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Blind Guardian arrived fashionably late to the speed metal party. By 1988 almost everything that can be done in speed metal has been immortalized in vinyl and enjoyed by merry speedfreaks from California to Kathmandu. So yes, Blind Guardian treads familiar ground but with a much better grip at songwriting than uhh...Running Wild
*dodges bottles of piss and Lord-knows-what-else*
But seriously folks, even though the songs are simple when compared to their Imaginations or Somewhere Far Beyond stuff they're heads-and-shoulders above other speed metal bands. Particularly the song "Majesty," one of the best songs they've ever done (a list that mostly includes the first real song on their albums e.g. "Banish from Sanctuary," "Traveler in Time," etc.) It goes on forever but never gets old or boring.
Other highlights include "Guardian of the Blind," "Wizard's Crown," and "Battalions of Fear." "Guardian of the Blind" is frickin' nuts drumming-wise, just listen to the intro! Thomen is a force-a-nature!
There really isn't any filler, just songs of lesser quality. "The Martyr" and "Run for the Night" is sorta average, the latter is a NWOBHM inspired number. The instrumentals aren't particularly interesting either. If Hansi n Pals worked on "By the Gates of Moria" that would've been an awesome song. "Gandalf's Rebirth" is OK, some nice leads and good harmonies in the beginning but yeah, it's kinda like a warm-up instead of a serious effort.
The one element that clearly stands out is the guitar. The fusion of melody and riffs are quite different from typical power metal, there aren't a lot of dual leads other guitarist Marcus never/rarely plays a solo. Harmonized leads are rare as well, one that I recall is the pre-chorus harmony in "Majesty" and not much else. Not that it's a bad thing, some would say harmonies are over-used (not I, I just believe in "if it works, it works.") Speaking of riffs, boy do they know how to make 'em. Kinda like Helloween after a few rounds with Destruction, then Iron Maiden comes around and whips them all into slight gallops. Wait that don't make sense...alright so what I'm trying to say is that they're kind of NWOBHM-y but thrash tinged. That's better.
Drumming is also a total high-point, Thomen Stauch not only deviates from the usual double bass abuse, he sets a standard on how to drum in power fuckin' metal. Yes he uses double bass as well, but never does it feel aggravating or monotonous. See kids, it's not what you play, it's HOW you play! Bass? What bass, Hansi was never really one to come up with interesting basslines and I think he even buries it more in the remaster. Vocals...well we all know how fantastic Mr. Kursch is at singing, and we all know how annoying those googolplex overdubs are so it's nice to hear Hansi and Hansi only. Though there might have been some overdubs (or maybe it's gang vocals, not sure) they are not as gratuitous as A Night at the Opera or A Twist in the Myth.
In short, this is a fantastic debut. While it's not as consistently awesome as Follow the Blind or as varied as Imaginations From the Other Side, it's still better than its competitors. Hell, I listen to this album more often than Gates to Purgatory or Walls of Jericho combined. It's just that awesometastic(tm)
NOTE: Remaster comes with one of the Lucifer's Heritage demo, will review that 'un as well.