German Symphonic Power metal band Blind Guardian, with their roots in the mid 80s, release their 10thstudio album, 5 years after the critically acclaimed At The Edge Of Time.
There is a long association between Germany and quality power metal, a scene largely influenced by the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and Iron Maiden that included Helloween as early proponents.
Formed in 1984 in Germany by vocalist / bassist Hanci Kursch and guitarist Andre Olbrich, the band were originally called Lucifer’s Heritage. A couple of demos and a series of line-up changes, the line-up settled with guitarist Marcus Siepen and drummer Thomas Stauch alongside Kurcsh and Olbrich. This foundation would last 18 years.
Signing to No Remorse, they changed their name to Blind Guardian and released their debut Battalions Of Steel, which was more of a speed metal / thrash affair.
Over the forthcoming albums the band’s sound would develop in a more melodic power metal direction, and the band rose in popularity. 1990’s ‘Tales From The Twilight World’ featured also used a choir and had a classical influence. Lyrical themes often mixed science fiction and fantasy, influenced by Tolkien and Moorcock. The band then signed to Virgin, and later Nuclear Blast, and Kursch dropped the bass (the band would use guest bassists, including Oliver Holzwarth). The band also lost drummer Stauch, unhappy at the band’s direction.
‘Beyond The red Mirror’, with longstanding drummer Frederik Ehmke and new guest bassist Barend Courbois, a concept album between fantasy and science fiction and lyrically a sequel to the band’s ‘Imaginations From The Other Side’.
Kicking off some Gregorian chanting, opener ‘The Ninth Wave’ has a gothic feel, moving in solid, screaming yet dark power metal direction. The vocals have range and a touch of scream, the operatic harmonies in the chorus add a nice touch too. ‘Twighlight Of The Gods’ (released as an EP last year, backed with some live tracks) nods to their speed roots and has some melodic vocals too.
‘Prophecies’ has an excellent feel, and some blistering guitar interplay mid-song. ‘At The Edge Time’ opens very melodically with the use of strings with the guitars, it builds in a grandiose way (element of Meat Loaf in a good way). In contrast ‘Ashes Of Eternity’ kicks off straight power metal, although some melodic vocal harmonies half way through. Some thunderous drumming too.
There’s some serious riffage throughout, and th production excellent. The orchestra and choir fit in well, the melodic neoclassical with a touch of gothic give an extra dimension to the rough power/speed metal. There’s a touch of melodic vocal harmonies (Freedom Call) and operatic classical (Rhapsody Of Fire) but not quite fully in the league of either. It is definitely on the right side of Power Metal, a degree up from the melodic symphonic side of Helloween, if a little samey at times.
The concept is as interesting, gripping and enjoyable as the music, and the performances cannot be faulted at any level.
There are two bonus tracks, ‘Distant Memories’ on the limited edition and vinyl versions, and ‘Doom on the Earbook’ version. 8/10