Edguy / Vader
Superheroes / The Art of War
2005 / 2006
B+ / B
omestarrunner.com's Strong Bad is the world's foremost cartoon Mexican wrestler. Surprisingly, he is also somewhat of a metal expert. In an email to a fan, he notes that to make death metal, one should be ugly or fat, as "the gift of death metal does not smile on the good looking." He accurately observes that Scandinavia is probably the only place left where death metal can get one girls. Finally, he notes the difference between hair metal and death metal. In the former, one screams at the top of one's lungs; in the latter, one screams from the bowels of one's lungs. Recent EP's from Edguy and Vader well illustrate this difference.
Edguy is a German quintet that seemingly stopped listening to music after the 80s. The band combines the keyboards and bombast of "The Final Countdown" with the chops and pace of Judas Priest. Throw in big hair, Flying V's, and Iron Maiden-esque solos, and you have the recipe for, well, cheese. Thankfully, Edguy knows this. The band is one of the prime exponents of "power metal," a subgenre characterized by extreme melodicism, dungeons and dragons lyrics, and men singing in registers normally reserved for castrati. What sets Edguy apart from its peers is its sense of humor. Like Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, its works have grown increasingly tongue-in-cheek, leading to the memorable single "Lavatory Love Machine" from 2004's Hellfire Club.
Superheroes should bring a smile to even the most po-faced metalhead. Remember when albums credited "gang vocals"? Well, gang vocals are aplenty here, with spectacular harmonies in charmingly fractured English: "And we never cry for love / We're superheroes / We are back where we belong / We never cry for pain / We're superheroes / Make a stand where we belong." Huh? The lyrics make no sense, but the melodies are so catchy one can't help but sing along. With the exception of the seven-minute "Judas at the Opera," the band abandons its trademark operatic epics for hooky, compact pop metal. With its triumphant choruses, "Spooks in the Attic" could be the soundtrack to 80s Japanese Anime, the kind where characters fly still in the air as backgrounds speed by. The surprise highlight is the "epic version" of the title track, which recasts the song as a lighters-up piano power ballad. Edguy's new album, Rocket Ride, entered the German charts at #8, but if 73 minutes of tight production and even tighter pants seem a bit much, this six-song EP should suffice.
Vader has a decidedly grimmer sound, having spent years behind the Iron Curtain. In 1986, singer/guitarist Piotr "Peter" Wiwczarek formed the band, helping start the Polish extreme metal scene that now includes heavies like Behemoth and Decapitated. Over the years, Vader has consistently played no-frills, thrash-influenced death metal that picks up where Slayer's Reign in Blood left off. The band has gone through numerous lineups, with the common denominators being Wiwczarek and, most of the time, drummer Krzysztof "Doc" Rackzkowski. What Dave Lombardo was to thrash, Doc was to death metal—fast, fiery, and seat-of-the-pants unpredictable. On 2000's classic Litany, Doc played so fast that the album was almost 10 minutes shorter than originally planned. However, Doc constantly struggled with drugs and alcohol, and he died last year at the age of 35. The Art of War is a fine testament to what he helped build.
This EP features good production and good artwork, neither of which Vader has had until now. Vader is raw and moshpit-friendly, but inadequate recording budgets have often hampered its albums. The sound here is sharp and heavy. Doc's successor Daray delivers a ripping performance, full of crazed fills and blastbeats. The riffs are propulsive, the solos are hot, and Wiwczarek's growl is strong as ever. In short, Vader is at the top of its game. The only gripe is that this EP is too short, as two of the six tracks are ambient interludes. But Vader albums have always been concise, and this EP only heightens anticipation for a full-length album. The CD also includes a Lord of the Rings-meets-Robotech video for "This Is the War." The animation is top-notch, and makes the EP a good value for those who can't catch Vader's legendary live shows.