Edguy – Theater Of Salvation
Edguy sure likes their cultural establishments. After exiting the Vain Glory Opera, we enter the Theater Of Salvation and later we’ll meet for drinks at the Hellfire Club. Bring your Mandrake. Um, that one didn’t work. Number four for Fulda’s finest and pretty much the highlight of their early power metal period. Now hold on to your fancy hats because it’s TIME… TO… GOOO! (That’s “go” as in “infinitive of to go” not as in “sticky stuff”.)
“The Healing Vision” appears to us as a slow introduction into a trance with a delicate piano giving way to a stately choir and a voice uttering to us: “Is it really just a dream or the urge to survive?” Good question but we are not left much time to ponder on it as our faces are burned off immediately with the harmonic lead intro of “Babylon”. Every serious power metal enthusiast has had serious vocal chord paralysis from singing this song way too hard and way too loud, and if there was ever a good moment to lose your voice forever, it’d be in the middle of a “Back where I belong!”. A fireball of melody and pomp it is an immortal classic within Edguy’s discography and perhaps within the entire genre of powerful melodic metal.
We slow down to play “The Headless Game”, which is more down-to-earth than the tower-building of “Babylon”, yet delivers another cracker of a chorus and prepares us for “Land Of The Miracle”. I normally don’t like ballads that kill the momentum of an album, but this song fits in perfectly with the epic tone. A fragile piano leads to a soaring refrain, combining more and more vocal melodies into a dreamlike state of bliss. “Wake Up The King” comes as the first ray of sunlight after a night of slumber, and makes excellent use of background organs and orchestration. It portrays that tantalizing feeling of opening your eyes from elusive dreams to a glorious dawn full of promise and delight.
“Falling Down” deploys a set of vocal variations where Tobias trades off lines with a choir of backers, most noticeable in the bouncy and variegated chorus. It also features one of the sweeter solos on Theater Of Salvation and is the highpoint of its straightforward power metal middle section. With the twang of a bow we launch into “Arrows Fly”, hitting the target with Robin Hood-like skill and precision. When the world has you in its crosshairs, play this song as a shield and all should be fine. (Unless the arrows are poison-tipped, in which case you are beleaguered by bastards.) “Holy Shadows” has some excellent guitar work, mixing crystal clear acoustics with playfully joyous leads. Its chorus is simple but effective, and the creativity on offer is a wonder to behold.
Any ballad sharing a spot with “Land Of The Miracle” on a track list is bound to come across as inferior, and “Another Time” is definitely a lot more mellow and cheesy. Edguy would go on to make this same kind of love song on a number of other records, but this remains one of the better examples of Tobias going emotional and reaching for a hanky. Dry your salty tears for “The Unbeliever”, a mid-tempo warm-up for the crescendo to come. Exxel’s bass particularly excels in the prelude to another chorus from the stars. To adopt the vernacular of a British street thug: Better believe in “The Unbeliever”, bruv.
Edguy had tried their hands on an epic before, but “The Kingdom” was worn down by its own length and lack of ideas. Their second try, “Theater Of Salvation”, is a lot more successful, and proves for its full twelve minutes what the album its named after has already proven copious times: how to deliver a memorable, bombastic, meaningful, and altogether splendid piece of music with more artistic verve than you can shake a statue of an angel at.
Listening to each song attentively has made me realize how carefully constructed the songwriting on Theater Of Salvation is. There are numerous details to discover behind the catchy choruses, more than I can sum up in one little review. Everything comes together beautifully for the benefit of the full picture, and not ever is one musician competing with another for the spotlight. Be it Jens Ludwig’s and Dirk Sauer’s twin guitar attack, newcomer Tobias Exxel’s adventurous bass lines, Felix Bohnke’s diverse drum patterns, or Tobias Sammet’s supporting keyboard work; they all shine not by taking away from, but by attributing to each other’s parts. On top of it all, like the charming cherry he is, shines Sammet’s remarkably stronger and potent voice, oozing charisma and confidence in every yell, emotion and range in every vibration.
If Vain Glory Opera was a wakeup call from the harsh reality of everyday life, Theater Of Salvation provides the key to deal with that situation. It talks a lot about finding the truth and salvation within yourself without being deluded by outside forces. The album is a true pamphlet for individuality, which is made clear by both lyrics and liner notes. Operas and theaters only provide an illusion of vain glory and salvation, the true rescue comes from within.
An overwhelming experience of inspiration and joy, Theater Of Salvation stands among the highlights of Edguy’s illustrious career and, if I didn’t hate the term so much, could be seen as an essential power metal album. I have fallen in love with it all over again while trying to make critical sense of it, and yet I still feel like I have sold it short or have done it a disservice with all this babbling. Let’s just blame that on the undecipherable brilliance of the album rather than on my limited capacities as a music reviewer. I know I’ll sleep better tonight with that delusion. On to all you clowns’ and jesters’ moment de gloire:
Best silly joke: Some versions of the title track end with a two minute-bit featuring lots of circus- and/or carnival-music with Tobias making incomprehensible noises to himself. The whole thing is incredibly silly and slightly disturbing. Look for the fourteen minute-variation to hear for yourself. If that doesn’t constitute a real humorous contribution to you, check out the bonus track “For A Trace Of Life”. It’s not funny at all and NEITHER ARE YOU.
Arno Callens’ Rating: 4.75 out of 5
Vain Glory Opera (1998)
The Savage Poetry (2000)