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Nightfall in The Middle Earth is not exactly loved by every Blind Guardian fan in the world, but it was supposed to be: the band put a lot of effort in order to come up with new material, Hansi recorded his vocals at least three hundred times in each song and the very idea of making an album entirely based on The Silmarillion sounds great by itself. However, the band ended up with an album that was far from what most were expecting. The reason is simple: Blind Guardian is considered to be a pioneer band in terms of power metal, but their traditional music was far away from the extremities of the genre. In Nightfall in The Middle Earth, however, the band tried to come up with an album that would be completely over the top (even if we take into count that it is power metal after all), and the ZP Theart that Hansi found within himself displeasured most Blind Guardian fans.
The whole album is filled with some of the most epic leads, the cheesiest vocals and the most powerful choruses that I have ever seen. Blind Guardian, however, tried to make an artistic masterpiece out of a musical masterpiece, and filled the album with no less than eleven interludes. It is not a terrible idea, given the nature of the recording, but my reaction to those interludes was (and still is) negative: I couldn’t help but think “quit fucking around, oh Lord” in at least five times during the aforementioned interludes. Nothing, however, prohibits you to simply skip the interludes and headbang to some of the most powerful metal that has been ever recorded. Everything here, from the folk leads to the one-thousand-layers vocals, seems to make you imagine huge fortresses, tall-as-fuck hills and battles with a larger body count than The Battle of Stalingrad.
In their desperation to make everything sound extremely epic, however, Blind Guardian made several mistakes. The first one is the use of too much layered voices: although in some parts dozens of Hansis might sound okay, in a lot of songs (being Time Stands Still and A Dark Passage the best examples by far) we have extremely cheesy passages, and by extremely I mean cheesier than Dawn Over a New World, the cheesiest song that DRAGONFORCE ever came up with. The layered vocals end up having other unexpected effects: the guitars are sometimes REALLY weak, the bass not only refuses to do much more than stick to root notes but also becomes lost during many passages and some parts are impossible to reproduce live (although the latter problem doesn’t damage this recording in any way that I can think of).
If you like Hansi a lot you might have been offended by the last paragraph, so just to make it clear, I wouldn’t put many people above Hansi Kürsch in terms of metal vocals. Don’t get me wrong: the layered vocals are just a small problem (that sometimes seems worse than it really is) in the middle of one of the most impressive performances that I have ever seen. The vocals, by the way, are only a part of the recording, and while many people forget Blind Guardian is not Hansi’s solo project, this album shows us once again that the band has a lot of talent to work with. The solos, distributed non-uniformly between folk and neoclassical, are great (with some lead breakdowns which Dave Mustaine would wish he came up with), Thomen’s drums could be more complex but still fit really well and Marcus delivers some of the best material there is in terms of rhythm guitars in power metal.
This album also counts with “Mirror Mirror”, one of the best songs that were ever recorded. Everything kicks ass in that song, except perhaps the bass (although more bass would be completely unnecessary in “Mirror Mirror”). The band never runs out of riffs, the drums are rather impressive in terms of creativity and even the troublesome layered vocals are used in a way that made it possible to listen to both the lead guitar and the vocals at the same time. The solo is the single best solo that Blind Guardian ever came up with, being melodic and catchy and making you want to mosh the shit out of yourself (probably because of the double bass that comes along with it). Time Stands Still is another impressive song: it is, in fact, cheesy as hell, but it kicks ass nonetheless.
This album is different from what Blind Guardian usually delivers, but it is a great album anyway. The theme kicks ass, the album has an ass-kicking masterpiece and even the guitars, which are sometimes weaker than you would like in a power metal album, are able to deliver rather impressive stuff. It is a must-have for Blind Guardian fans, it is definitely good for any power metal addicts and it is very interesting for anyone that likes metal a little.