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At this point in their career, Blind Guardian followed the 'more is more' mindset; their studiocraft was increasingly lavish, and no potential layer in the arrangement was left unrealized. It's unsurprising that their approach to live albums would take a similar form. Live came out on the heels of A Night at the Opera; above and away the most insane album they've ever done, and still probably power metal's most complex achievement. When Blind Guardian eschewed the symphonic bombast for a more song-based focus on A Twist on the Myth, they did so with the expressed intention that they wanted to write songs that would better suit their live shows. What perverse pleasure is it, then, to hear them perform songs live that potentially took months a piece to record in the studio?
Blind Guardian came out with three more full-lengths in the decade since Tokyo Tales. As if to match their studio work in terms of sheer pomposity, Live is well over two hours long, touching upon every album, and virtually every classic a fan could hope to hear performed. Again contrary to Tokyo Tales; Live was recorded in spurts across a major world-spanning tour. They've returned to Tokyo with this one, but they've also rolled through Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy and Russia. I foreshadowed in my review of Tokyo Tales that live albums were usually released as a monument to a band's career-spanning achievements. Hearing them playing before they 'made it big' on Tokyo Tales was part of that album's charm. Though Live is arguably the more definitive live album, it proves my original point. Every part of this release is as if to ride home the fact that, yes, Blind Guardian are indeed incredible. And successful too!
The setlist here is enough to make any power metal fan wet at in the loins. There are choice selections from every album; from the speed-fuelled Battalions of Fear to the more recent-day symphonic prog metal of Nightfall in Middle-Earth and A Night at the Opera. I have said before that a live albums success depends on how well a band knows their audience, and in this regard, Blind Guardian have the clear sense to pick songs that fans will come frothing for. "Into the Storm" and "Nightfall" off Nightfall in Middle-Earth are exciting to hear brought to life; most notably, a lot of the songs from Imaginations from the Other Side bear a live interpretation extremely well. "Mordred's Song" and "Bright Eyes" sound as wonderful live as they did on the original album, and the crowd cheers accordingly.
While songs from the first four albums are well-picked, it's almost entirely material that was covered already on Tokyo Tales-- and with greater grit and fire, in my opinion! The only exception to this is the mandatory live rendition of "The Bard's Song", a classic that was conspicuously overlooked on their first live album, but has since become both the most anticipated and mind-numbingly overplayed song in their catalogue. As any fan of the band might expect, the crowd goes fucking wild when they tear out their fiddly acoustics and turn the arena into a damp, plague-ridden tavern. The crowd chants hazily along, and occasionally chants on their own when Hansi takes a break.
I don't think any album Blind Guardian had made up to this point other than Follow the Blind was excellent, and even then, that album is represented favourably here with one of its two highlights, "Valhalla". As it happens, all of the songs here range from being great to downright incredible. If there is any bone to pick with the setlist, I might call to attention the way they represent A Night at the Opera. I'll take the unpopular view of saying it is Blind Guardian's strongest album, but even then, of the tracks they chose, only "The Soulforged" is perfectly chosen for a live album. This isn't to say that "Under the Ice" and "Punishment Divine" don't work here, nor that A night at the Opera didn't have other potentially fantastic live songs. I mean, instead of "Under the Ice", why not "Battlefield", or even "Precious Jerusalem"? Even that grimy few in BG's fanbase that can't see the album for the masterpiece that it is shouldn't have found any gripe in hearing those songs played live. I suppose it's a minor gripe overall, but considering we already had stronger live versions of many of the earlier songs on a live album already, the more recent stuff feels quite a bit more important to the album's success.
I'll go ahead and say it: the music here is fantastic. I love Blind Guardian and think they're one of the few metal bands to have genuinely altered the course of my listening digest in a significant way. With that in mind it's surprising I only checked out Live until recently. Unlike Tokyo Tales however, I'm not sure these performances enrich my appreciation of the music all that much. It is wonderfully performed and professionally mixed, but I don't get that feeling of 'really being there', the way I felt on their first live album. A large part of this, I think, is due to the fact that the recordings are drawn from a wide range of shows and crowds. There's never really a chance to get into the pulse of an audience, to experience the band with them. The album's engineer has nonetheless made it feel like a technically seamless product, but patchwork is evident in the lack of an emotional flow. It's even more difficult to feel properly immersed in their live magic when Hansi will be greeting San Sebastien in Spanish, and later hailing his compatriots in Stuttgart or Dusseldorf in his native tongue. Their performances are as fantastic as I would expect from one of metal's finest exports, but Live strikes me a bit like a live rendition of a greatest hits collection, rather than the virtual reality, immersive experience I can find in the best live albums.
A decade past Tokyo Tales, it was time to release another Blind Guardian live effort, both to celebrate a very successful 10 years that included the release of all their best albums (Imaginations from the Other Side, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, Night at the Opera) and also pad the pockets for a job well done on their numerous tours. Live is given the full treatment, two discs and 22 tracks, at about 2 hours 14 minutes of total material. It was great to hear the newer stuff in particular, as I had been growing disenchanted by the band's excess studio edits and overdubs that had been evolving into their sound as early as Imaginations, but becoming almost unbearable for me on Night at the Opera (though I still love the actual songs). I had the chance to see the band perform at their Worcester Palladium gig around the year of this release, and can attest to how much better this later material sounds on the stage. For that reason alone, Live is worth spending the coin for.
Unlike Tokyo Tales, this is not the result of a few dates in a single city, but an accumulation of tracks from dates all over (Europe, for the most part). There are recordings from Aviles, Barcelona, Berlin, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Firenze, Granada, Hamburg, Lichtenfels, Madrid, Milano, Moscow, Munich, San Sebastian, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Valencia and Venice, a list which fully supports just how huge and international this band had become during the 21st century. The classic lineup is intact, with assistance from the Oliver and Alex Holzwarth rhythm section, and Michael Schüren on keys. Producer and sound engineer Charlie Bauerfiend (also responsible for some of their studio albums) is in charge of making it gleam, and to this extent the double live album is a raging success.
The biggest attraction for me here is to hear live takes of the more recent studio efforts, since much of the earlier material here is redundant to what had been recorded for Tokyo Tales. A Night at the Opera is represented with "The Soulforged", "Punishment Divine", and a great rendition of "Under the Ice". The Nightfall in Middle-Earth tracks comprise a solid chunk of the album; "War of Wrath" intro, "Into the Storm", "Nightfall", "Time Stands Still" and "Mirror Mirror" are all included. As for Imaginations to the Other Side, we get "The Script for My Requiem", "Mordred's Song", "Born in a Mourning Hall", "Bright Eyes", "Imaginations from the Other Side", and "The Script for My Requiem", all of which sound fucking intense. For earlier material, we have "Journey Through the Dark" and "The Bard's Song" from Somewhere Far Beyond; "Welcome to Dying", "Lord of the Rings" and "Lost in the Twilight Hall" from Tales from the Twilight World; "Valhalla" from Follow the Blind; and "Majesty" from Battalions of Fear. It's a great overall selection, spanning their entire body of studio work, and perhaps the only song that doesn't get me giddy is the "The Bard's Song", which to be fair, has never done much for me, though it does cause live crowds to break out their lighters and join together in...whatever.
In short, this is one of the better live offerings out there for a metal band, and assuming you aren't paying an arm and a leg for it, worth picking up. Most Blind Guardian fans are fanatics and already own this, but then, if you put a Blind Guardian logo and Andreas Marschall cover scan on a used tire or flyswatter, they'd also buy that. But with a great song selection and sound quality that rivals most of the band's actual studio efforts, Live is worth it even for the more conservative spender and listener.
Highlights: All the material from the three studio albums before this released.
I'm not the one for sucking up but this album deserves it. Even Katatonia, for whom I've been called a fanboy a lot, get less praise than this album. Virtually every review stated how great it is and I really just want to cement this. It is awesome.
Power metal is about feeling good, feeling strong, connected and whatever else you like, its the epitome of the positive feelings metal gives. Not so much about fury, anger or hate, although thats of course possible as well. Anyway. The point of power metal for me is to make you feel wonderful and this album does it. But how?
First there's the musicianship. Now, live albums are often overdubbed and I've no idea how much the lads tweaked later but from all the bootlegs I've seen I'd say these guys are really this good. There are no fuck-ups, not one missed beat or bad strum. Andre plays his leads and solos like the master he is and Markus remains a rapidly moving rhythm hovertank. Thomas outdrums all those sissy pseudo-technical deathcore drummers out there with a mix of powerful simplicity and sudden technical bursts. And its fast.
Also there are Hansi's vocals which make me want to crawl up and purr like a headbanging kitten on catnip.
There's the song selection. It does not offer that much of the Guardian's back catalogue but we get the classics like Majesty and Valhalla and older songs like Welcome To Dying and Lost in The Twilight Hall, which should keep the older fans happy. Fans of the newer stuff get a treat with Into The Storm, Time Stands Still, Mirror Mirror, Under The Ice and Punishment Divine.
Also there are the obvious ballads, A Past And Future Secret and The Bard's Song, the letter making me feel like a well fed hunting dog in front of a fire - ok I stop the animal similes now.
So in all respects a good song selection. It may omit someone's favorite track but be fair, these guys have a lot of songs and have to compromise.
The production is stellar, the noise of the crowd is well used.. what else can I say about that?
Ah yes.. the whole thing is stitched together from different concerts and based on the banter between songs you know that.. feels a bit odd sometimes when Hansi first greets Milan and then acknowledges Stuttgart's level of noise. The Guardian's should listen to Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album by the skapunk jesters Reel Big Fish the see how to mix different live performances into one huge orgasmic concert experience, although the should disregard the music a bit.
In short: Get this, its awesome. And please help me to find a mop to clean up all this sudden spunk.
This live album makes me angry. Very angry. But it's not because of any lack of quality, or even because "it could be so much better." What makes me angry is that I was supposed to see Blind Guardian on this tour, playing at this level of awesomeness, and then their tour bus broke down and they couldn't come to San Francisco. Cock. Sucking. Mother. Fuckers. I apologize for the rant, but hopefully my anger will help you understand that this album is really good.
Because it is. Live is on a level with Live After Death, Alive in Athens, Unleashed In the East, and all those other claimants to the throne of "TEH BESTEST LVIE ALBAM EVAH!!!!11" This is modern power metal at its absolute peak, with the silly orchestral elements kept to a bare minimum and the speed, talent, and glorious, glorious power shining through. The four band members (plus guest bassist Oliver Holzwarth and occasional drummer Alex Holzwarth) are at a musical peak, and the crowd is loud and energetic without being overwhelming. And as mentioned, the keyboardist thankfully does not do much beside add background effects.
The setlist is generally very well chosen, and the adaptation of the songs to a live setting shows that under the requisite modern-power aura of synthed-out cheese, Blind Guardian has some really fucking well-written and heavy songs. The only low point on Disc One is "Nightfall;" besides, at the third song, being too early in the set for a ballad, this song is just generally kind of boring and doesn't translate well to a live setting. Disc Two's lame track is "Punishment Divine," which is a cheesy, overly orchestrated, badly arranged song on the studio album and is a cheesy, under-riffed, badly arranged song here. They don't have "And Then There Was Silence" (or at least part of it), "Another Holy War" or "Thorn." And that's where the complaints end.
The first disc is probably the better one, simply for the inclusion of two of Blind Guardian's best songs, "Majesty" and "The Script For My Requiem." Brilliant speed metal in both cases, "Majesty" shines more on this disc because of the band's impressive gains in playing ability since Batallions of Fear. Hansi's voice is the most notable difference - his extremely extended range brings this song to new heights of epicness. And that intro riff is easily one of the five or ten greatest intro riffs ever. "Script" is nearly as good, played up-tempo with great vocal acrobatics throughout (especially around 3:20).
Besides those two, the first disc also spotlights requisite opener "Into the Storm," ballad "Harvest of Sorrow" (much better sung live than studio), a fast-paced nod to the old school in "Valhalla" (with excellent crowd participation), and the utterly masterful "Mordred's Song," which shows how just a minor vocal change (the way Hansi sings "Turn off the light, and murder the dawn") can improve the feel of a whole song.
The second disc makes a case for itself with "Time Stands Still (At the Iron Hill)," which is the best track from Nightfall In Middle-Earth and simply CRUSHES on this disc. You hear that chugging riffage? That is the sound of several thousand elves completely getting their asses handed to them by the Hordes of Darkness. Epic beyond epic. "Mirror Mirror" kicks ass, of course, and "Journey Through the Dark" is a course in Kickass Speed Metal 101. It should be noted that the lead guitar throughout this whole album is excellent, playing all kinds of swank melodies and shredding solos.
What else rocks? EVERYTHING. Well, notably the emotionally sung and lead-heavy "Bright Eyes," complete with creepy sex-criminal intro from Mr. Kursch ("I would like to see....all your shiny...bright eyes..."); "Under the Ice" is revealed as really quite good under all that pretentious orchestral turd-dom on A Night At the Opera; "The Bard's Song" is performed with the kind of crowd participation that makes you feel like you're right there in the middle of it and start singing along on the bus. And the rest rocks too.
Excellent, excellent live album - power metal the way God intended it to be played when, on the 666th day, He invented the art of Heavy Fucking Metal. Sonata Arctica, Rhapsody, Freedom Call, take notes - no string sections, 78-tracked vocals, or references to Fairyland are necessary to make good music. And Blind Guardian, you guys take notes too and look at them when you record your next studio album. Stick to the basics - power metal. Good, old-school power metal like this. Because it simply kicks ass.
Fuck yes! This album kicks ass in all perspectives. Like I always say, live albums make or break bands. When metal heads listen to live albums they get a taste of the band live. If it sounds like crap, then they might not see the band, thinking that they sound like crap live. But if the album kicks ass, they will definetly go see the band! This album will definetly make you go see Blind Guardian.
I got to see Blind Guardian during this tour, and this album sounds a lot like when I saw them in concert! Which also stresses my theory above. This album has two discs of amazing Blind Guardian songs, ranging from Batallions of Fear to the new album A Night at The Opera. So not only do you get a taste of Blind Guardian live, you also get a great compilation of Blind Guardian tunes! This album starts off just how the concert I saw started off. War of Wrath, is the intro to the album Nightfall in Middle Earth. With the clashing of swords and the jumping into Into the Storm - it totally blows the listener away. Another way it sounded like the concert is when they play Valhalla, they get the audience into the song by singing the chorus over and over! The first disc comprises of 11 brilliant Blind Guardian songs. The second disc comprises of the 11 more great Blind Guardian songs, thus making it a great compilation album!
The recording of the songs are from various different concerts. Including some from the USA and Germany, also other countries. It was neat, because if you went to the Blind Guardian web site you could pick what songs you wanted to hear on the "live album". As for the production; it's fucking amazing! This one blows Tokyo Tales out of the water! Guitars, vocals, drums, even the audience are all on this album. They're all balanced, which is essential to a great live album. No instrument over powers another one. No feedback, no nasty sounds, just all out Blind Guardian greatness.
I recommend this to everyone. Great selection of Blind Guardian songs, awsome production! I especially recommend this to Blind Guardian fans, and other people who want a compilation of Blind Guardian, and don't want to buy all of Blind Guardian's albums. Nonetheless essential to Blind Guardian fans!
For my first review of a live album, I chose this one, as it's the only one I own that hasn't been reviewed already.
This album, simply entitled live, was recorded during the A Night At The Opera tour. And it most certainly meets my anticipations.
Soundwise, this is incredible. Nothing overshadows anything else; the guitars, vocals and drums are put to main focus, but the crowd presence is always very strong, and the bass is for the most part very evident without at all being too loud. And the band puts up some excellent performances. All the members are in top shape, and each song reeks with energy.
The tracklisting focuses on the newer stuff, featuring mainly songs from Imaginations From The Other Side, Nightfall In Middle-Earth and A Night At The Opera. And while the latest is by far the weakest offering as of yet by Blind Guardian, even the ANATO songs come off pretty damn well. They tend to have a better sense of focus, less silly effects and just sound better in live environment. Out of all Opera songs, the one that's been improved the most is probably Punishment Divine, which is made a 1000 times heavier. Check out that part at 0:40- Holy fucking crap, those guitars are heavy. You didn't get to hear that stuff in the studio versions, with all the silly effects covering over the guitars.
The song selection in general is excellent, featuring most of their classics, including such excellent tracks as the immortal opener War of Wrath/Into the Storm, crowd favourites like Nightfall and The Bard's Song (Hearing the crowd sing along to that song is just a fucking huge feeling), epic masterpieces such as Imaginations from the Other Side and Lost in the Twilight Hall, and intense speed metal monsters like Valhalla, Majesty and The Script for My Requiem.
And as mentioned, out of 22 tracks (well, 21 if you don't count War of Wrath. And you don't), only 4 are from A Night At The Opera, and even they come off quite well. So, the tracklisting is pretty much perfect, even though some more unexpected tracks like I'm Alive or When Sorrow Sang would make for a nice surprise. But hell, you can't have it all.
Yet, there is one major flaw. The album suffers from incoherence. Hansi talks some in-between the songs, which is something I enjoy on a live album. But he keeps mentioning the places they're playing at the time. "Hello Madrid", for example. And when he suddenly says something in German to the audience in Stuttgart, it feels incoherent and also pretty dumb. This sometimes tends to ruin the flow of the album, even though the songs from various venues are blended together very smoothly.
Still, this one flaw does annoy me, and tends to mess things up sometimes. But when the boys start playing, I guess you can forgive them for this. Cause all in all, this is one heck of a live album, and definitely comparable to Tokyo Tales.