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Let us not mince words when it comes to the eternal fleecing of the music fan at the hands of their tormentor: the industry. They are out to rape your wallet, and rape it hard. They always have been. When a band achieved a solid consumer base for their releases in the late 80s (through the present), the CD single was not far behind...in the grand tradition of vinyl and cassette. So it's not a surprise then that Blind Guardian and their record labels through the years have been tasked by the same impulse, and have put out about 10-11 of these things.
Blind Guardian was a pretty huge band, even by 1995, and if they release a few tracks as a teaser in advance of their Imaginations from the Other Side album, so be it. I admit to importing the blasted thing myself. "A Past and Future Secret" and title track "Imaginations from the Other Side" are both present, two excellent tracks from one of the band's best overall releases. The title track to the single is a great orchestral/acoustic ballad with an impassioned performance from Hansi, far better than prior attempts like "The Bard's Song - In the Forest". "Imaginations from the Other Side" is a powerful, driving song which is representative of that album as a whole: heavy, progressive, with Olbrich's melodic squeals weaving through the processed chords, and a brazen, unforgettable chorus.
The remainder of this single consists of the band's cover of "The Wizard" by Uriah Heep, and an instrumental version of "A Past and Future Secret". The cover is decent, and the instrumental is perfect for your Lord of the Rings karaoke party with all your dorky friends whose fandom does not exist outside of J.K. Rowling, Robert Jordan and Peter Jackson. As a teaser at a decent price, this single would not have been a total waste of time if you wanted some new Blind Guardian months before the release of the full-length. But in retrospect, it is almost entirely without value...as "The Wizard" was released on The Forgotten Tales compilation and the two studio originals are part of a kick ass album alongside many others. So, unless you really want the instrumental track, or you collect useless plastic media which would be better off melted into slag, there is no reason to own this in the 21st century.
This is probably the strongest single ever put out by Blind Guardian, primarily because it includes the two greatest tracks on one of their most well-known albums, Imaginations from the Other Side. The album itself represents a transitional stage where Blind Guardian morphed from being a Speed/Power Metal band with some slight Prog. moments into being a Power/Prog. outift responsible for the magnum opus "Nightfall on Middle Earth".
We open up this miniature chest of wonders with the title track of the single "A past and future secret". This is my favorite acoustic ballad performed by Blind Guardian due to the brilliant blend of orchestration, acoustic guitars, and vocal tracks. Hansi Kursch utilizes his clean lower range quite effectively, though we have some great rough edged grunts as well. Thomen Stauch's military snare line pushes this one along nicely, and the switching on and off of the snare provides an intricant textural contrast.
The second track on here is the title track of the album that followed it "Imaginations from the Other Side". This is the quintessential BG epic in the vain of such classics as the title track to "Somewhere Far Beyond" and the anthem driven epic "The Last Candle". We have a very spooky keyboard intro that provides an other worldly feel to the song, followed by some amazing speed riffs and powerful vox.
The Uriah Heep cover "The Wizard" underscores BG's unique ability to take a song that is stylistically different to their own and make it their's musically. The chorus is thunderous and heavy, while much of the rest of the song has an acoustic rock feel to it, complete with some great vocal story telling.
We also have a completely instrumental version of "A Past and Future Secret" that deserves mention as it gives further perspective on the song's significance to the changes occuring in BG. These guys had been flirting with orchestral influences since their first keyboard filled ballad "Lord of the Rings", but here the result is fully realized with amazing results. The flute and string parts melt in together with the acoustic guitar riffs perfectly, and the full affect of the triumphant drum beat can be heard more clearly. This sound would become more standardized on "Nightfall in Middle Earth" in both their lighter and heavier tracks, and then grow into a quasi-operatic Prog. sound on "A Night at the Opera".
In conclusion, this is a single worth getting, even if you already have the full length album on CD. The Uriah Heep cover and the alternate version of "A Past and Future Secret" were incentive enough for me to get it. This single was the beginning of a stylistic shift for BG that not everyone took to, but it still contains enough of the older style not to be lumped in with "Nightfall", which I think is unfairly criticized as being overly progressive.