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Blind Guardian's new single easily sums up both the best and the worst of this band, containing three songs: the heavily progressive title track, the acoustic ballad, and the (rare) cover. Had the single included the last two tracks only, it would have received 100% from me, but the flaws of 'Fly' mark it down.
The song 'Fly', the first recording with BG's new drummer, is so heavy with effects that, were it not for Hansi's distinctive voice, I would not have recognized the band. It is progressive and a huge step forward for them, but if there was such a thing as being too progressive, this would be a perfect example. Almost every second there is some unneeded effect that does not improve the song in the least. It's different from the over-orchestrated Night at the Opera in that it doesn't have a whole orchestra playing behind it, but the music becomes too full of unnecessary sounds that in some ways it loses the power that BG accomplished with their early albums, when all there was was guitars, drums, and voice (only one voice, back then). Now for the better parts: The chorus is excellent, and the guitar solo is good. The lyrics should have been put to better use, as they are inspirational and well-written. In the parts of the song that are free of effects, you can hear a little of the old sound of the band, but not much. The only conclusion I can draw from this is simply that some parts of the song rock hard, and some suck hard, and I am not sure what to expect of the upcoming album.
'Skalds and Shadows': now this is what Blind Guardian is about! An acoustic ballad to rival 'The Bard's Song', it makes up for whatever the single lost on 'Fly'. This is what they were meant to do, and I am glad to see that even with the prog-fest of 'Fly', they are still able to produce a more-than-high-quality song. Skalds and Shadows only improves with the references to Norse mythology (the Volsunga saga), which has not been seen in BG music since the masterpiece 'Valhalla'. This one is near-perfect, and the lyrics ("songs I will sing, of runes and rings") sum up everything that is great about this band.
'In a gadda da Vida" is the last song I would have expected BG to cover, but it ends being an interesting example of what happens when you take a 70s acid-rock tune and translate it into speed metal. The result is entertaining, to say the least. As it will not appear on the upcoming album, I dont think it was intended to be taken entirely seriously. But whatever, its good fun, and a chance for the new drummer to prove his worth.
In conclusion, this single leaves me with mixed expectations for the new album. At points while listening to 'Fly', I had to fight the urge to turn it off and play the good old songs off of Battalions of Fear or Nightfall in Middle-earth, which single-handedly made this band one of my favorites. Its important for bands to progess and take steps forward, but they should keep in mind that if they found a sound that worked and owned and kicked ass (and most importantly, fucking rocked), they should try to preserve some of it. All I can say about the new album is that I'm hoping for a return to the sound of 'Nightfall' and 'Somewhere far Beyond', and the things that established BG as the kings of Power Metal.