material in one band, but also on one industry-standard album (no one ever told Dream Theater something like that even exists), so he started releasing EPs to make sure not a single song went to waste. To some this may reek of arrogance and Avantasia’s later Lost In Space-EPs surely had the looks of an easy cash-grab. That is, however, not the case with King Of Fools, which is one of the better mini-records I have ever heard. Think of it as a super-sized single where the bonus tracks are no lame edits or crappy live recordings, but include a song mocking the very idea of bonus tracks. This shit is meta, yo.
Switching AFM for Nuclear Blast, this was Edguy’s first release on their current home label and coincidentally the first Edguy-release I ever owned. But you don’t care about that. Speaking of cash-grabs, AFM had their revenge for losing a premier power metal act by coming up with the best-of Hall Of Flames, which doesn’t bring enough new content to the table to review. The fireball-wielding jester gracing the cover of King Of Fools represents the material contained inside very well: it’s an insane juggling act of songs that don’t really sound like they’d fit together, Evil Masquerade-style. Yet just like the Danish clowns of doom Edguy pulls it off with slickness and wit to spare, heralding the stylistic changes of Hellfire Club in the process.
Single outtake “King Of Fools” is radio-friendly fare with a wicked twist, lashing out against the sheepish slaves running with the latest trend. It doesn’t take a lyrical scientist (a profession I made up and comes with a fancy hat) to see this fits right in with the theme of individuality Edguy has displayed many times before. “New Age Messiah” is a wildly profane pamphlet for pretty much the same idea, this time specifically targeting the fleeting idols of a modern media-driven society. It features some outrageous lyrics and a few choice swear words aimed at a certain messiah, surprisingly in a reasonable context. Sammet has never really shied away from excess and it’s an idea already explored on Theater Of Salvation and Mandrake, only now with added f-bombs. The music itself is grand, opening with a sweeping orchestral intro and culminating into a soaring refrain. Sammet’s singing is less restricted in rhythm and tone, breaking away from the more rigid power metal structures from before. The song also betrays some of the Queen-influenced operatics that would become a key element of Edguy’s sound later on.
“The Savage Union” is more questionable. Musically it’s a mid-tempo rock anthem with a smooth chorus, but doesn’t the unionizing of the savage go against the very notion of individuality? If Sammet is so eager to inspire people to stray from the herd, isn’t he just forming a new herd instead? Or am I taking this all too seriously? Are “people” even a real thing? In conclusion: who knows. But a “savage” union is sure to be less restricted by rules than any other, so I guess I can kind of see where Sammet was going with this.
Next up is the melancholy and mid-tempo “Holy Water”, recently featured on our rainy day playlist. It promotes healing and purity in a non-Buddhist-convent-way and is lyrically not too far removed from Mandrake’s “Wash Away The Poison”. Catchy lead and chorus seal this as another winner, if to be avoided in ads for umbrellas. “Life And Times Of A Bonus Track” is one of the best comedy songs Edguy has ever done, having their cake with making fun of bonus tracks and eating it too, by making a great one. Sammet sings (and obnoxiously narrates writing) a ballad told from the point of view of a bonus track, manufactured for the sake of pricier limited editions and soon to be pirated all across the internet. Some of the lines in this song still make me snigger like I’m stupid and the whole thing is preposterously infectious. The best thing is: they’re absolutely right. I want Dragonland’s “The Inn Of Éamon Bayle” on my original copy, dammit!
While not too much of a drastic shift in sound, there is a noticeable stronger focus on guitar work here. When I think of Vain Glory Opera, Theater Of Salvation or Mandrake my mind immediately goes to the melodies, when I think of King Of Fools or Hellfire Club I recall a few punchy riffs as well. Overall the material appears slower and more deliberate instead of the in-your-face pomp of the past. Heavy metal and hard rock were seeping their way into the glorious power metal of old and would shape Edguy to the band they are now and a lot more divisive fan base. This EP was only a taste of what was to come one month later.
Best silly joke: The full lyrics to “Life And Times Of A Bonus Track”, but if I had to pick this bit: “They’ll screw the industry/pay no royalties/burn me on CD/all illegally/Chinese bootlegs/Russian piracy/cutthroat Germans/they all copy me!” Priceless.
Arno Callens’ Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Hellfire Club (2004)