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When you too much sugar in your 151 vodka - 69%

TrooperEd, May 6th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2002, CD, Virgin Records

In some ways A Night At The Opera is the definitive Blind Guardian album. When most people think of Blind Guardian, they think layers upon layers of overdubs and multi-tracks of vocals and guitar lines, to the point where some begin to wonder if there is actual meat on the steak under all of the fat.

Hansi's vocal cadences are more rhythmic and bouncy here than on any other Blind Guardian album, perhaps more than any other metal album. I've always sneered at the idea that metal can be "too catchy" but A Night At The Opera is where I begin to see the problem. The vocals, they're just too....gay. That's the only way I can describe it. When the vocal rhythms inspire too much groove or simply don't leave enough empty spaces, you can just feel your inner frog starting to turn gay. Most masculine minds eschew showtunes and pop music as too feminine because it seems like the kind of crap girls mindlessly sing along without realizing what it is they're doing. Considering heavy metal is supposed to be an eternal stronghold for masculinity (it is music for Hell's Angels to roam the lands and spread chaos to after all), this might be considered sacrilegious. Even contrarian twits who would seek divisive albums like this out to give it positive reviews simply to irk the punters would probably be turned off by what's going on here. The point being, I can understand how this album might have been the straw that broke the camel's back for one Thomas Staunch. I can also see how maybe cursory glances of this album from friends gave me a false impression and led me to keep this band at arm's length.

Adjacent to that is fact that this album just suffers from one too many instrumental tracks (as in tracks on a recording board, not songs on the album). At times it's virtually impossible to tell what the actual riff is of the song. I suppose you could call this the other end of the Nightwish extreme, where instead of one generic rhythm guitar track, there's a cacophony (and not the good kind) of licks taking up space and distracting from each other. It's a shame because Andre Olbach is a genius with coming up with unconventional lower three string licks, but they practically cancel each other out here.

Highlights: Precious Jerusalem rips off Roots Bloody Roots and rules while doing it. What do I mean by that exactly? Well, just imagine someone was showing Blind Guardian the Sepultura AIDS-sandwich-with-mustard of a track in question, and the band thought they could fix it by applying Freddy Mercury's kind of ghey instead of Robb Flynn's type of ghey. Hell if RBR sounded like this in 96, Sepultura would managed to have some damn dignity from going from thrash to tribal power metal. The Soulforged is a decent Hole In The Sky meets Roll Over Lay Down type of swing that will have you belting it's majestic chorus. And Then There Was Silence is the band's longest and most ambitious track, sweeping through several different movements and then fading out. The "na-na-na" piece would exploited and broken down for a brilliant live singalong (see Live Beyond The Spheres), and serves as a fitting climax to the number as well as the album. The song would prove to be a hidden live gem for this and other reasons. But when you would compare it to future epics such as Grand Parade and Wheel of Time, it comes up short. Battlefield is also on here, which somehow became Blind Guardian's most popular song, at least according to internet searches. It does have a great chorus, but that's like saying a Black Sabbath song has a great riff. It's also one of the songs that suffers from many of this album's trappings.

A Night At The Opera is solid, but it is NOT the first album from them I would purchase. Matter of fact, I would save it as one of the very last Blind Guardian albums to pick up. I mean if this was some theater major's gateway album to the land of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Motorhead, I can think of much worse introductions to metal.

The daunting pinnacle of BG and power metal. - 96%

ConorFynes, May 19th, 2015

Just take a look at the bloody album cover. You could stare at it for five minutes and still find new ghouls and spooks in the woodwork, grinning back at you. It's an altogether fitting cover for the most challenging, complex and ultimately satisfying power metal album I have ever heard. A Night at the Opera is an album saturated with layers and detail. It's an hour of music forged from the same kind of painstaking perfectionism that Queen poured into its namesake nearly three decades before it. In the broadest sense, it's as if their entire career had led up to this farflung expression of decadent bombast; as it was, there were no greater heights for them to climb thereafter.

Blind Guardian have long been among my favourite metal bands, and A Night at the Opera has been my favourite album of theirs for most of that time. At the same time, I understand why it's turned out to be their most divisive album to date. Everything from Tales from the Twilight World onward were progressively more ambitious undertakings. By the point of Nightfall in Middle-Earth in 1998, Blind Guardian unleashed one of the most overwhelming power metal albums ever; a certified extravaganza of the Tolkien-inspired bombast they're known (and mostly loved) for. At that point, there were already plenty of people complaining-- dammit, they wanted the good, clean power metal of Somewhere Far Beyond again. Even on Nightfall in Middle-Earth, I can understand why some people interpreted the added instrumentation and ambitious conceptual angle as unnecessarily padded.

Of course, Blind Guardian went ahead and made something that has made Nightfall in Middle-Earth look relatively tame in comparison. Even if Blind Guardian were more talented with arrangement than songwriting on this album, the latter seems to get unduly criticized by fans. While I don't imagine songs like "Under the Ice" and "Wait for an Answer" would be as mind-boggling had BG not gone the extra mile, most of these songs would earn a place among the band's best written pieces. Their most epic compositions notwithstanding, "Battlefield" is possibly the best single-worthy addition to the band's catalogue. Complete with the energized Medieval tinge, it successfully conveys the chaotic sense of being in the fray of clashing swords, dark clouds of arrows raining overhead. I have a hard time thinking that even the most prog-hating metal mongoloid would find a gripe with "The Soulforged" either; although it offers some of Andre Olbrich's most intricate guitar work to date, the battleready spirit is palpable.

Part of me almost wishes Blind Guardian had put a greater emphasis on these high-octane tracks; as much as I love the progressive direction they took, the ambition feels all the more profound when they pump it up. Some of the less frantic songs on the album are more difficult to rightly interpret as songs; although each of the tracks have clearcut choruses in the band's prime tradition, I find myself occasionally more in awe of the way the band has brought the music to life, rather than their written skeletons. "Sadly Sings Destiny" and "Wait for the Answer" maintain the feeling of overwhelming exhilaration, but I do wonder if they would have held up, had they been produced with the relatively straightforward approach of Somewhere Far Beyond. Even if it might be said that A Night at the Opera is a slightly less consistent set of songs than a few of the albums before it, it takes an entirely different kind of genius to enrich the music with added arrangements. There's a frustrating trend for symphonic metal bands to tack the 'orchestral' elements of their composition as an afterthought to their supposed main course. Blind Guardian's dedication to see how much detail they could milk out of each minute of the album resulted in an entirely unique listening experience; even the album's weakest moments feel profoundly realized.

Although A Night at the Opera may have still been a prime contender for the best Blind Guardian album without it, there is no doubting a significant part of the awe for the album is derived from it's fourteen-odd minute centrepiece, "And Then There Was Silence". Not only is it the most elaborate piece Blind Guardian ever wrote-- it's quite likely the closest metal has ever come to mirroring the heights of classical music; not just in timbre, but the sheer weight of the composition. It unfolds as a self-contained opera, fuelled with nothing other than the Trojan Wars as their literary inspiration. It took three months' recording (equal to the rest of the album combined) just to buckle the thing down. That balances out to just under five minutes of recorded music per month; for any other working band that would be a snail's pace, but you can hear the countless hours of labour in every minute of their magnum opus. Although the rest of the album could be more or less adapted for use in a live rock concert, the band's performance here could not be removed from its orchestral accompaniment without a fatal loss to the music. Blind Guardian have been long acquainted with the use of symphonic and folkish arrangements in their music, but it's only here that the band turned their instruments into an extension of the symphony, rather than vice versa. Although a defiant motif (I hesitate to call it a chorus!) recurs throughout the piece, "And Then There Was Silence" is virtually rhapsodic as it progresses from one idea to the next. The ebb and flow of the composition is indelibly linked with the source material; although the band have often evoked an operatic impression, it's only here where I can truly imagine the music being adapted for the stage of some grand performance house. It manages to cover an entire range of emotion in less than fifteen minutes, from anxiety to tenderness, from heartbreak to triumph, finality and lingering sense of eternity. To describe it would entail the finest sort of hyperbole. It is power metal raised to 11 in every regard; the amount of substance packed into this album's closing monument to require many hours of listening in its own right.

I think Blind Guardian would have done themselves a disservice, had they tried to surpass the excess of Blind Guardian. They fell ever so slightly over the brink of madness with this one, and the polarized opinions are proof of this. The accessible turn they later took with A Twist in the Myth is confirmation that the band agreed they had finally struck the limits of their sound. To be honest, I don't blame with the people who can't get into the album's demanding excess. It's far from immune (or innocent) from criticism, but many of the things people dislike the most are a proof of the rare extent to which the band pushed their music. To date, I've yet to find another album in power metal that matches it in sheer scope and depth.

The Rock bottom of pretentiousness. - 30%

morbert, July 17th, 2012

I will keep this short. I’m a Blind Guardian fan. Well, not excessively but I own all their full lengths albums and my favourite BG albums are dear, very dear, to me. ‘A Night at the Opera’ however is NOT among those. From my point of view BG were going downhill compositionally since the second half of the Imaginations album (Another Holy War being the exception!).

The efficiency of the first 4 albums, when the band knew exactly when to put in an extra guitar melody, extra backingvocals, a break to keep the tension or change the pace when a song was asking for it, it all seemed to slip from them when they started writing songs like Mordred's Song and Born in a Mourning Hall. Sure they had their moments of brilliance on Nightfall in Middle Earth like the songs ‘Nightfall’ and ‘Mirror Mirror’ but the majority of material on that album was already pretty compositionally pretentious and messy. All in all Nightfall in Middle Earth was still a pretty decent album but no Follow The Blind of Somewhere Far Beyond.

‘A Night at the Opera’ continues where Nightfall left off but this time without the standout songs, resulting in pretty much the most excessive piece of compositional wankery the band has released so far. Now Ayreon can pull this off by keeping the main melodies, well, main melodies, and staying focussed on the essence of the song in question. Blind Guardian often seemed lost in their own material. Instead of picking out the essence it feels like they just put in extra guitar harmonies, another change of pace and an extra chorus every time they felt a song wasn’t quite finished yet. Of course Blind Guardian are able to write superb melodies and a catchy chorus if they want to but the messy song structures and lack of compositional direction results in either background metal or something you only want to listen to for close emotionless analysis. Maybe they tried to write their kind of rock-opera or they see this as ‘a heavy metal soundtrack’ but the songs are all over the place and most of the melodies just don’t get enough space to breath, come to life, let alone be noticed. There are just so much of them. Often at the same time, interfering with eachother. It’s a mess.

It’s also quite clear Blind Guardian are pretty fond of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. On two songs at least they literally ‘use’ some of it’s material. As they already did with Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera on Imaginations but this time even more obvious. Problem is that if it becomes too obvious one gets the feeling they maybe ‘borrowed’ some more throughout the album I don’t know of yet and one starts to distrust an album like this.

No, I will keep it at this. This was pretty much the album which closed the book on Blind Guradian for me until they returned to form with the rather superb ‘At the Edge of Time’ 8 years later.

A night to be remembered - 96%

extremesymphony, July 27th, 2011

Grand & pompous will be the best words to describe this album. Blind Guardian evolve from their symphonic influenced Nightfall in Middle Earth to full fledged symphonic metal with multilayered vocals and highly progressive song structures. Each and every song is filled with symphony and over the top multilayered vocals. The choruses of the songs are some of the best Blind Guardian has ever written.

Special mention must be given to Hansi Kursch who is undoubtedly the hero of this album. Here he proves that he is born to sing. His is the only voice in heavy metal which sounds good with the multilayered vocals. He sounds superb with the orchestra giving the feel of an army of musicians plying in an opera. The guitar work is superb as usuall. Though there aren't many heavy riffs like that on Somewhere Far Beyond, the overall sound of the guitars is superb and they go on well with the music and the vocals. The bass is inaudible for most of the time. Drummer Thomas Stauch gives a superb farewell performance here. the drumming is tough and very complex, and never overpowering the music or the vocals. The keyboards are once again superb and Matthias Wiesner once again does a great job.

The arrangement of songs is most progressive and daring by Blind Guardian to date. The pace changes in every song are superb and they keep the listener guessing. Owing to this many melodies are uncovered in subsequent listens, just like an Awaken the Guardian. Due to this the album has tremendous staying power ans doesn't get bored on subsequent listens. The lyrics are typical for Blind Guardian, concerning mythology, battles, crusades, knights, bards, religeon etc. The production is definately a step up from the last album. All the instruments are heard superbly and are balanced quite wonderfully. Some will argue that this is a more keyboard based production where the keys even dominate the guitars. But whatever the effect these guys wanted to achieve, they couldn't have done it by putting the keys in the background.

Among the songs, every song is great and there isn't any need to describe every one singly. But the ones that stand out are the opener Precious Jerusalem and the subsequent Battlefield for their highly complex structure and catchy chorus. Sadly Sings Destiny and Age of False Innocence also have good chorusand are also among the highlights. Punishment Divine is fast and furious and sounds like something off Imaginations From the Other Side. The closer And Then There Was Silence is the best song off the album, and structurally one of the most complex and best songs in heavy metal ever. The chorus of this song is the best ever written. The lyrics are some of the best ever written. The song goes through many sections slow, mid-paced, fast, again slow. But they come together superbly to make a true heavy metal epic.

Overall this is one of the best symphonic metal albums ever written. Though this may not be as heavy and fast as Battalions of Fear or Somewhere Far Beyond, no one can deny that this more expertly written that all the previous Blind Guardian efforts. This might disappoint many longtime fans, but I would suggest to leave all the dissapointments aside and visit the opera one night.

If Queen made a power metal album... - 92%

invaders, July 6th, 2011

...it would probably sound a lot like this. Over-the-top production. Over-the-top vocals. Basically, over-the-top everything. This is one bombastic album and an assault on the ears, in a good way. Now you better get used to the phase “over-the-top”, because I will be using it quite a lot in this review because that is the only way to fully describe this album without describing every little note, detail and section of instrumentation that this album has to offer because lets face it, this album has a lot to digest.

Blind Guardian, with every release since Somewhere Far Beyond, have been edging away from their speed metal sound to a more layered, progressive sound and this album is the pinnacle of that. Every single thing on this album, from guitars to vocals, is multi-layered and that makes it a joy to listen to because everytime I listen to this album, I hear something I didn't hear before and it keeps the album interesting.

The album kicks off with Precious Jerusalem. Now when this song started I thought, as did another reviewer (Ragnarok790), that the band were dipping their fingers into the industrial metal genre. Thank God I was wrong because once this song kicks off, it’s definitely Blind Guardian, in all their pompous glory, and it doesn’t stop until the fade-out of closing track, And Then There Was Silence.
Each song on this album is bombastic, and here’s that phrase again, over-the-top. The vocal arrangements and melodies are all over the place throughout the album and that’s a good thing because it makes for a good listen and means the album never gets boring. Multiple choral parts backing up Hansi that sound as though there was an entire choir standing directly behind him.
Now all the songs, as well as being masterfully constructed and detailed, are very catchy. From the “That’s what the minstrel's sings...” section of Battlefield to the folk-driven melodies near the end of And Then There Was Silence, I think Hansi set out to write the catchiest melodies he’s ever come up with for this album, and he definitely succeeded in that.

Musically, the band are treading more “progressive” waters, more so than anything they have ever done before (or since, for that matter). There isn’t the typical repetition of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus (Iron Maiden, I’m looking in your direction) found anywhere on this album. The band truly let the creativity flow on this one. Ideas blistering in from left, right and centre.

Now the musicianship on this album is top notch. Each members individual performance is right on the money and probably the best performance of the careers.
Thomas Stauch is a monster on this album. His drum sound is immense and huge, almost to the point of sounding like canons. His playing has progressed immensely since the days of Follow The Blind and Tales From The Twilight World. Everything he plays sounds intensely complex and perfect.

Guitarist, André Olbrich, is on fire throughout the entire album. He must have put in some serious overtime to come up with the shear amount of guitar melodies, harmonies and solos that cover this album. For every guitar melody that appears, there must be at least 2 other guitar harmonies to accompany the main melody and then another guitar line under that playing something completely different as well as 1 or 2 (depending on the part) rhythm guitars underneath that. From a guitarist perspective, this album is immensely entertaining to listen to as there is so much going on.

Now I feel kinda sorry for Marcus Siepen on this album because he doesn’t really get to shine on guitar (the same can be said for every album after Imaginations) because everything is dominated by André’s melodies and Hansi’s vocals (not that I’m complaining) and Marcus’ rhythm guitar keeps getting buried in the mix, only popping out every now and again. He does, however, play the main acoustic guitar on the album’s bonus track, Harvest Of Sorrow, and his playing is excellent, crisp and clean on that track. He has always been the best guitarist of the two for acoustic work. If this guy was thrust back in time to the days of king’s courts and jesters, I’m sure he’d have not problem finding a job. It sounds that authentic.

Now this album does have a serious amount of guitar work going on in it, but strangely, it doesn’t feel like a guitar-based album. This album is all about the vocals and fuck me, are they excellent.
Hansi Kürsch has stepped up his game tenfold on this album. If someone who hadn’t heard Blind Guardian before were to listen to their first album, Battalions Of Fear, and then listened to this album straight after it, they’d probably think Hansi was 2 different vocalists because his voice has progressed and evolved immensely over the course of his 15 years+ career. This guy is the Freddy Mercury of power metal. A choir unto himself. Not only are his vocals amazing but his lyrics are very insightful and paint a very visual story based on multiple themes and subjects the guy finds an interest in. And Then There Was Silence and Under The Ice paint a woeful picture based on Homer’s The Illiad while Precious Jerusalem and Sadly Sings Destiny delve into religious territory. Hansi seems to be writing more about religion and old tales instead of Middle-Earth this time around, probably because the band’s last album was based entirely in Middle-Earth, so maybe he thought a change was due.

The only thing I can really complain about is the production. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that Charlie Bauerfeind must have had a hell of a job mixing this album because of the sheer amount of layers and tracks there must have been, but the whole thing sounds very compressed and digital (not as bad as the production on A Twist In The Myth. Fuck me, was that bad), but I feel that this album would have benefited from a more natural, organic sound. If this album had the production quality of At The Edge Of Time, or even Nightfall In Middle-Earth, I think that would have benefited the album a lot and made the album a little easier to digest (for some people anyways). But overall, it’s not the worst sounding album in the world, it’s just at times, I can see why some people say it can be a bit overwhelming. Saying that, I think the production also add a slight charm to the album because I think the band wanted to make an album the way they wanted to hear it. Multi-layering every part of it. An album that would be so hard to play live, that by only having about 50 musicians in the band, would they be able to pull it off because let’s face it, Blind Guardian are all about being grandiose and having a massive landscape of sound.

So whether you’re a fan of power or progressive metal, I highly recommend this album because it is a joy to listen to and I can guarantee you will never get bored of it. This is my personal favorite album by the band and I can’t see them topping it anytime soon. Long live the bards!

Absurdly over the top, but still awesome - 93%

Jophelerx, June 21st, 2011

As any generic metalhead will tell you, Blind Guardian have been churning out fantasy-laden power metal since the '80's, giving even the most self-conscious fantasy nerds something to be proud to listen to as they roll that d20 to see whether or not they've decapitated the ogre with their mighty Greataxe of Cleaving +5. Even many of the self-respecting metalheads, assuming they can stand power metal without vomiting, will give begrudging respect, if not outright praise, to the metal monoliths holding the bastion of decent European power metal from being flooded with nothing but mediocrity and downright shittiness (yes, Rhapsody of Fire, I'm looking at you). A few may reject it as too mainstream, but those who aren't 14 years old generally hold Blind Guardian up as one of the few decent metal bands to make it big, and congrats to them. I, also not 14 years old and sexually repressed, find myself inclined to agree with them; Blind Guardian may not be the greatest metal in existence, and they're certainly far from my favorite metal band, but damn it all, they're a better public representation of metal than Slipknot or As I Lay Wishing I Could Stop Listening To Your Horrible Music Or At Least Be Dead Instead of You. In all seriousness, though, Blind Guardian have been crafting great guitar and vocal harmonies into epic tales of wonder and rage for over 20 years now, and I thoroughly enjoy several of their albums, particularly A Night at the Opera, which, while scorned by some, happens to be my personal favorite, and what seems to me to be a masterpiece of modern metal and Blind Guardian's magnum opus.

As any fan of power metal, I've heard more than my fair share of opinions on Blind Guardian, from "they were a good speed metal band, but fuck this power metal shit" to "they stopped being good after Imaginations"; from those that tear Nightfall apart to those that lay prostrate before it, hailing it as the only musical composition worthy of praise. This being the case, I am of course aware of the widespread hate for A Night at the Opera; people say it's too overproduced, too over-the-top, too pompous, too busy. Many of these people, however, are those of the opinion that the train stopped after Imaginations from the Other Side, and, musically speaking, it makes sense that many of those who disliked Nightfall will also dislike A Night at the Opera; it's not as heavy as the old Blind Guardian, the riffs are still more buried, the symphonics and multi-tracking are even more prevalent than before. This being said, I certainly don't want to be misunderstood; A Night at the Opera is anything but Nightfall II; it is instantly clear upon listening to it that it's entirely its own creature, absolutely distinct from everything Blind Guardian has done previously or since. Even if you didn't like Nightfall, I would suggest giving it a try before dismissing it; the train was most definitely still on the tracks with this album, as any fans of classics such as "Battlefield" or "And Then There Was SIlence" will tell you.

Musically, the album is everything critics have said it is. It is ridiculously overproduced, pompous, and over-the-top. At times there's so much going on that even the focused listener has trouble cramming it into his skull. In the choruses there are so many Hansis that one gets scared they might overthrow the upper class and establish a new government. However, I disagree with anyone who says that it's *too* overproduced, *too* pompous, *too* over the top, *too* busy. A Night at the Opera proudly holds the banner of overproduction and pompousness high above its head, letting it fly openly in the wind for all to see. A Night at the Opera isn't merely described by its overproduction and business, it's defined by it. A Night at the Opera embodies grandiosity, elation, and ubiquity; that's the entire point of it, and it executes those ideas without shame and with little meandering or mistake. That's what those who love it love about it, and that's what those who hate it hate about it, but unless you're literally deaf there's no mistaking that that's what it is, fiercely and unabashedly.

I think the cover art perhaps demonstrates best what I feel when I listen to this album; it's the opposite of solitude or loneliness, but it's far from friendly or even really personal; it's as if an entire crowd of people is surrounding you, filling up the room, playing but not playing for you; merely playing to be the best they can be, to tell the story the best way they can, to be doing the most they can be doing with the time and the room they possess. The album feels usually crowded and busy, yet majestic at the same time. However, the album does still possess a certain amount of variety, and certain songs sound more crowded or more majestic than others; in fact, a couple of the songs barely feel crowded at all. But then, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The album starts off with the energetic, harsh, striving, but still very A-Night-at-the-Opera "Precious Jerusalem". As soon as Hansi begins singing it's clear that he's still the same but not the same - he's certainly the same Hansi, but his voice is clearer, cleaner, and yet somehow, more powerful than before, if anything. Rather than the enraged dictator he's tended to sound like in previous albums, he sounds more like a prestigious performer proudly singing for all he's worth, oblivious to his surroundings and yet aware of his power at the same time. In fact, that might not be far from Hansi himself, although obviously he's singing that way to suit the album, not merely for its own sake. Now, this isn't quite what he sounds like all the time here - particularly when he takes on specific roles, like Raistlin in "The Soulforged" or Nietzsche in "Punishment Divine", but that seems to be his default style when not particularly going for something else.

When the chorus of "Precious Jerusalem" rears its evidently thousands of heads, it's clear that the choruses, like everything else in the album, are going to be even more over-the-top than in the past. Sure, "Mordred's Song" and "Mirror Mirror" had big, multi-tracked, anthemic choruses, but those were more like a 40-person choir, or perhaps, at most, some ancient elven clan of a hundred or so. Here it's a vast theater packed to the brim with thousands or even tens of thousands of Hansis, all belting their hearts out in precise synchronization so that, rather than individuals, it's almost like this single vast entity, this one vastly large, vastly knowledgeable Hansi singing. As I said, we do hear it in the chorus of "Precious Jerusalem", but it becomes even more prevalent later on.

Well, it turns out later on is here, as the last echoes of "Precious Jerusalem" fade and the famed "Battlefield" proudly begins, sporting a melody at first played by a single guitar with backing synths, but soon breaking out into an overproduced, overenhanced orchestra fronted by alternating collective-Hansi and solo Hansi and backed by Thomen Stauch's perpetually unique and refreshing drumming. (In fact, if the Blind Guardian train ever really stopped, it was after Thomen left, and the drumming became noticeably more generic and mundane, if sufficient.) This song never really stops, continuing at breakneck speed in all its proud majesty, leading into the seemingly-even-vaster-than-last-time chorus. Besides the aforementioned "A Night at the Opera" feeling, it's very difficult to describe this song more specifically than "vast" and "majestic" though. Certainly these are good descriptors, but it's a fast-paced and dynamic song that can't really be put into a category, except that it's definitely a highlight of the album.

The next song is "Under the Ice" which brings with it a very different mood; while still borderline A-Night-at-the-Opera, it's much darker than most of the album, the riffs and Hansi's harsher tone in the verses creating a feeling of entrapment and something bordering on mania, followed by an eventual release in the chorus, which is sung by what sounds like a much smaller group of Hansis than the previous ones, as it seems Hansi is trying to stick with the story of Cassandra, and the Hansis in the prechorus and chorus are addressing her as a group. In fact, it seems to be Cassandra's consciousness in the verses, desperately trying to escape reality, while in the prechorus and chorus her subconscious suggests to her some pleasing alternatives to keep her sane. The entire song is very well executed, both musically and lyrically, and this is definitely another highlight of the album.

"Sadly Sings Destiny" is both one of the heaviest songs here and one of the weaker songs, although it is still quite a quality song, and contains some of the more enjoyable (and noticeable) riff work on the album. The song starts off with an enjoyably groovy guitar lead, which is accompanied and eventually replaced by some very heavy, thick riffs not often seen on this album, as the song leads into the quickly predictable but still enjoyable verses, and finally into the much more traditional A-Night-at-the-Opera chorus, which is by far the highlight of the song, the vast collective-Hansi piping up with "saaaaahhhhhhdlyyyyyyy sings deeeeest-ah-nyyyyyy" and solo Hansi echoing passionately with "Now spring is in theeee aiiir, let it iiiiiiiin!!!!!"

"The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight" follows with some pretty, well-layered symphonics, leading into the album's mandatory half-ballad. This isn't exactly one of the album's strongest songs either, as the songwriting is very predictable and a bit boring at times, but what really shines here is Hansi's vocal performance. His stronger clean voice is perfect for this song, as he takes on the role of the minstrel knight Tristan proclaiming his love for the fair maiden Isolde. It's a really heartfelt and technically amazing performance, as he hits the high notes in full voice with ease, a feat we hear for the first time from Hansi here. The chorus is very nice as well, following the "collective-Hansi sing/solo Hansi echo" structure that it's pretty clear now is the norm for this album, and for good reason; it works well on most of the songs, this one included. Although the collective-Hansi sounds as if it might be a departure from the character of Tristan, it really only serves to emphasize his viewpoint, plaintively echoing his questions a thousand times over. The execution of the other instruments are great as well when the song becomes more of a metal tune, the heavily distorted, almost prog rock guitars echoing throughout, and the drumming proudly galloping through the chorus; the fact that this is one of the weakest songs on here is a testament to the fact that, clearly, Blind Guardian didn't spare any expense to make this album what they knew they wanted it to be.

"Wait for an Answer" is another definite highlight of the album, demonstrating perhaps even better than "Battlefield" what A Night at the Opera is really about; it starts off a bit shadowy and mystical, but Hansi's singing performance is immediately as top-notch as it gets on the album, and while the verses are slightly predictable, the songwriting is extremely original and refreshing; from a songwriting perspective, this is definitely one of my favorites on the album. The first verse builds into the chorus, which is probably the most over-the-top section of the entire album - yes, I said THE MOST OVER-THE-TOP SECTION OF THE ENTIRE ALBUM, with its huge, soaring anthemic choir of Hansis addressing what is probably the character solo Hansi takes the role of, but the lyrics almost make it sound as if they're addressing the listener; certainly the lyrics are the only ones on here that seem to be directly applicable to the listener.

Don't look back tell me
Is it where you belong
A place in the dark
A song without hope
Don't look back tell me
Is it where you belong
Oh I wait for an answer


The song finishes with a very upbeat and happy guitar and vocal line, proudly finishing what manages to be both the epitome of the album and somewhat of an oddball for Blind Guardian all at once. Probably my favorite song on here, and I'd highly recommend it.

Not quite living up to "Wait for an Answer" in pure ambition, but certainly a very strong song, comes "The Soulforged" which has more of a classic power metal and Blind Guardian feel to it than most of the album, and wouldn't be too out of place in Imaginations from the Other Side or perhaps, were it a bit simpler, Tales from the Twilight World - at least from a songwriting perspective. It still has that almost painfully glossy "A Night at the Opera" production, although it seems to be toned down a little from the rest of the album; the rhythm guitar is a bit more up front and even the bass is audible in some sections! Certainly the guitar work is the highlight of this song, although Hansi's vocal performance is nothing to sneeze at, and the vocal lines harmonize perfectly with the rhythm and lead guitar lines; one of the best examples of Blind Guardian's trademark mastery over harmony. Really, the song feels as if it was meant to be this way; all the instruments just work together perfectly, and even Thomen gets the spotlight with a wonderfully refreshing solo drum line about midway through the song. Also of note is the live version of this song in the 2003 album Live, particularly when Hansi completely nails the final line "I, willl leeeeave it alllll beehiii-iiiind!!!!" For any fans of classic Blind Guardian or power metal in general, this is definitely the standout song on this album.

The album continues to show variety and yet excellent quality as it leads into the next song, "Age of False Innocence", which from the start is moody, ominous, and bitter, and at the same time seems vastly intelligent and classy, clearly helped by the smooth production but also another testament to brilliant songwriting; this is definitely yet another highlight of the album. The lyrics certainly help with the feeling of intelligence, as they describe the Catholic church's reaction to Galileo's theory that the Earth was spherical, and do so with perfect execution, often utilizing the collective-Hansi to represent the church, and solo Hansi to represent Galileo. Like "Battlefield" the song is very dynamic, and difficult to describe as a whole except with what I've already done, but it is most certainly stellar, probably in my favorite 3 songs on here. Especially of note is the opening piano passage, where Hansi sings very cleanly as a depressed, pissed-off, and fed up Gallileo.

The penultimate song, "Punishment Divine", is possibly the least "A-Night-at-the-Opera" song here, and yet at the same time spectacular; the production has again been dialed back a bit, and the song is dark, personal, and aggressive, this time from the viewpoint of Friedrich Nietzsche as he comes to the realization that reality isn't as clear-cut as he thought it was, and the progression of the song shows the progression of his insanity. These are probably my favorite lyrics on the entire album, possibly in all of Blind Guardian, but the song is far from musically lacking, either; it's pretty damn far from traditional power metal, yet still awesome, changing from angry to confused and afraid to reflective and introspective. I'm not going to go in depth into all the lyrics, but they are certainly awesome; this song is a feat that shows Blind Guardian are much, much more than the average power metal band and don't just pull songs out of their asses; I couldn't see someone like Rhapsody of Fire or Edguy reach anything remotely approaching this level of creativity and originality.

Finally, we have the magnum opus, the 14-minute "And Then There Was Silence", about the Trojan War.. "Wait for an Answer" may be the best single representation of the album, but this is certainly the climax; it big enough, long enough, and dynamic enough that it could almost be a mini-album on its own. From the get-go, you can tell it's in a league of its own, with the huge, doomy opening guitar and the organ synths almost warning of imminent peril. Then collective-Hansi comes in in a context and style we haven't heard it in before, as a dark, forceful chant strongly emphasizing the feeling of doom and danger. The song becomes full of dark rage for awhile, but leads into a passage with solo Hansi accompanied only by a single creeping synth, and Hansi's vocal performance perfectly captures the feeling of being completely alone and in pure terror of imminent danger - one of the best parts of the song, and a demonstration of the fact that a barrage of overproduction can be aided/emphasized by simplicity. The song continues into the chorus, which again utilizes the collective-Hansi in a dark, more mystical way - possibly my favorite chorus on the album, although it's difficult to really compare anything in "And Then There Was Silence" to the rest of the album. The lyrics of the chorus do a very good job of showing the theme of the song, of pride vs. fear at the end of life:

Misty tales and poems lost
All the bliss and beauty will be gone
Will my weary soul find release for a while
At the moment of death I will smile
It's the triumph of shame and disease
In the end Iliad

Raise my hands and praise the day
Break the spell show me the way
In decay
The flame of Troy will shine bright


The song continues with various sections capturing feelings of desperation, rage, pride, and fear; of inevitable doom; I would say this is certainly Hansi's most passionate vocal performance, as he captures all of those feelings perfectly, depending on which part of the song it is. Eventually, the monolith becomes a bit brighter, shown by some almost fiddle-like synths and a victorious, festive Hansi proclaiming his glee at the Greeks' ultimate victory in the Trojan War, but after the chorus comes again the song apparently shifts to the defeated side, fading away weakly with their utter sorrow, and the knowledge that the end is near, first with several Hansis, then fading into fewer and fewer, a hauntingly perfect ending to the song and the album...

Out of mind
Can't get it
Can't get it
Out of my head

Sorrow and defeat


Thus ends Blind Guardian's A Night at the Opera; proud, glorious, and yes, pompous and over-the-top, but also dark, scared, bitter, defeated. A Night at the Opera shows that, while all the songs tend to retain the same overproduction, the same majesty, the same core feel, Blind Guardian certainly has the capacity for almost anything in both songwriting and performance; few bands would have been able to take such a complex album and execute it with such precision, keeping it from becoming a confused chaotic mess. Blind Guardian have not only done that, they've managed to keep the album musically fresh and varied. With this release, Blind Guardian gained my respect as masters of the musical form, and I will always love this album for the masterpiece that it is. No, it's not old Blind Guardian, no, the riffs might not be as prominent as they used to be, but it's an excellent album as Blind Guardian intended, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Blind Guardian - A Night at the Opera - 95%

whitefrozen, April 30th, 2010

Following the brilliant and (in my mind) genre-defining Nightfall in Middle-Earth, Blind Guardian produced what is possibly one of the (if not the) most overdone, pompous and generally over the top albums of all time, A Night at the Opera. The band really fired on all cylinders with this one, with hundreds of vocal, guitar and keyboard tracks being used to create an enormous and dare I say, epic atmosphere. The result is nothing short of amazing.

Blind Guardian basically took the formula from NIME (huge vocals, prominent keyboards and a focus on atmosphere as opposed to speed and heaviness) as far as it could be taken here . There's nothing frugal about this album at all; if there's singing, its a chorus of hundreds of voices. If a guitar plays, its complicated and leads and huge chords. The production is a big part of this and is definitely a step up from the previous album, and is some of the best production I've heard in a metal album. Every voice and instrument is crystal clear, loud but not obnoxiously loud and perfectly balanced with the other instruments.

The band itself is in top form here. Drums are fast, technical, bombastic and flawlessly played and one of the highlights of the album, full of ultra fast rolls and fast double bass work; I'd go so far as to say this is one of the best drumming jobs in all of metal. Guitars are melodic, fast and layered for a very full sound. Keyboards are used a LOT here, and with amazing results. The orchestration and choir work is second to none, and like the keys there is a ton of both. The choirs were really unleashed on this album, which I love, since the choirs are one of my favorite things about Blind Guardian. As I said before, everything in the mix compliments each other, and makes for a good tight sound.

Every song here is a brilliant piece in its own right, but there's 3tracks in particular that draw my attention. Firstly is the insanely catchy The Soulforged, which could have easily been included on NIME, and is much more of a traditional song with a verse/chorus pattern. One of the catchiest songs Blind Guardian have ever written in my opinion. Secondly is the ballad The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight, a seemingly calm ballad that explodes into a massive arena-rock styled power ballad. Lastly is the 14 minute epic And Then There was Silence, based on the fall of Troy. Every second of this song is absolutely amazing, with constantly changing rhythms, beats and speed; the vocals on this song are simply astounding. Listen to And Then There was Silence and you'll know the true meaning of an "epic" song.

All told, this is probably Blind Guardians most complex and pompous album, and one of my all time favorite albums. Regardless of what styles of music you like, this is an immensely entertaining album that I highly recommend everyone listen to at least once.

http://whitefrozen.blogspot.com/

No more pain, and no more gods - 90%

autothrall, January 13th, 2010

In 2002, the world was Blind Guardian's to lose, as they had amassed perhaps the largest following of any German power metal band since pioneers Accept. Their fans were spread far and wide, within the metal scene and beyond into the realms of the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings following, geeks, Renaissance Faire rejects and gamers everywhere. Blind Guardian is one of those few bands that even the fringe metal fan appreciates. I think we all knew that awkward youth, with his hands in his pockets, greased hair and acne that probably would have become a raving Burzum maniac if given half the chance, but just stuck to Blind Guardian, Magic the Gathering and Everquest to be safe. Truth be told, the Germans are one of those bands (alongside Primal Fear and HammerFall) that created a rift through which all manner of fresh young faces appeared, as if power metal (and traditional metal) itself had not already been around for decades beforehand. This is not a 'get off my lawn' statement. No, this is the power of Blind Guardian's theme and music.

But the question brewing on everyone's mind had to be: how do you follow up a effort as brilliant as Nightfall in Middle-Earth? Perhaps the perennial power metal concept album, it left scars on the heart and dreams of an ancient, other world on several generations of fans. Blind Guardian's answer was A Night at the Opera, named for both the classic Marx Brothers film and the 1975 Queen album of the same name, coincidentally a massive influence on this band's love of operatic vocal harmonies, multi tracking anthems and spiritual bombast. I'm surprised more people don't make this connection, even when the Germans have made it only too plain to see, but they had been working wonders within the influence for years. This was the last studio album for drummer Thomas Stauch, who was growing disheartened by the band's direction (on both Nightfall and this album) and decided to break off to form a band that mined the inspiration of the early 90s Blind Guardian sound.

My dreams for another fully realized concept album would not come to fruition here, as A Night at the Opera returned to the band's earlier practice of bandying about several subjects through history, mythology and genre fiction. There's a big influence from archaic literature, in particular the Greeks and the stories of the Bible. Sure, it's not The Silmarillion, or the full-fledged Dragonlance concept album some dorks were crossing their fingers for (to whom B.G. does throw a bone here), but the songs and sources are, as always, interesting and make for wonderful imaginative fuel to the band's writing.

"Precious Jerusalem" christens (haw haw) this album with a blaze of thundering, tribal percussion that weaves into melodic grace as the tweaky little leads flush and flow throughout the ancient architecture of the track's titular holy city. You will immediately notice an even more digitized sound than on the previous two albums, and to a small extent this detracted from my enjoyment, especially with the almost constant whining processed guitar tone overkill on several of the tracks, that left me longing for that earlier, speed and power crunch of the old days. However, the band must have deemed it necessary to create such an intricate lattice of compositional elements, and in all fairness, the songs of this album are still extremely song.

"Battlefield" is one of my favorite tracks on the album, a raging and inspirational piece which touches close to home, as it is based on the tragic German lay the Song of Hildebrandt. This one is beautiful, in particular the amazing chorus which first arrives at around the minute mark and then parts into an epic sequence of vocal hooks and ringing atmospheric guitars which sound worthy of some epic film or television score. "Under the Ice" is another stunner, a mesmerizing vortex of atmospheric speed metal, with a beautiful verse, and emotionally wrenching chorus. This is one of the Greek elements to the album, relating to Cassandra after the Trojan War. "Sadly Sings Destiny" opens with a poppin' hard rock riff, dowsed in the super processed squeal of the modern B.G. guitar tone, and takes a pretty unique view on the crucifixion of Jesus. I do enjoy the slow, steady climb of the track towards its soaring backing vocals, and the bouncy little guitar melodies near the close.

"The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight" is another elegant ode to Blind Guardian's own national past, based on the Wagner opera Tristan und Isolde (itself based on the von Strassburg romance). It's a slow builder, powerful and pretty, though perhaps not as striking as other tracks on the album. Anyway, next time you bring that cute nerdy girl (or boy) to the joust, play this for her/him and it may initiate a joust of an entirely different order. "Wait for an Answer" is actually an original tale written by Hansi, about the friendship of two unlikely woodland creatures in the face of a grave danger on black wings. It's very Watership Down, and a nice touch to the album, especially when the music is this good, almost on par with "Battlefield" and "Under the Ice". "The Soulforged" is a solid tune which builds a dangerous and glorious atmosphere, true to the character on which it relies, that is the twisted, ambitious wizard Raistlin Majere of the Dragonlance novels (in which the ideas are superior to the writing). It's not one of the album's finer moments, but earns its place with a desperation hinged to its constantly wailing melodies, which are like the new bagpipes as they brazenly smack you in the ears, over and over.

'My body fails
My soul will (rise)'

"Age of False Innocence" is a nice prog-rocking ballad across a smokescreen of moody synthesizers, a tribute to the great astronomer and philosopher Galileo Galilei which erupts into a chugging force and then the expectant melodic storm, graceful enough that you can close your eyes and picture the swarming stars as they converge about Galileo's revolution in thought. The operatic chanting is a nice touch where it appears. Next, Blind Guardian tackles another famous historical figure, Friedrich Nietzsche, and his mental decline, with "Punishment Divine", another of the very best songs on this album, very loyal to the band's raging speed metal roots. Despite the wealth of annoying pop & squeal guitar at some of the tracks' climactic moments, there is a power and mystique which truly honors the philosopher.

Assuming you don't have one of the several lingual versions of "Harvest of Sorrow", the album then closes with "And Then There Was Silence", the 14+ minute epic of the Trojan War drawn from the inspiration of Homer and Virgil. Most had already heard this on the single the year before, but it's a decent balance of powerful moments and playful tragedies, serving as a semi-narrative through the heights and falls of the dreadful war. There are some moments of brilliance within the track, like the early driving mutes around 1:00 or the inevitable, climactic chorus vocals, but I do feel it rambles on a little long.

A Night at the Opera is another excellent Blind Guardian effort, with over an hour of material. The tracks here are longer than most previous albums, in part to make up for the myriad of tiny segues that made up a fraction of Nightfall in Middle-Earth's bulk, and in part to absorb the listener into each of the distinct stories of the album. Though the squealing guitars can grate on my nerves after a spell, it would be foolish to infer that the rest of the album sounds anything less than cosmic, especially when you think how much effort went into all the tracking...I mean literally, the band used 100s of guitar, keyboard and vocal tracks here, so think of it more like an orchestra starring a few of the same musicians (and specific parts) over and over. It's ambitious, and it's successful. Though one might derive from my lesser score that I found this something of a disappointment from the previous two albums, that is not the case. When this album shines, it shines just as brightly as Nightfall in Middle-Earth. But there are simply 2-3 songs here which do not stand out to me as much as the rest. Still, the fascinating subject material of each track and the great overall songwriting should earn it a spot in any metal fan's collection.

Highlights: Battlefield, Under the Ice, Wait for an Answer, The Age of False Innocence, Punishment Divine

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Misty tales and poems lost... - 100%

OllieS, June 19th, 2009

Anyone with any knowledge of power Metal will have heard of Blind Guardian. Starting as a humble speed Metal band to going on to produce some of the most grandiose music out there, they've done it all in the power Metal world. With their most epic works, such as this album, A Night At The Opera, Blind Guardian remind me of Opeth, as in you can't just be a casual fan: if you like them you absolutely love them, and if you don't like them you just, well, don't like them. Production and songwriting wise A Night At The Opera is the band's most ambitious effort, and by many considered their best.

The most striking and arguably most important aspect of this album is the overall sound. The album title certainly isn't fraudulent - there are so many layers of vocals and orchestra that if you thought you were in an opera hall when listening to this album I wouldn't blame you; the sound, in a nutshell, is operatic. In the context of the band's discography, the extra vocal layers and orchestra arrangements are simply to make it as epic as possible, topping all of thier previous releases. Imaginations... had the guitar layers, Nightfall... had the guitar and keyboard layers, A Night... has the guitar, keyboard and orchestra layers. Simple. The layering adds an incredible amount of depth to the music - even when listening to songs on here you think you know well, you'll regularly uncover new melodies you never thought existed. The layering takes a lot of time to get used to, as it is very OTT, but it's not difficult to tolerate and eventually love. The production on this album must be mentioned, as it deserves a huge, huge commendation on making music this layered and dense enjoyable. One gripe I have with it is that sometimes I'd like the vocals to be louder in the mix, but considering all the layers that had to be mixed it's understandable. The orchestra on this album is simply incredible; the songs aren't wrote around the orchestra akin to many other bands (diminishing the music's substance) - instead, the orchestra is integrated into the songs to push them as high as possible on the bombast scale. This is best shown in 'And Then There Was Silence'; the seemingly neverending layers of orchestration make it epic as hell without once sounding superfluous or cheesy. Additionally, the arrangements change every chorus to subtly (remember, the orchestra merely backs the music) give a different mood, showing BG are using the orchestra conscientiously. Finally, Andre Olbrich's lead guitar performance largely contributes to the album's grandeur; he's pretty much playing lead melodies all the time in every song, but his patterns work around the vocals incredibly, creating a permanent onslaught of memorable melodies.

Just as with the sound and production, the songwriting on A Night At The Opera is the band's most ambitious of all time, and is executed perfectly. Most significant here is the song structures: while there'll be three choruses per song in the normal places, the verses go beyond any creativity I've heard from other artists structure wise; they're so detailed and complex they can barely be labelled as verses. Generally, a verse on this album consists of 3 - 5 'sub-verses' - for example, take a normal verse of a song, condense it to 15 seconds, take the verse of another totally different song, condense that to 15 seconds then add that to the other 15 second 'sub-verse', repeat two more times and you have a Blind Guardian verse. The parts ('sub-verses') the verses consist of are certainly different to each other (time signatures, keys, tempi, textures and just about anything else will change), yet all manage to flow naturally; the songs never drag or feel awkward. The manic verses ultimately give the music more depth and hooks, boosting the songwriting tenfold. As for the choruses...

A Night At The Opera also features the best choruses the band have ever written, many of which being at the absolute top of the genre and just flat-out insane. Blind Guardian have caught on to a formula of taking the catchy, epic Iron Maiden style chorus further; that being the best way to describe the choruses on here. Every track (excluding tracks 5 and 8) has a chorus which is as enormous and catchy as possible; if you're not grinning like child and singing along at the top of your voice power Metal is simply not for you. The bombast-beyond-belief chorus style is shown perfectly in the opener 'Precious Jerusalem'; with its monolithic yet intricate vocal harmony, scarily subtle lead guitar line pushing the vocal melody even higher and erratic drumming which slays the idea of a chorus needing to have a simple 4/4 beat, in the best possible way. The chrouses also range from simple to complicated in structure: 'The Soulforged' sounds like it could have came from the bands younger, more fundemental Speed/Power Metal days, while 'And Then There Was Silence's chorus is nearly a minute long with 4 parts, one of which containing the best vocal melody I've ever heard (the line 'Will my weary soul find release for a while, at the moment of death I will smile').

As for the band, they're predictably all at the top of their game. Hansi is irrefutably the best he's ever been ability wise; his range is upwards of 4 octaves (A1 in 'Precious Jerusalem' to a multitude of Soprano notes in most songs) which greatly contributes to the success of the omnipresent vocal layering, he varies his voice countless times (there's a different main vocal style in all ten songs, and he even pulls out accents and voices I'd never think he'd do) and his power is simply unmatched (only Glenn Hughes comes close in all Rock and Metal). Thomen Stauch's drum performance is also the best he's ever given; from his proggy tom work, smoothest kit sound I've ever heard, addition of frequent 32nd notes to a wide range of external percussion, he achieves intricacy never before reached on a Metal album, ultimately adding more depth to the music. Despite how much he does his playing supports the music perfectly and never becomes a distraction (he's playing for the band, not for himself). Andre's lead guitar melodies and solos are as always incredibly fitting, whether it be shredding passionately in the'Punishment Divine' solo or propelling every vocal line in 'And Then There Was Silence', he does a brilliant job. Also of note is the irregular, almost synthetic guitar tone, which makes the guitars sound almost like violins, in a good way. While the mix (orchestra, vocals) does hinder the audibility of the bass and rhythm guitar, Marcus and Oliver still contribute some necessary rhythmic sections, the ryhthm guitar in the verses of 'Battlefield' and sludgy bass at the end of 'Sadly Sings Destiny' being my favourites.

The lyrics on the album are among the band's most inspired, as well as darkest. Mostly, the lyrics switch between dark and light (even though the majority will be dark), which fits the multi-faceted, unpredictable nature of the music perfectly. All of the lyrics are based around a story or mythical tale, with Hansi adopting many different personas describing epic tales from select character's points of view. A special mention goes out to 'The Maiden And The Minstrel Knight', as Hansi writes some very emotional lyrics about love related depression ("I'm alone and sadness reigns in my heart; for as long as we live it won't go away"). As always, the lyrics are very well written, but what I really like about this album is Hansi's addition of many great rhyming lines. Lines such as "It doesn't matter anymore, that someone's knocking at door; I've known it long before, the Galileians on the floor" and "From a distant place he's on his way, he'll bring decay in shades of gray; we're doomed to face the night, light's out of sight" are among the best Hansi and co. have ever penned. Many Power Metal lyrics can be farcical and cheesy, but don't be fooled, the lyrics on A Night At The Opera can be taken totally seriously and have ample depth.

One other thing that must be mentioned is the album's last track, the fourteen minute monster known as 'And Then There Was Silence'. Sorry Opeth, Wintersun, Amorphis, Isis; THIS is the most epic Metal song ever. This piece combines all the strengths of the album and produces simply the best song Blind Guardian have ever written; you'd be a fool not to check this out.

A Night At The Opera is the best power Metal album by miles, killing all opposition. BG always set out to make this album, as it's the pinacle of ~20 years of power Metal perfection; it doesn't surprise me they're running out of ideas nowadays. Of course, most listeners will find this album very overwhleming on first listens and claim it as terrible, but that's the beauty of the album - being amazed as you realise all the layers contain raw substance. If the album has one flaw it's the song 'Wait For An Answer' which lacks the spark of the other tracks, but it doesn't hinder the album enough for it not to get a perfect score. Long live BG.

Welcome to the Slaughter! - 91%

Twisted_Psychology, June 8th, 2009

Not to be confused with the overwhelmingly influential Queen album of the same name, Blind Guardian’s seventh studio album is one of the most unusual within the band’s catalogue. It is easily the most symphonic and epic album of the band’s career, but has unfortunately proven to be the last album to feature drummer Thomen Stauch.

How is the best way to put this? Let me just say that if you disliked the symphonic aesthetics that were added onto 1998’s "Nightfall on Middle-Earth," then I strongly advise you to stay the fuck away from this album! Every second of every song is packed with extensive arrangements and more orchestral flourishes than what can be fully comprehended with only one listen. Just about every song features commanding melodies, a variety of vocal theatrics, and choruses that will make you want to raise your invisible sword high and let out your battle cry. Even the ballads such as "The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight" are packed with bombarding orchestrations that should make the listener drop their jaw in awe. Fortunately the arrangements do not get in the way of the song’s emotion when compared to more stripped down ballads of the band’s past such as "The Bard’s Song" and "Lord of the Rings."

For the most part, the band members are in top form on this album. Despite this being the drummer’s last album, Thomen’s performance could be the best of his career and blends the speed metal approach of past efforts with a more progressive touch added in to interesting effect. Vocalist Hansi Kursch also shines on this album with his Freddie Mercury-esque layering and inspiring performances. Unfortunately, the guitars are often overshadowed and overcome by the surrounding orchestrations and effects are the songs do tend to sound slower and more plodding as a result. Having said that, there are still a bunch of cool riffs to be found and the guitarists do get the occasional chance of shred. And of course, the bass is pretty much nowhere to be found. It really makes me feel bad for poor Oliver...

Oddly enough, the album’s biggest strength seems to be its biggest weakness. Blind Guardian was already a band that required an acquired taste to enjoy, and the numerous things going on in every song can make the album too overwhelming for some listeners. In fact, a few songs could probably benefit from a stripped down moments here and there. . .

This could be one of my favorite Blind Guardian albums. Too bad they probably can’t perform any of these songs in a non-studio environment without a countless number of overdubs...

Pros:
1) Excellent drumming and amazing vocal layering
2) Strong epic atmosphere and cool orchestrations
3) Excellent songwriting and great song structures

Cons:
1) May be too overwhelming for some listeners
2) Where did the guitars go?

My Current Favorites:
"Precious Jerusalem," "Battlefield," "Under the Ice," "Sadly Sings Destiny," and "The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight"

Good excess. - 95%

TheJizzHammer, December 22nd, 2008

When listening to some bands, you have to be willing to embrace change. Some bands change album to album, others have ‘eras’, whereas with some bands, you already know what you’re gunna get, like with Obituary, for instance. Blind Guardian is a band who, despite being referred to as consistent by some, has changed a few times since their formation in the eighties. In this case, the change between Nightfall In Middle Earth and A Night At The Opera is anything but subtle. In reading reviews on this sight and elsewhere, opinions are obviously mixed.

However, this was my first Blind Guardian experience, and upon a few very engaging listens to this album, I fell in love. Those of you who have kept track of Blind Guardian over the years may question this, but this is my favorite Blind Guardian release of them all. I love all of them, really, but this takes the cake.

One thing that really appeals to me about this album is how varied it is. Each song offers so much to be heard, you really would think you are at an opera. Not just the great drum fills, or those leads with the memorable guitar tone, but also the over-the-top, layered, ever-passionate vocals, and the keys/samples that can be heard here and there. This album carries a lot of bulk compared to the albums coming before it, offering a very good medieval – battlefield vibe, which never was lacking from the Blind Guardian sound.

Layers of instruments aren’t the only thing offering variety, but there are so many changes and passages in each song that breaks this album away from the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure you hear when you tune in to any modern rock station. There are very good verses and choruses to be heard, indeed, but there are so many great interludes and bridges and other little “parts” that add some nice decoration to the overall make-up of the album, and I think they all fit perfectly.

As for those choruses – those are easily my favorite part of the album. Generally, a good chorus is what gets me to continue listening to a certain song, and from there, the rest of the song grows on me. This album is so full of awesome choruses that I nearly shat the first few times I listened to this album. The chorus in Sadly Sings Destiny and the chorus in The Soulforged still both cause me to nearly release my bowels in excitement. They are very catchy and epic, Hansi does some very good highs. Some of them make me wanna hold a sword up high in the air and scream.

As a matter of fact, this entire album does. This album easily secures a spot in my top 10 favorite albums of all time, and I don’t think I’ll be giving this album a rest for a while.

A night at the OPERA, indeed - 70%

Nhorf, September 5th, 2008

Released after the sucessful “Nightfall in Middle-Earth”, “A Night at the Opera” shows Blind Guardian adopting an even more ambitious sound: the speed metal elements that made some of the songs of the previous album what they were, were all thrown away and there are literally thousands of layers and classical arrangements to be found on this record. The guitar is even harder to distinguish this time, with the keyboards assuming the main role. And while the keyboards worked perfectly well for “Nightfall in Middle-Earth”, I have to say that they are even better on this opus. Really, there are awesome keyboard lines here, like the one on the beginning of “The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight” or the one played during the first section of the closer, “And Then There Was Silence”.

Musically, this album, while containing many elements also present on the previous record, can be seen as a step forward, the band fully adopting a new symphonic sound. However, “A Night at the Opera” suffers from some problems, like the absence of lengthy instrumental passages; you can easily recognize this by listening to the before-mentioned “And Then There Was Silence”. While, yeah, the song may be epic as hell, Hansi is literally always singing on it and listening to a song clocking in at around 14 minutes with no instrumental sections bores me to death. There are a fair amount of guitar solos to be found on this record though, they are present on almost every tune but they are also too damn short. André Olbrich is a great guitar player and it's sad to see him so buried in the mix.

Returning to “The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight”, it can be seen as the only true song that works perfectly well, the keyboards blending together perfectly with the guitars and the whole medieval atmosphere surrounding it being excellent. The vocal layers and the presence of the choir are two other important elements of this epic little gem. The lyrics, while very romantic, fit well with the music and are fairly well written. The false ending of the tune is also among the best moments of the CD. Probably, the best song of the album.

As for the strucutres of the songs, there are lots of variety here, from the quiet beginning of songs like “Under the Ice” to the powerful riffs of “Sadly Sings Destiny”. Those two tracks are also among the highlights of the album, both carrying amazing choruses. The catchy choruses are, indeed, present on almost every tune of the album and they kind of compensate, at times, the lack of instrumental sections. “Precious Jerusalem” is also quite strong, with the arabian-influenced melodies, and “Battlefield” follows the same path. “And Then There Was Silence” could have been much better than it is, but it still is a decent tune with some interesting moments (“never give up, never give in!”). Ah, and don't think I don't like that particular song because I don't like long tunes! My favourite Genesis song is “Supper's Ready”, my favourite Yes song is “Close to the Edge”, my favourite Iron Maiden song is “Phantom of the Opera”, my favourite Dream Theater song is “Octavarium”, my favourite Metallica song is “...And Justice for All” (correction: “That Was Just your Life”)... As you can see, I adore long songs but, for some reason, I can't really understand why “And Then There was...” is so worshipped.

Moving on, “The Soulforged” and “The Age of False Innocence” are a bit weaker, both are the only true fillers of the album. The vocal lines aren't that strong and both are generally very forgettable. Finally, “Wait for An Answer” is, structure-wise, very similar to “Under the Ice” or “Sadly Sings Destiny”, and is a fairly enjoyable track.

So, if you adored the arrangements and layers present on “Nightfall in Middle-Earth”, this album is for you. It is fairly enjoyable and interesting and bear in mind that I'm not a symphonic metal fan! Ah, and if your favourite Blind Guardian record is “Battalions of Fear”, I don't think you'll enjoy that much this piece. The speed metal elements are gone and there are no aggressive, ultra-fast tracks to be found here. On other hand, if you are a fan of progressive metal, you also can enjoy this piece, since the songs are fairly complex, intricate and original.

Best Moments of the CD:
- “never give up, never give in!”
-the choruses of “Under the Ice” and “Sadly Sings Destiny”.
-the false ending of “The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight”.

More Progressive, but still BG. - 86%

hells_unicorn, February 25th, 2007

Blind Guardian has been a source of both consistency and change, as contradictory as it may seem, and as a result has maintained its status as the most musically significant and influential band in the Speed/Power Metal sub-genre. Each album has evolved rather curiously from one to the other, from the humble beginnings of the Speed Metal classic “Battalions of Fear”, to the more innovative works of “Tales from the Twilight Hall” and “Somewhere Far Beyond”, and finally the epic speed metal grandeur of “Imaginations from the Other Side”. With the advent of “Nightfall on Middle Earth”, which to this day remains my favorite release by the band, the band began to become more Progressive in their approach to song and album structure, not to mention more symphonic in their overall sound.

“A Night at the Opera” is the next logical step from Nightfall; an album that marries the speed metal influences of the past with a very non-conventional approach to song structure and thematic design, resulting in something that is a bit distant from their straightforward beginnings. Purists whom like their metal free of keyboards and dense choral harmonies are accurate in their claims that this is not the Blind Guardian of old, but this does not mean that it isn’t a fabulous metal album; quite the opposite is the case when all the songs are given proper attention.

Among the less conventional BG songs we have a collection of tracks that are mostly guitar driven, yet call upon an unusual mix of ideas. “Sadly Sings Destiny” has a lot of wah pedal work in its various guitar themes, giving the song a bit of a classic rock edge, although we still get a typical flurry of speed drum work and a powerful chorus. “Under the Ice” and “Precious Jerusalem” also make use of some different textural devices during their intros and respective sections, but still maintain that speed metal edge. Thomas Stauch is definitely among the more physically fit drummers out there by virtue of the material he has been given up to this point.

“Battlefield” and “Soulforged” are among the more classically oriented BG songs, making use of catchy guitar themes and some traces of their Middle Earth sound on Nightfall. The latter has the 2nd most powerful chorus on here, the most powerful being that of “And Then There Was Silence”. “The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight” is our epic ballad and it has quite a large amount of orchestral sounds in it. It’s a tiny bit overdone, but still an enjoyable listen. “Punishment Divine” is the only track on here that truly reaches back further than Nightfall and sounds a bit like material off Imaginations; it’s fast and furious, not to mention loaded with amazing guitar work courtesy of Andre Olbrich.

The highlight of this album, however, is the astoundingly epic closing track “And then there was silence”. I had already heard it when it was released as a single, but I still waited with anticipation when buying this album to get to the end to hear how it would function as a closer to this rather large album. You don’t get much more symphonic than this, with or without a full symphony orchestra behind you. The formal twists and turns will likely be lost on traditional speed metal fans, but for anyone who enjoys long and drawn out epics in the vain of Symphony X; this is something that rivals Michael Romeo’s magnum opuses. The lyrics are faithful to the original story of the Iliad, though obviously told from the point of view of the Trojans, whom are ultimately the more sympathetic in the story, regardless to their final end.

To fans of Blind Guardian, before judging your favorite band as being sell outs or some other made up word meant to articulate your disapproval for the changes they’ve chosen to make, ask yourself if you’d be happy with a band that writes the same album 8 or 9 times. Even the most well conceived basic speed metal idea will eventually get old. Fans of Progressive metal and Power/Prog will probably like this the most, though I’m sure there are some classic BG fans out there who will find it in their hearts to move forward as the band has. This is not quite“Nightfall on Middle Earth”, an “Imaginations from the Other Side”, or even a “Somewhere Far Beyond”, but it is definitely worthy of the BG name.

The best among the great - 98%

Lennert, May 3rd, 2006

I can understand why A night at the opera seems a bit dissapointing to the people who hail Blind Guardian for great speed metal releases like Battalions of Fear and Somewhere far beyond. I mean, the production is perhaps a little overdone and the overkill of choirs might scare people away, but in the end ANATO seems to have the best material the band ever produced in their entire existence.

I will start with the normal good songs: Precious Jerusalem, Sadly sings destiny and Age of false innocense which are really good, but definitly not the best songs on the album. Catchy as hell, but just not as catchy as the rest. Powerfull, just not that powerfull in comparison to the other tracks.
The really great songs are: Battlefield (great chorus), Under the Ice, Wait for an Answer, The Soulforged (catchy as hell, you'll just want to sing along with this one) and And then there was silence. And then there was silence is the perfect example of how an epic power metal song should sound like. The lyrics are great and the band's performance is just awesome.

The two songs that I like the best and haven't named before are first of all The maiden and the minstrell, which I like to refer as the best power metal ballad ever. Blind Guardian always does a good jobs at writing them and although this song isn't acoustic like The bard song or A past and future secret it still has te same romantic/fantastic feeling like the other ones. It's just a shame they haven't played it the times I saw them.
The absolute best song is Punishment Divine. I have no other words to describe it then 'Divine'. The lyrics are concering with the philosopher Nietzsche who proclaimed God to be dead, but ended up mad and talking to God and Angels ('From far beyond I hear them sing: It's true, it's true, we don't exist'). The drumintro is fast and powerfull and the chorus is awesome (although I like the live version from 'Imaginations through the looking glass' even more).

If you listen through the somewhat overbombastic production you'll still hear the old speed metal like riffs they used to play in the early days. I myself have no problem whatsoever with the production however and have no problem with the use of choirs. Hansi's voice is beautiful as always and he managed to write some of the best BG songs in their entire history. Great lyrics, great solo's and brilliant artwork. In my opinion the best German powermetal album ever. Period.

Blind Experiment or Beginings From The Other Side? - 90%

Ragnarok790, August 22nd, 2005

Blind Guardian has time and time again proven themselves to be amongst the greatest medieval power metal bands of all time (if not the best). With releases such as 'Imaginations From The Other Side', and the legendary 'Nightfall In Middle-Earth', they have forever gauranteed their place in metal history. VALHALLA!

Blind Guardian's albums up through 'The Forgotten Tales' were straight up, face-ripping power metal, with speedy guitar riffs underneath Hansi's amazing vocal power. Such songs as 'Another Holy War', and, 'Welcome To Dying' blew away their audiences. With their 1998 release of 'Nightfall In Middle-Earth', however, the band took a more epic turn, adding in a variety of instruments and often synthisizing orchestral hits and leads. The musical circle was completed.

With this release in 2002, Blind Guardian decided to up the keyboards and play much more on looping Hansi's voice to result in various harmonies and counter-melodies (although they had a few guest vocalists for backups). While a fan of hardcore, old school 80's power metal may be disappointed, one who seeks something epic in today's power metal would not be ashamed of buying this cd. Lyrically, Hansi is as talented at writing as he is at singing. However, sometimes it's somewhat difficult to understand the lyrics as the choirs are so loud and textured.

1) Precious Jerusalem - My first impression was 'oh no...they've gone industrial on me', but i must say, once the song actually started up it was a joy to listen to. It's quite obvious from the start that they are experimenting with a new style, with the detatched and almost metallic sounding effects at the beginning. Like i've said before, Hansi comes through with the lyrics and singing, not only saving but making this song in my opinion. Once the choir comes in singing 'Rising up from the heart of the desert, rising up for Jerusalem', all my doubts were obliterated.

2) Battlefield - Ah, now we have the perfect combination of synth, choir, lead vocals, and underlying distorted guitar. The balance of all is almost to much to bare, as it would be orgasmic to listen to with a surround sound system. The band truly makes up for the fact that they do not have a stable bass player by encorporating lead synth lines in this song. One other thing about this song that i realized; there is no set pattern, i.e. it is not 'verse-verse-chorus-verse'. Blind Guardian does whatever the hell they feel like doing, going into several pre-choruses and bridges that are unlike anything else. I applaud, and feel this is among their greatest work.

3) Under The Ice - One truly gets a feeling for Hansi's mighty range in this song. It's nice to have a good old fashioned power metal opening (after the synth line of coarse). In a lot of ways this song is remenisent of earlier BG styles, relying much more on palm muted guitar than symphonies and choirs. "Under the ice you will beleive" - Hansi sings every voice in the choir, may it be saprano, alto, tenor, or bass, he did it.

4) Sadly Sings Destiny - With this song the theme of religion is brought back from track 1 (Precious Jerusalem), and yet again looks at religion in a dark, bloody way. Not an evil way, but dark. Once again, keyboards are somewhat sparse, and the guitar plays eighth notes during the chorus, leaving it somewhat empty and missing something. The vocal harmonies are there...but they are somewhat weak, and often times Hansi seems to be rambling.

5) The Maiden And The Minstrel Knight - What a perfect way to add an even greater medieval / dark feel than to have a knight's ballad? The intro is exceptional. While most bands have a keyboard playing an entire orchestra as one instrument, this song distinctly has seperate parts for each instrument (example; you can hear a basoon at one point). The weakest part of the song is the cheesy synth line right before the heavy bridge into the distortion guitar part, but the rest of the song makes up for it.

6) Wait For An Answer - Mostly every album has a song or two that was thrown in as a filler, and although effort was put into this song, i feel it is the weakest of the set list. The synth during the chorus is cheesy, and the lyrics / music really seem to go nowhere. Overall this song is boring to listen to, i think.

7) The Soulforged - Possibly the most popular song off this album. With this song we go back to a very 'Nightfall-ish' feel. The intro is similar to 'Into the Storm', which is always a nice way to start out. Like 'Battlefield', they dont have a pattern and really go where they feel like it, but always come back to a main riff right before the chorus, making it complete. The solo's are uniquely Blind Guardian, as they have multipul parts going on at one, giving it harmony and a very cool sound. On the live album this song kicked ass.

8) The Age Of False Innocence - When i first heard the piano introduction to this, i fell in love. Hansi uses his soft, somewhat bard-ish voice in the beginning to give a somewhat distorted feel to this obviously dark song. Once again, little keyboard, but the guitarists of Blind Guardian know how to make a kickass power metal ballad! Like the previous song, the solo has multiple parts under and above it, giving depth.

9) Punishment Divine - The intro is similar to the first track, really cool, seperated intro. Not only is the instrumentation cool, but the chorus is so damn catchy! "Joyful it seems but, then suddely, With one false move its gone away'. I've spent a very long time listening and vibing to this song. Its one of those that you might like late at night.

10) And Then There Was Silence - Here we go with the keyboard again, heh. Choir over orchestra...always nice. The little opening line where Hansi chants over a very tribal percussion line adds a nice touch. The joined power of the guitar and vocals singing 'Hear My Voice, There Is No Choice' is very epic sounding - a definite +.

Overall, this is possibly my favorite BG album to date. There are some aspects that may not make this album as appealing to some, as i've said, like the overly done keyboards at times. Those people are not alone, as BG's drummer, Thomen Stauch, left the band due to his disatisfaction with the musical direction of the band. Personally its everything i could want in a CD, but i can definatly see where one would look down upon it.

A Bombastic Show - 93%

Nihil_Arion, June 22nd, 2005

Blind Guardian´s last studio album with their original alignment, now that Mr. Thomen Stauch has left the band. At first sight, this album would seem a bit queer: the name, hadn´t it been used by Queen already?; and the portrait, a mish-mash of fantasy characters trying an orchestra ensemble. But anyway, the concept is still BG (a show of fantasy creatures, with Gandalf as audience, among others), and let us not judge this book by the cover, for its quite an orchestral ride, as the name implies.

Precious Jerusalem – an adequate drum intro, with Hansi´s vocals shortly after. At times, Hansi´s vocals mix with those of the choir, giving a bombastic feeling prevailing in this album. The drums are quite good on this one, specially the part after the guitar solo, which most surely proves Stauch´s proficiency at percussion; too sad he is no longer BG. The lyrics speak of Jerusalem, as obvious, the city that denied mankind´s saviour. Great start for the album.

Battlefield – an orchestrated start lets the epic choir enter the song. This is to my ear the most bombastic song of the album (with the possible exception of And then there was Silence). The choir prevails over most of the song, maybe Hansi isn´t even singing! It’s a fast song, full of choirs followed by Hansi´s singing, but feels like Hansi is on background, for the choir, as aforementioned, domains the song. Good song, the feeling definitely is established for the rest of the album.

Under the Ice – entering with a sort of arabic sound effect and then with guitar and drums, I find it to be the least good song of the record. The first part is good, but after halfway through he song its get boring, or that´s how I perceived it. The chorus is good though. Not bad, but its not a good song as the others.

Sadly Sings Destiny – now, THIS IS A GOOD START. With a cool guitar tune, the song kicks in with anthem-like. Hansi´s vocals prevail again, but there also good choirs included, chanting the song´s title in the chorus. The lyrics are about the crucifiction of Jesus. Good bridge, and great chorus, leading to an excellent song.

The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight – a medieval-like ballad. The orchestration gives it a great ambientation, as though being in the court of a king. The slow start is overpowered by a drum and guitar explosion about two minutes from the start. The ballad goes on great, and even leads to a fake ending as the song apparently is ended, but an blasts again with chanting and drum guitars, with the final lines, not bad but cheesy. Great ballad and song.

Wait for an Answer – a direct start, back to heaviness. The tunes here are enthralling and catchy, specially the “silent creature, filthy teacher´s spreading the disease… ” part. The chorus´ second part has a great backing scream from Hansi´s “So far”. “We are the Blackbird Nation, we are the chosen ones”; as implied, this song has great lyrics, but I don´t really know the concept but its seems to be that the answer to oneself is within oneself, or something like that. “The hopeful, he sadly admits there´s no hero”, from there on until the ending part is truly amazing and memorable. Excellent.

The Soulforged – starts off like an anthem or a march, then the guitar plays a catchy tune, again as an anthem. The vocals, as in the rest of the album, are much more elaborate by overlapping; no wonder why did Hansi stopped playing the bass. The chorus is the most catchy of the album, not limiting the bombasticness in any way. This is a concept song based on one of DragonLance´s fan favorite character: the infamous mage Raistlin Majere. They do get a grip on the mage´s bow: he gave all pretense of happiness for his magic; a devouring ambition, complete with hourglass eyes that only see death, and golden skin and a never ending sickness, leading to a torturous condition to endure while on his pursuit for absolute power. This song in fact led me to read the DragonLance books, quite recommendable. Excellent and most catchy song.

Age of False Innocence – most different start, with piano and a bit of orchestration. After a bit of vocals, the drums kick in to a more aggressive tune than the others. There is also a good church-like chanting Sanctum Officium clocking at 2:20. This song is less bombastic than the others, except for the chorus; but still the starting tune of piano definitely lures you in, and out since its also an ending tune… without piano but the tune is the same. The guitar solo is excellent and drives good through the song. I feel it a bit different from the others, but the bombasticness lingers still. Great.

Punishment Divine – starting with weird sound effects, the drums again kick in. A minute from the start a fast part features Hansi doing great and rapid lines. Then the chorus retains the anthem like tune as in the beginning after the drum. The lyrics speak of Nietzsche´s downfall: throughout his life he maintained that God didn´t exist, and towards the end of his life, he started speaking with God and angels, even though he always said they didn´t exist; so, he went mad as punishment, hence the title. Amazing song, all the most with the finishing lines “Through the deepest void, a blackened paradise, I walk alone”.

And Then There was Silence – BG attempt at an epic-length song, and definitely an accomplishment. An orchestrated and full band start slowly drags us in to the choir chant, and Hansi´s vocals. This song is the most elaborate of all the album, and easily of all BG repertoire. It has some great lines, and its about the Trojan War. It never gets boring, since the only repeated part is the chorus, the tunes and melodies are otherwise evolving throughout the song. Almost at three minutes, a silent part starts truly memorable and Hansi´s vocals cannot be heard more clearly, by the gods, he truly was born for singing. And the first chorus gets in at just 4:20 from the start. The bridge and chorus are truly memorable and catchy. Also the “Never give up, never give in” part is catchy. There is also a sing along part near the ending, which in live shows is a call for the crowd definitely. Took me a while to digest, but now I truly love this song.

Mies del Dolor – in my version of the album, there is Harvest of Sorrow sung in Spanish. Since its my native tongue I could hear it fully, it feels like Hansi is resisting the urge to sing it in german, his pronunciation is not good at times. The translation is not bad but not exact, mostly for sake of keeping it along with the melody of the song. It’s the same as the original, just translated. Not a bad version, gives me a chance to sing it in my tongue, but I prefer it in English.

This album is the most elaborate production of Blind Guardian, being fully orchestrated. Traces of this could be found in their previous album, NiME; but not in the same extent as in this one, obviously. All the songs are bombastic, although some like Battlefield to more extent than others. It’s a great production and an album definitely worth of buying, but falls a bit short compared to other albums; take NiME for example. If someone asks me to buy a first BG album, I would recommend NiME or Somewhere Far Beyond; since this album would take time to digest if one is not familiarized with Blind Guardian sound.

Blind at the opera - 93%

Manu_SwordMaster, July 16th, 2004

It certainly is the most produced album, and the sound is pretty different to the previous albums, although you can tell its Blind Guardian. You really feel like there is a lot of instruments playing, although the orchestra is synthesized it sounds good, though I would love to hear Blind Guardian with a real full-orchestra.

Some may say that this album doesn´t have hits such as "Born in a mourning hall", "Bright Eyes" or "Journey through the dark", which filled the albums before NIME. Well, maybe that´s true at the first listen, you may not be attracted to any particular song but "And then there was Silence". But you really need to let it grow with many listens. I thought "Precious Jerusalem" was really boring, but now I know its an excellent song. In the other hand I really was captured by "Battlefield" first, but now is not that great. "Under the ice" and "Sadly sings destiny" are not the best, but are nice songs. The only slow song is "The maiden and the minstrel knight" which is an incredible ballad, very emotive. Another great song is "Wait for an Answer", you never heard a song with so many choirs singing one over the other, hard to follow the lyrics. "The Soulforged" you could say it is a real hit, as it has the most catchier chorus on the album. "The age of fall innocence" has an excellent piano part, the chorus is not so good, but its a nice song. "Punishment Divine" is the most hard track, the rhythm guitar reminds me of Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth and Demons & Wizards, and it is an excellent song.

"And then there was Silence" is a musical icon. This song is just incredible, the chorus is grandiose, it has calm parts, some very emotional parts (no hope, the blind leads the blind...) (still the wind blows, calm and silent, carries news from a distant shore), its incredible but this song can make me cry. Its beautiful, and makes the 14 minutes pass as 3. Then there is the bonus track, the version of "Harvest of Sorrow" sung in different languages, depending where you bought it, and probably with backing vocals by a local musician. In my case (Argentina) it is a Spanish version with Adrian Barilari of Rata Blanca. Hansi´s pronunciation is quite correct, though its easy to say his German.

Well, Blind Guardian fans should be happy for their band released an awesome album. Much harder than NIME, but not in the way of Imaginations from the other Side. Blind Guardian evolution is constant and noticeable. So each album is really different, and although NIME and ANATO are the most symphonic albums, they are pretty different from each other, and they are two masterpieces.

Overly pompous, but good. - 94%

HealthySonicDiet, December 20th, 2003

Blind Guardian is generally pretty 'out-there' and over-the-top, but this is a prime example of purposeful cacophony of the highest order. Night is full of incredibly massive walls of choral singing and Hansi Kursch's vicious power metal vocal assault makes it worth the while. He has a very powerful voice, but I have a hard time taking him seriously. For the record, he sounds like a constipated minstrel. The minstrel part is ok, but when he puts such umph into it, it's a little grating.

Unlike Nightfall, this doesn't have any mentally offsetting segues. Everything is basic, epic power metal and the guitars are *in-*your*-face. Each song is like a mini-epic, immersing the listener in a great adventurous story or battle, with your attention being drawn to each minute aspect of the song.

Unfortunately, though, this formula wears thin with time. C'mon, BG. We know you have a talent for concocting wonderfully forward-thinking song structures, solid riffing, and strong vocals, but do you have to make it so painfully obvious?

This showboat quality is something that makes it inferior to Nightfall in Middle-Earth; however, this better captures the spirit of medieval times IMO. Whereas Nightfall was more of a concept album, this is more of a collection of songs that have various medieval themes. I can't pick out a single unifying theme here.

Traces of BG's speed metal days are also apparent, especially on Punishment Divine. The title very aptly describes the song---it's punishing.

The epic song of the album, And Then There Was Silent, is great in retrospection(primarily just immediate retrospection), but the actual process of listening to it is harsh, as it scrambles from one thought to the other without having a clear focus. The chorus is exceptionally huge, however, and will make up for all the wavering that prevents it from achieving it's highest potential.

The bonus track, Mies del Delor, is a simple minstrel-like acoustic song sung in Spanish. Unfortunately, I can't translate the lyrics for you(even though I've had three years of Spanish), but I can say that it's a nice way to close an adventure that will leave you panting and gasping for air; although I would've liked for there to have been just a little bit more of a Latin flavor on it.

In conclusion, it's an excellent album, but it's marred by misguided enthusiasm and lackluster production. Still buy it when you have a chance though.

An epic masterpiece - 92%

OSheaman, August 13th, 2003

I'm not 100% sure why everybody's bitching about this being overproduced. If you had a choice between the two, would you want an overproduced album or an underproduced one? I don't know about you, but I'll choose this over Pure Fucking Armageddon any day.

This is an awesome Blind Guardian album with incredible riffage and power chords, supremely exciting drumming works, and yes, lots and lots of vocal work. With Hansi Kürsch leading the charge vocally, the album comes off and being incredibly epic and symphonic, with lots of vocal parts and powerful choral moments. Overdone? Maybe, if you're afraid of getting swept off your feet almost constantly by this bitch. I actually like the incredibly grandiose sound this album has (the title, after all, is A Night at the *Opera*). Add the incredible power riffage and Kürsch's fucking incredible voice, and you have a real masterpiece here.

Highlights. Precious Jerusalem is pretty good, but its opening rhythm part is noteworthy and should be familiar to thrash fans (Refuse, Resist, anyone?). Battlefield (the album's best song) starts out with a slow little distorted guitar solo, which immediately explodes into a symphonic masterpiece with some of the greatest shit I have ever heard from Kürsch, not to mention some incredible riffage and drum rolls for the appropriate effect. Sadly Sings Destiny starts out with another guitar solo which progresses into a slightly less epic but still very cool choral line. The Soulforged follows the same formula as the other highlights on here, but the sound is very unique and incredible catchy.

This is exactly what the title says it's going to be--a collection of epic, symphonic tunes with incredible vocal work. Those who believe this to be boring have a screw loose somewhere; this is easily some of Blind Guardian's best work.

What a huge fucking mess - 37%

Pyrus, June 2nd, 2003

Reading press reviews, it seems the metal world has latched onto this as one of the greatest things to happen to music in the past decade; I, myself, can't stand it. Basically, if you are a dedicated fan of stripped-down, song-based metal, you will want to bitchslap Hansi Kursch senseless. Now, there's nothing wrong with fun orchestral extras - Imaginations From the Other Side and Nightfall In Middle Earth were fine examples of the art of combining over-the-top ludicrous effects with good old European power metal. But this album falls victim to the cardinal sin of Musical Masturbation.

A Night At the Opera sounds like a confused child trying to make up their mind whether they want to listen to metal or classical and ending up doing both at once, with horribly clashing results. There are exactly fourteen minutes and eight seconds on here that really deserve praise, and they all take place during "And Then There Was Silence." Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for Trojan War material, but all the pomposity seems to find its place on an epic song like that one - it's grandiose and ridiculous, but it has nearly a quarter of an hour to be grandiose and ridiculous, so everything mananges to fit.

For the other fifty-odd minutes, however, it sounds like Hansi and Co. are attempting to fit, to put a Texan spin on it, twenty pounds of bullshit in a ten-pound bag. Almost every song is chock-full of pointless symphony effects, irritating multi-tracked vocals, more drum fills than drum beats, and fairly simplistic riffs buried under the previously mentioned pointless symphony effects. It all comes out sounding like a huge, pretentious mess with no focus, direction, or good solid METAL-ness.

A few songs are actually pretty damn good under the massive wall of idiosound, such as "Under the Ice" and "The Soulforged," which shine on Live with audible guitarwork. I suspect that "Sadly Sings Destiny" and "The Battlefield" may be good power metal tunes, but it's really impossible to tell because there's just way too much going on. The other five tracks, when you dig through the overproduced tomfoolery, are just plain uninspired and made almost entirely of bad ideas. Special kudos to "The Maiden And the Minstrel Night" for being not only pretentious, ridiculous, and stupid, but incredibly cheesy and sappy as well. Hansi, Andre, good job, guys. You really picked a winner here.

So all told, there is one really awesome track and two tracks which could be great if you took out the pseudosymphony. The awesome track is available as a single (also including the pretty good ballad "Harvest of Sorrow.") The other two tracks are on Live, and guess what, they took out the pseudosymphony!

So get those. Don't get this. It's really bad.

A modern Metal classic - 83%

Ayeka, May 19th, 2003

This album certainly rewards repeated listens. This was my first taste of Blind Guardian, and I was shocked from the start. My initial impression of the singer was "hmmm, a eunuch", but once you get used to the vocals you realise that it's not so much any earache-inducing high octave vocals that are the 'problem', more the insane choirs in the background. Personally, these are now no problem for me; indeed these choirs, peaking at the anthemic choruses of each song, mark the peaks of the album for me. For such a technical, complicated album those choruses are sure bloody catchy!
The downfall of this album could be that, unlike most fancy pants albums which reward hard, careful listening, the opposite is true here. When I listened hard I found myself looking for things that didn't seem to be there - where's the guitars? Where's the bass? Are they simply hidden behind the choirs and bizarre noises, or not there at all?! You could, on the other hand, argue this to be a good thing - pushing the boundaries of Heavy Metal. Something we definately need more of in this day and age.
Another noticeable characteristic of this album are the predominance of what could well be described as simply "wierd noises". Bizarre guitar and keyboard effects popping up at the bridges, or warbling away under Hansi's voice (which in itself could be described as a 'wierd noise' - these vocals are markebly European). Again, boundary pushing or plain wierdness - it's down to how you, the listener, interpret it! I for one interept this album as a whole as innovative genius.

Blind Guardian - A Night At the Opera - 80%

Hattori, July 25th, 2002

The epic, Tolkien-inspired "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" was one of the most complex albums in metal history, a far cry from the band's early speed metal days. "A Night at the Opera" is even more complex than its predecessor, and it takes a long time to fully appreciate. However, even though I've listened to "A Night at the Opera" quite a bit, I still wouldn't rank it as high as "Nightfall In Middle-Earth."

This new BG contains more vocals than I've heard on any other album. The vocals for this album were recorded on 80 to 90 vocal tracks, so it's no wonder that they tend to overwhelm and dwarf the impact of instruments throughout this disc. This album's vocals are too layered, but they do seem to fit the nature of the songs, which as a whole are grandiose and almost overdone. The problem, perhaps, is that the Guardians have went too far.

Because of all the vocals, it really helps to listen to this album with the CD booklet in hand, so that you can follow along with and memorize the lyrics. I found that this disc became a lot more enjoyable when I knew all the words. It also needs repeated listens. I can't stress this enough. Although I'm a colossal BG fan, this album didn't grab me on the first, second or even third listen. However, after a few more spins, I began to consider it an excellent Blind Guardian album and a welcome addition to their catalogue.

The centerpiece of this album is clearly the fourteen minute epic, "And Then There Was Silence." The song is a masterpiece and if it wasn't impossible to perform live, it would make an fitting insertion into the BG setlist, alongside classics like "Valhalla" and "Welcome to Dying." Another highlight is the Spanish version of "Harvest of Sorrow," entitled "Mies Del Dolor." This song sports soothing acoustic guitars and because it was written during the "Nightfall in Middle-Earth" sessions, the vocals are not layered or overdone as on many of the album's other tracks. I was initially apprehensive about a guy with a thick German accent trying to sing Spanish, but Hansi's voice sounds beautiful here. In fact, I prefer the Spanish version to the English version, although musically, they are exactly the same.

Other highlights on "A Night At the Opera" include "Precious Jerusalem," "Under the Ice" and "Battlefield." All the songs are good, but those are three that I never miss when I'm listening to the album . . . maybe because they are the first three.

Somewhat Disappointing - 70%

Esoteric, July 16th, 2002

I've been trying for months to come up with an accurate description of this album, and thus far only one has seemed to work: "Enjoyable but OVERDONE!"

ANATO actually ranks as my least favorite Blind Guardian album, because while it does have a few flashes of brilliance, this time Kursch and company are focusing too much on dramatic, layered vocal lines and too little on making a meaty album with catchy songs. What worked on Nightfall in Middle-Earth isn't working on this album, which is strange when you consider how similar the two albums actually sound at times...

This isn't to say that ANATO is a bad album, it just fails to excite me. Everything here is competently done...in fact, it's done TOO competently. It's hard to describe, but it sounds like BG is just trying too hard to make something really special and ends up detracting from it a bit. Everything's so slick and polished on this album that there's no bite left, which really sucks since this album boasts some of Kursch's best and darkest lyrics ever.

I've listened to this album 20 or 30 times and still can't get into it completely, which amounts to far more chances than I give most albums. I really wanted to love this album, but it just wouldn't let me somehow. I'll still listen to it now and again, but when I really want to hear Blind Guardian, I'll put on Imaginations or Battalions.