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Ah, Nightfall in Middle Earth. One of the most raved about power metal albums, and probably metal albums in general. It's hailed as one of the greatest adaptations of a story ever (JRR Tolkien's Semarallion was the one adapted), Blind Guardian's magnum opus, and a whole lot of other things. So I expected these things when I first got my copy of Nightfall in Middle Earth.
Unfortunately I got none of that. Plain and simple, Nightfall in Middle Earth is what I consider to be the band's only failure of an album. This album failed in so many aspects that it's not even funny. Not only is this not Blind Guardian's magnum opus, it's probably Blind Guardian's worst album ever. There is simply no way I can believe people are raving about this album the way I have seen before. There is nothing on here to rave about. It is just a bad album.
The main problem here is obviously the long time. Trying to be like Queensryche on Operation Mindcrime, Blind Guardian hired a bunch of voice actors to do some acting to help further along the story when necessary. Unfortunately, this effort falls flat on it's face. No, I don't care if Blind Guardian had hired Pamela Moore or Anthony Valentine to do any of the voice acting on Nightfall in Middle Earth, the way they did it still would fail horribly.
The reason, the way Blind Guardian implemented the voice acting. Instead of integrating the voice acting into the songs like Queensryche, Hansi and company decide to just make a whole slew of filler tracks to put in for the acting and story pushing. This makes listening to Nightfall in Middle Earth a long and pretentious affair that I had a hard time doing. Admittedly, I did not listen to the whole album when I first got it. I actually had to find a way to distract myself so I could listen to the whole thing, and if I have to do that for listening to a metal album, then that is not a good sign (or listening experience) at all. I really wish that Blind Guardian had either done what Queensryche did or just not at all had the voice acting, doing what many more concept album masters like King Diamond do. Just tell the story through the fucking songs! There is no need for voice acting and fillers, and Nightfall in Middle Earth is part of that.
That's not to say the album is total garbage. Nightfall still has a few at least decent tracks to offer among all the filler garbage. Easily the best is Into The Storm. It's melodic and catchy choruses as well as Hansi's use of vocals and Andre's harmony and lead work make it the best. But other tracks such as The Curse of Feanor and Time Stands Still At The Iron Hill are alright as well. But the problem with many of these tracks is that they are very inconsistent. Many of them will start out good, and then get boring, and then get good, and then end on a painfully bad level. The only song that doesn't do this is Into The Storm, and that is why it is the best song on the album. I don't know why, but it's just boring.
Andre Olbrich is not shredding anymore. No more of his bursts of staccato and tremolo picking, he's now just playing "pagan" dance tunes. Alright, now I'm drawing the line. I know that this is what you typically do Andre, but now it's just boring. Enough is enough. If he had actually shredded for real on Nightfall and not just played "pagan" dance tunes for his leads, I would actually have liked Nightfall in Middle Earth a lot more then I do now. That isn't the case though sadly.
Hansi's vocal performance is spectacular as always, as well as how he gets the story moving throughout each song. It's actually hard to tell if he's singing about the story when he goes through Nightfall, and that is a nice bonus considering the rest of the album is just above something more worthy of being in the trash rather then being in my record collection.
I don't know what went wrong here, but Nightfall in Middle Earth is just something that Blind Guardian should not have done at all. It's an album that I find boring, contrite, and just lame. Avoid it all together and go to other Blind Guardian releases, especially their material before this if you want to hear the band with their game together. Otherwise, ignore Nightfall in Middle Earth entirely.