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Although my listening and reviewing habits used to be driven by the tendencies of an unhealthy completionist, I've since all but thrown 'single' releases to the curb, in all but the most exciting cases. It's sometimes interesting to see what song a band (or label) has chosen to represent its native album, but in genres where real radio play is a fever dream and the rest of the album is usually another click away, singles have little more relevance than best-of compilations. The irrelevance is triply applicable to singles after the hype of their flagship album has come and gone. Regardless, I feel like A Voice in the Dark has been worth revisiting as a single, if only because it was a rare case that informed, or more accurately dissuaded my experience of the album it promoted.
Blind Guardian was one of my favourite metal bands when At the Edge of Time dropped in 2010, and my love for them has only grown. Although A Night at the Opera and Nightfall in Middle-Earth both ranked among my favourite power metal albums (and still do), listening to "A Voice in the Dark" was actually enough to keep me from checking out the rest of the album. It sounds strange to say, but I was put off by the sterile sound of it enough that I lost interest in seeing what the rest of the album had in store. As it turns out, I got around to listening to At the Edge of Time five years later. Indeed, a lot of my apprehensions were confirmed on the album-- it felt overproduced, and more of a fan-pleaser than forward-thinking art-- but my opinion on the song itself has changed. I think "A Voice in the Dark" is a pretty good song now; it was one of the few songs of their newest period that may have fit comfortably on an older Blind Guardian album, factory furnished production notwithstanding of course.
Although it doesn't have one of their better choruses, the structure of the song feels both urgent and sophisticated. I would have thought "Tanelorn" too be the best teaser for At the Edge of Time, but "A Voice in the Dark" carries a lot of the things one would expect in Blind Guardian-- lavishly overdubbed vocal arrangements, speed and epic scope among them. If there's anything yet of value to the present-day listener, the b-sides would be the thing. Although their cover of John Farnham's "You're the Voice" ranks among the most middling interpretations they've ever recorded (the original isn't good to begin with) the unplugged take of "War of the Thrones" is worth a listen; I do think the fireside intimacy of acoustic guitars works better for their minstrelsy tunes than the bigger arrangement featured on the main album.
At one point or another, every band with a lengthy career will repeat themselves. Blind Guardian are no exception to this rule, although the primary way that they continually repeat themselves is in their approach to promoting albums. Be it the ever memorable ballad lead off to single to “Imaginations From The Other Side” aptly titled “A Past And Future Secret”, or the deceptively powerful lead off to the somewhat lackluster “A Twist In The Myth” known to the common man as “Fly”, a typical formula of providing a memorable and hard hitting fanfare, and two counterpoints in a folksy acoustic ballad and a genre-bending cover song, always emerges. Naturally there are nuances between each of these singles, and “A Voice In The Dark” tends a little bit closer to “Fly”, except in that it is a little bit more indicative of how “At The Edge Of Time” sounds as a whole.
Whether or not the title song is a reaction to disappointment among the fans in this band’s lighter approach of late, “A Voice In The Dark” is a clear nod back to the transitional blend of chorus-oriented power metal and older guard speed metal that defined the band’s early 90s releases. It’s faster, heavier, less drenched in harmonic lead guitar passages, and much simpler in its presentation. In fact, apart from a somewhat more processed and squeaky clean drum production and a slightly less gravely vocal delivery, this song is radically similar to several heard on Thomen Stauch side-project Savage Circus’ debut album “Dreamland Manor”. It’s a bit formulaic and predictable, but also a fun listen and a very good indicator of the harder-edged nature of the recently released full length it’s drawn from.
The accompanying music is a little bit more of a mixed bag, particularly if one wants a good impression of what is to come. The folk-ballad “War Of The Thrones” bears a heavy resemblance to “A Past And Future Secret”, featuring the same sort of plain strummed, melancholy ode to arcane storytelling, but with a happier sounds chorus the resembles a military march. Perhaps its biggest flaw is a little less distinctiveness to it than the dancing “Skalds And Shadows”, the epic and complex “Lord Of The Rings” and the deeply memorable “In The Forest”. The John Farnham cover is where some remnants of the progressive rock influences of “A Twist In The Myth” start to reemerge. There’s an interesting hodgepodge of techno and folk music additives that lighten the load quite a bit, not to mention that the guitar tone sounds a bit more spacey and mechanical, but it’s carried fairly well for what it is.
Those who jumped the gun and purchased this single, at the very least, got some good upfront advice on what they should purchase next. It might be a bit cliché, but Blind Guardian has definitely made a comeback here, at least insofar as those who want more of their roots showing in their music. But those who held off, picking up a copy of the new full length album will suffice, as this doesn’t serve much purpose apart from promotion except for those interested in hearing the uncharacteristic cover song found on here.
Blind Guardian have been on a roll with their release times, haven't they? With four-year intervals between albums ever since 'Nightfall in Middle-Earth', they can't exactly be called prolific, but what the hell, as long as the music is still strong.
And if this single is any indication, it certainly is.
I, like many fans out there, have missed Blind Guardian's older, faster style for a while now. There's nothing (much) wrong with 'A Twist in the Myth' and 'A Night at the Opera', but the old aggression was definitely lacking. It seems that, for at least one song, Blind Guardian has brought that aggression back. 'A Voice in the Dark' hearkens back to the glorious albums they released in the '90s, featuring a quick overall tempo, thrashing rhythm guitars, soaring melodies, and lyrical yet shredding solos. This is how they were meant to sound - this is awesome.
And how about Hansi's voice? The man's been singing heavy metal for at least 25 years now, and yet his voice shows no signs of decay. (For an example of the opposite story, see: Geoff Tate.) His vocals are still gravelly yet supremely melodic, and his range actually seems to be expanding as he gets older (listen to those high harmonies!).
Time isn't slowing down Andre Olbrich or Marcus Siepen either; it's been some time since I heard them play with such energy. The rhythm guitar is more prominent than it has been in over eight years, and the lead guitar remains flawless. Seriously, give me a Blind Guardian solo over just about any other band in metal. They don't just serve as a release of energy in the middle of the song, they tell their own story, introducing little melodies, developing them, and tying them into the context of the overall song, all while feeling every bit as spontaneous and fun as any chaotic thrash solo. I've always loved that.
Frederik Ehmke continues to perform admirably on the drums; I would not guess that he's a relatively new addition to the group if I didn't already know it. Also, the other little things he brings, like the bagpipe solo in the middle of 'You're the Voice', are really nice touches.
Speaking of 'You're the Voice', it's a good cover, just as well-done as any other they've done, but I don't expect to listen to it much. Furthermore, I'd have preferred another original song, preferably one that won't be on the full album, and for that reason I must dock some points. 'War of the Thrones' is yet another great 'medieval ballad' by the Bards, sounding similar to 'A Past and Future Secret' and 'Skalds and Shadows' while being a bit more complex and involved than either; if track two were an original song on a level with the first and last songs, we'd have a damn near perfect single.
Lastly, the production is the best they've had in over a decade. 'A Twist in the Myth' had a rather artificial, modern, glossy sheen that bugged me, and 'A Night at the Opera' was just too dense, but this time they got it right. The rhythm section is heavy and natural-sounding, the vocals and lead guitar are clear and just loud enough, and basically the whole thing just wins.
So should you get this? If you're already a fan, my answer is yes, absolutely. If you're new to Blind Guardian, you're probably better off just waiting for 'At the Edge of Time' (but whose first purchase by a band is a single, anyway?). For my part, I'm extremely happy with what I'm hearing from these guys, and if 'A Twist in the Myth' was a slight departure for them, then with 'A Voice in the Dark' I feel confident in saying: they're back.
Once again, we stand on the precipice of a new full-length Blind Guardian release, and once again, the band and their following are hyping this up through the roof. Whether this is deserved due to the band's veteran status and financial success, or the rabid 'Beatles for nerds' obsession, I can only guess, but one would think the fans would not have such high expectations after the previous effort, A Twist in the Myth. While a good enough album, it was certainly the weakest they've put out to date, with some fruity lyrics and inconsistent writing quality. The 'lead-off' single is nothing new to the German mainstay, and A Voice in the Dark comes conveniently to fuel the fan reaction and perhaps ensure some additional sales of the full-length.
It's fortunate that we have had access to clips of all the album tracks from the band's official website, because I've heard some promising snippets in various tunes. What's not fortunate is that none of those tunes are here on this single, so putting their best foot forward here is really out of the question. This contains both of the album songs centered on George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire, and another of the band's unceasing parade of cover songs. From a production standpoint, the tracks are flush and clean, and though highly processed as per the last few albums, they feel a little glossier and more coherent, and I daresay the title track is a little heavier, returning to the Imaginations from the Other Side era and before.
"A Voice in the Dark" focuses on the tragic character of Bran Stark from the Martin novels, and this is a pretty interesting idea. The riffs are aggressively thrashing speed like old school Blind Guardian, but sadly they're just not very memorable, with the one exception of the uplifting sequence first arriving around 1:20. The multi-vocal tracking is fairly tight, the musicianship competence, including a thundering volley from Frederik Ehmke, but it's hardly as emotionally inspiring as a "Bright Eyes", "Time Stands Still" or "Journey Through the Dark". The other original is an acoustic version of "War of the Thrones", which is a fairly typical Blind Guardian ballad with somber guitars, soaring and soothing vocals, and as much orchestration as can be packed in. A few of the escalating vocal segments are satisfactory, but the actual gist of the piece feels rather samey, as if the band has been down this road before and there's not a lot of distinct qualities.
The cover track is an interesting choice, and though I didn't care for it, it seems to suit Blind Guardian's style fairly well. It's a pop song called "You're the Voice", which I assume is supposed to fit in here due to its similar title to the single track. Although I've been a fan of Australian pop for decades now, fawning over such cheesy and disposable, but catchy artists as Wa Wa Nee or Pseudo Echo, I've never cared for the Johnny Farnham original. The guy could sing, and Hansi does a fairly predictable interpretation of his chorus here, but I simply never found the notes or melodies all that interesting, nor the all too typical 80s anti-war hippie lyrics. Thus, though curious to behold how the band converts the cover straight into the power metal format, its pretty fruity and I felt no compulsion to play it repeatedly.
Probably the real sinker to this single is that almost ALL of the material here is available with the limited edition of the full-length, including an edit of the cover song. The one exception is the 'acoustic' version of "War of the Thrones", which is probably not as good as the album cut anyways. So unless you like flushing your cash down the toilet of Hansi and the boys' pants' pockets, or you absolutely must be the first dork on your block to own the new Blind Guardian single and be that much less likely to get laid, you should save your purse for the full-length, since some of the other tracks are vastly more intriguing than these. I'm all for George R.R. Martin metal. I've read the books for many years, and eagerly anticipate the TV version. It's the right time to strike lyric-wise into this territory, but the songs are not that great otherwise, and there is little else of value to this single except maybe the unique cover art.
After a 4 year wait, one of my favorite bands, Blind Guardian, is back. This single has two songs that will be on the upcoming album and one cover, and based off this single I'm pretty sure the full album will be fantastic.
The title track is more of a throwback to Blind Guardians speed/power metal days, with fast drumming and guitars and Hansi sounding as ferocious as ever. I'm not a huge fan of the bands older music but this is pretty good, with some awesome soloing and fantastic catchy vocals. I wasn't blown away by it but its a good solid Blind Guardian song.
The second song is a cover of the John Farnham song"You're the Voice", and since I'm not really familiar with the original I don't know how good this version really is in comparison. It's an okay song, nothing really amazing, and Blind Guardian have definitely done better covers.
Lastly comes "War of the Thrones". This song is why I love Blind Guardian. It's an acoustic ballad and definitely one of the best they've ever done. The vocals sound brilliant, guitars are as usual outstanding and the writing is top notch. It far outranks "Skalds and Shadows" from the most recent album and I daresay it's as good if not more so than "The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight" from A Night at the Opera. "War of the Thrones" is catchy, dramatic and has a brilliant ending chorus that ranks as one of the catchiest moments in Blind Guardians entire career. Definitely my favorite from this single.
A Voice in the Dark definitely has me salivating over the full length album, and it's definitely somehting I'll be buying as soon as it comes out. Blind Guardian have once again proved that they're one of the best bands in the business and I have no doubt the new album will be one of their best efforts.
After over four years of waiting, the mighty Blind Guardian return with their much anticipated new album, but first, they release a small teaser with two non-album tracks and the highlight of the single, “A Voice in the Dark.” Throughout the past decade, many old school Blind Guardian fans have been complaining about how Hansi and company have turned from their speedy/power metal roots to a more epic, grandiose and progressive sound. Those who have turned away from Blind Guardian may have done so too soon. For the new single, the band goes back to their thrashier and speedy roots, but also incorporates that new sound from their previous two albums. That being said, let’s talk about the actual content and quality of the three new songs.
The first song on the single is also going to appear as is on Blind Guardian’s ninth full-length, At the Edge of Time. As previously mentioned, this song returns back to the speedy ways of the Imaginations from the other Side and Somewhere Far Beyond days. It is not only a return to that style, but a very good song as well. The intro really stands out and is in the vein of “Valhalla” and “This Will Never End.” The chorus is also very catchy and also has a superb buildup. Hansi’s voice takes on a harsh vocalization like the old days as well. All in all, one of the best songs by Blind Guardian since “And then there was Silence.” The second song is a 1980’s cover of John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice.” For what it is, Blind Guardian did a good job with the cover. You either like it or hate it. I personally like the cover, as they really did something right with the chorus. This song can get better or worse with more listening. The last song is an acoustic version of the song “War of the Thrones.” This is a ballad in the vein of “Harvest of Sorrow” and “All the King’s Horses,” but also contains a bit of medieval flair. It is one of the better ballads by the band and a very impressive song all together. The album version will contain a piano version of the song, which should be interesting as well.
Blind Guardian take their time (four years in between albums is a long time), but when they put out material, it is quality, and the same can be said about A Voice in the Dark. This single gives only a small taste of what is to come on their forthcoming album, but this leaves little doubt in my mind that one of the best power metal bands around will make a killer new album to rival their past “glory” days as some might say.