Edguy – Vain Glory Opera
Anyone who has ever had the good fortune to see Edguy live (and liked it) can imagine the chill running down your spine when a certain intro comes blasting through the speakers. The triumphant trumpets heralding the arrival of a song you have been waiting for all evening (hint: it’s not “Trinidad”). A choir of oohs emerges from the crowd and takes up the irresistible melody while slowly forming the words: “We live to fight the hand of doom. We got the pride to strike a fool. Vain glory be my wicked guide!” Guitars, drums and metal kick in, the opera begins. That song, sopranos and tenors, comes off this very album, this very wicked album called Vain Glory Opera.
Kingdom Of Madness was the last Edguy-album before their ascendance into power metal heaven. Building on a very solid basis of cheerful and meaningful power metal this is their breakthrough rise among the ranks of their genre peers. It’s no coincidence they had some assistance from said colleagues with Stratovarius’ Timo Tolkki on production duties and guest guitar and Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kürsch lending his pipes to the likes of “Out Of Control” and the title track. What better embrace into the hall of glory can one wish for, I wonder? Speaking of guests, at this point drummer Dominic Storch had left the band and replacement Felix Bohnke missed the recording sessions (or the bus to them, I’m not sure) so the percussion on this album is courtesy of stand-in Frank Lindenthal, a friend of the band.
The songwriting on Vain Glory Opera is not a long way removed from their first two outings, but for the first time everything is tight and focused. Each song is to the point, the ballads are endearing and there is no misjudged overlong epic. On top of that the songs seem to be connected and the album feels more as a whole not in the least because of the unified lyrical content (see below). What problems were present on Kingdom Of Madness have not fully disappeared though. The drums are still a little too loud and Tobias isn’t always as stable, but the sheer quality of the material makes those qualms seem immaterial. Additional keyboards (by Sammet) and vocal harmonies also play an important part in doing the music justice.
Pompousness abound in the “Overture” whose upbeat orchestral hits segue nicely into the melodic fury of “Until We Rise Again”. For a similar combo see Gamma Ray’s “Induction”/”Dethrone Tyranny” from No World Order. Both are very effective ways to open a rampaging power metal romp. “Until We Rise Again” is a peculiar Edguy-song. It may be the fastest one they’ve ever written and the chorus has an unusual feel and structure yet it’s as addictive as watching cats trying to wash that one spot they can’t reach. More traditionally mid-tempo is the heartwarmingly happy “How Many Miles” which boasts some impressive guitar and organ work. As a whole this is the most operatic Edguy-album and in that regard it is no wonder I’m reminded often of the first two Avantasia-records. Maybe this specific opera is not up to par with those two classics yet, but “How Many Miles” is a strong move in that direction.
First of two ballads is “Scarlet Rose”, combining atmospheric keys with sensitive acoustics into a successfully mellow breaking point. Strings continue to set the mood in “Out Of Control” until Timo Tolkki’s tasteful lead guitar takes over with a delicate solo. Slow-burning verses and a calm pre-chorus pay off nicely with the strong chorus where Hansi Kürsch adds his typically epic flavor to the proceedings. Of all the songs this one harkens back the most to the previous two albums and it fits the least into the lyrical concept. This might have been a leftover, us mortals will never know. Unless someone asks the band of course.
My opening paragraph already addressed the brilliance of the title track so let’s move on to “Vain glory be my wicked guide!” Sorry, one last twitch. More speediness coming up with “Fairytale”, a bouncy tune worthy of Freedom Call. Not that it doesn’t sound like Edguy, but they are mostly not that concerned with fairies and such matters. “Walk On Fighting” slows down once again and it almost feels like a marching song which only amplifies the uplifting content. The second ballad “Tomorrow” brings the album to a full halt with a guitar-free, keyboard-driven and quite beautiful hymn. On occasion Edguy is known to rock out and “No More Foolin’” is a fine example of them letting the guitars do the talking. Straightforward and catchy it’s less substantial but equally worth hearing. The closing cover of Ultravox’s “Hymn” is definitely a welcome addition. It goes well with the rest of the album and is a nice showcase for Tobias’ vocal chords. The Japanese bonus track “But Here I Am” is an agreeable Helloween-esque song with high-pitched voices randomly shouting things and Tobias sounding eerily like Michael Kiske at times. A nice tribute to the pumpkin kings.
The main theme on Vain Glory Opera seems to be the dichotomy between dream and reality. We aspire to become someone or gain something but in the end we either never achieve our goals or lose what we have won. Reality always catches up with dreams, and all we ever grasp is vain glory in the opera of life. It sounds depressing but recurring throughout the songs is a fighting spirit, an appeal for inner strength which would be the lead motif of successor “Theater of Salvation”. It is my belief Tobias Sammet is partially influenced by the teachings of occultist Aleister Crowley (who gets a mention in “Out Of Control” and also returns in other forms on other albums) about individualism and finding the truth within yourself. Not to paint Edguy as a Satanist band, but the references are not random. The most important lyrical concept of Edguy’s future discography found its seed on Vain Glory Opera and I will make numerous returns to it in further reviews.
Edguy rises again with the overture of a successful career with still many miles to go. Vain Glory Opera is an album by a band in full control, not living in fairytales but walking on fighting. No more fooling, tomorrow awaits. And now I alluded to all the song titles except “Scarlet Rose”. Ha, did it! What a hymn. But here I am ignoring the most fun thing about these super-lengthy reviews: the jokes!
Best silly joke: On “Fairytale” there is a brief appearance by what the booklet identifies as the “Choir of the damned Smurfs of death”. They sing to us the wonderful words “Lolalalolalalolalolalalolalalola” and I think we can all learn something from that. If only not to hire Smurfs for your damned choir of death.
Arno Callens’s Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Kingdom Of Madness (1997)
Theater Of Salvation (1999)