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Continuing to Progress. - 84%

hells_unicorn, October 24th, 2006

After 4 years of waiting, and a rather unfortunately line-up change that left one of the few metal bands to keep it's original fold together so long splintered, Blind Guardian has given us a taste of what is to come for the 2006 release season. Unlike what many have suggested, I have few questions and most of the answers that I'm looking for, and that is how the line-up change would affect the band.

Frederik Ehmke is pretty much a carbon copy of Thomen Stauch in terms of both style and sound, and to this I have absolutely no complaints. You don't mess with perfection by taking on someone with a radically different sound simply for the sake of cutting ties with the past. Stauch didn't see eye to eye with the others on the musical direction of the band, and opted to create his own band, and now we have 2 bands that have a somewhat similar sound, but whom have a very different philosophy about where metal should go. Blind Guardian has opted to paint their sound with a more progressive edge, while Savage Circus seeks to keep the older Speed Metal version of Blind Guardian's past alive. Both of these approaches are correct in my view, as they help to continue to both grow and keep the genre centered, and I am actually glad that things turned out as they did.

The songs on here represent the dual nature of the studio album that would soon follow, one that is in my top 3 for the best release of 2006. "Fly" represents the further expansion of the progressive sound that first appeared on "A Night at the Opera", complete with a very processed sounding production and loads of contrasting musical sections. "Skalds and Shadows" is, by contrast, a revisiting of the classic ballad approach that made "A Past and Future Secret" an instant classic. This version lacks many additional textural dressings that would appear on the album version, but is a pleasant, quasi-Blackmore's Night ballad that keeps the spirit of BG's Middle Earth sound alive.

The cover song "In a Gadda Da Vida" is, surprisingly, the highlight of this single. I used to be a huge fan of the original Iron Butterfly song before getting into Metal, and I can confidently say that I prefer this version to the original. It's more time compressed, and consequently less boring, and given a good healthy does of BG style guitar harmonizing. André Olbrich is still tearing up the fret board with the best of them, and his wah pedal dominated solo on here gives this song a slightly Jimi Hendrix character.

In conclusion, this is a great single that is worthy of picking up even if you already have "A Twist in the Myth" in your collection. The Iron Butterfly cover, alone, is worth the few bucks to pic it up, and I suspect the next compilation of BG rarities will not be coming out for quite a while.