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What Endless Forms Most Beautiful Should Have Been - 94%

TrooperEd, April 27th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Nuclear Blast

Actually, scratch that. This is what every Nightwish album after Wishmaster should have been. Singers be damned, they could have gotten Otep to replace Tarja for all I care, just as long as the vehicle behind the female vocalist is flying the flag of Painkiller and Walls of Jericho. But enough of my projections of minority fronted bands not using their marketing position to their proper potential. Let's talk about the album.

For whatever reason, despite the endless pointers of influence on classical music from metal, trying to put a metal band with a symphony has always managed to end in a failure. Either the symphony gets drowned out and the whole thing comes across a dumb publicity stunt to attract non-fans (Kiss, Metallica), or, in the case of Nightwish, the entire band ends up having to hold back to make sonic room for the symphony. The guitars are reduced to nothing more than over-distorted, over treblesome (to coin a phrase) bass lines. Nobody seems to get that the whole thing should be one dynamic riff with all sorts of instruments filling out the sonic range.

Of course this accomplishment is an afterthought. As it should be. The question of the songs should always come first. The perfect marriage of symphony and metal should take a backseat to the fact that this is the finest collection of tracks the band has put together since Imaginations From The Other Side. Everything, everything here has a killer hook that could fill up Madison Square Garden. Even the non-metal tracks like Curse My Name and War of the Thrones have an ethereal, bold, melodic quality to them that Steve Harris, let alone Tuomas would be jealous. No vocal lines here sound thrown in for the sake of a forced soccer sing-along. Matter of fact, I don't think there are any proverbial "Oh" chanting lines to be found here.

Highlights: Wheel of Time not only brings the metal and the symphony, the foundation of the song bases itself in middle eastern belly dancing music! The band even has the courage the drop to only those elements in the middle of the song and build back up for a climax. The last 2 minutes is the most perfectly executed denouement of any Blind Guardian album, possibly even a power metal album. While Sacred Worlds seems to be more of the people's choice for best song, I can't deny that it does a perfect job of setting the tone for the rest of the album, not to mention serving a template of how all symphonic metal songs should follow. The violins and instruments setup a solid cadence before a vicious thrash riff erupts to never let go of the fact that Blind Guardian is metal first and foremost.

But my personal favorite has to be Tanelorn (Into The Void). In and of itself, it could have been on any of the first 3 or 4 Blind Guardian albums, but the attack of the guitar, particularly under the verses, is absolutely throat-ripping and easily capable of whipping the anti-melody punk fan into a joyful frenzy. And that chorus! That fantastic chorus! Hansi truly outdid himself with vocal melodies this album. Even if you're too lazy to hit the skip button (which, you should have no reason to use anyway), Hansi's phrasing is probably the most compelling detail that can carry any listener through the entire album. A piano version of War of the Thrones may frustrate the fan who wonder why the band just can't break their "A Past & Future Secret" curse, but dammit, its too Disney-like to ignore.

After putting out two mediocre albums in a row (over practically a ten year period nonetheless), most would be likely to right Blind Guardian off as another old 80s band out of ideas. But At The Edge of Time is the shot in the arm that not only makes them relevant, but rockets them right to the fore-front! If this isn't the metal album of 2010, it's easily #2 or #3. Buy it.

Recommended tracks:

Tanelorn (Into The Void)
Sacred Worlds
Wheel of Time
Control The Divine

Post-classic maturity. - 74%

ConorFynes, May 22nd, 2015

Regardless of the places they've ventured since, I believe Blind Guardian's career-defining arc ended with A Twist in the Myth. The disappointing Follow the Blind notwithstanding, each subsequent album sought to outdo the previous instalment in progressive ambitions. This arc, as steady as it was, culminated in near-overwhelming proportions with their seventh LP A Night at the Opera, an over-the-top musical feast with every element in their sound amplified to its conceivable limit. Although fans were even further polarized by Blind Guardian's decision to break the arc for a relatively accessible, song-based collection with A Twist in the Myth, I think it stood as a natural part of that evolution. They had a proper rising action with their first five albums, a climax with Nightfall in Middle-Earth and A Night at the Opera, and with A Twist in the Myth, they had their natural denouement.

But where does that leave Blind Guardian's more recent output; specifically their eighth album At the Edge of Time? There's some optimistic part of me that would like to see this as a brand new chapter in the band's development; they're arguably more confident in themselves in this decade than they ever have before. As I continue to listen to the album however, I get the impression that At the Edge of Time ushered in the truly post-classic era in their career. It is not as ambitious nor as challenging as A Night at the Opera, nor is it as stylistically risky as A Twist in the Myth. Rather, this is Blind Guardian taking a long look at their past achievements, and distilling their most characteristic elements to make a veritable fan-pleaser of an album. All the things you know and love (or hate) about the band are on At the Edge of Time; and though it doesn't sound like they pushed themselves here the way they have on albums past, I'd be lying if I denied the fact these ingredients have resulted in an immensely solid album nonetheless.

In a broad sense, At the Edge of Time represents the ultimate stagnation of Blind Guardian's sound. Everything-- the larger-than-life choruses, the fantasy-themed lyrics, the bombastic orchestrations, the mandatory minstrel ballads, the Queen-tinged guitar leads, the symphonic epics and the speed-fueled power metal assaults-- have been heard on albums past. Following A Night at the Opera and its natural rebuttal in A Twist in the Myth, I don't believe there were further heights they could take the music. As it happens, At the Edge of Time only appears to advance their art in terms of sheer budget; the production is sharper than it ever was before, and they finally have a live orchestra to match their symphonic ambitions. The music itself however, for all intents, is built from entirely familiar ingredients. At the Edge of Time was not an exciting development in their career; it began the purely fan-pleasing phase of their career that their most recent album Beyond the Red Mirror has only seen fit to continue.

And yet I love the album.

I've enjoyed it as much as any power metal album to come out this decade. Is this shamelessly hypocritical fanboyism at its worst? Possibly; but I think there is more to it. I really believe that only a band with a style as individual and distinct as Blind Guardian could risk stagnating on their pre-existing laurels and still create exhilarating art. Even without the impression of adventurous spirit that made Somewhere Far Beyond and others such classics, At the Edge of Time is filled with memorable songwriting, brought to life with much of the same attention to detail that has kept me coming back to their back catalogue. For one, "Tanelorn (Into the Void)" stands among the very best of the fast songs they've done; the chorus is one of the most exciting vocal arrangements I've ever heard from Hansi, and the song's arguably even better than "The Quest for Tanelorn" off Somewhere Far Beyond almost two decades before it. By this point in their career, Blind Guardian know how to milk the best out of their style.

"Valkyries" is another favourite of mine off the album; as energetic and epic as a power ballad has any right of being. As much as I could predict the presence of their mandatory plunge into acoustic minstrelsy, "Curse My Name" is a particularly good acoustic tune from them; comparisons with "A Past and Future Secret" off Imaginations from the Other Side wouldn't go unfounded. "Sacred Worlds" and "Wheel of Time" evoke the band's more orchestrated, epic side. It's on these tracks that the album's most notable innovation- a live orchestra- are highlighted. Although Blind Guardian take a similarly bombastic "Hollywood score" to their orchestrations like Rhapsody of Fire and Nightwish, it's surprisingly refreshing to hear the band finally working alongside a full-blown accompaniment.

Though I may cite "Ride into Obsession" and "Control the Divine" as less memorable songs, they're perfectly capable tracks in their own right. At the Edge of Time benefits from the fact that it has no truly weak links to it. By this stage of their career, Blind Guardian are clearly aware of what does and doesn't work in their formula. Although I would have imagined the 'same-old' approach to their albumcraft would have resulted in a less inspired performance, Blind Guardian sound as passionate in their execution as ever here. The album benefits from one of Hansi Kürsch's greatest vocal performances. Particularly on "Tanelorn (Into the Void)" and "Curse My Name", he amply demonstrates that his voice has lost none of its power with age, and we should continue to expect the best from him.

My obvious cynicism aside; Blind Guardian show some major confidence in themselves with At the Edge of Time. They have a perfect grasp of their style, and know exactly where they want to go in their music. For good and bad alike, Blind Guardian have reached full maturity.

Blind Guardian make a great return albeit flawed - 78%

psychosisholocausto, April 6th, 2013

Blind Guardian is one of the most enduring in the power metal genre, dating back to 1988, and have put out nine studio albums to date. They are often considered to be among the best out there and have tendencies to include a lot of symphonic work alongside a heavy but down right enjoyable sound. Imaginations From The Other Side and Nightfall In Middle Earth stick out as being their strongest material but their latest album, At The Edge Of Time, does not shy away from containing wonderful compositions either.

Coming off of the back of the rather lackluster A Twist In The Myth, 2010's studio album from one of the flagship bands of its genre is a very good release with a lot to love about it. This album contains two epic songs that last for a long time and never stop being amazing all the way through. Wheel Of Time and Sacred Worlds are numbers that make heavy use of the symphonic side of the band that they are supposedly toying with the idea of using for their entire next album. These two mammoth-lengthed tracks also provide some of the highlights of the album and are the strongest works here. Perhaps it was only right to open with one and close with the other.

Both of the aforementioned epics guide the listener on a journey that is very exciting and enjoyable with numerous dips and rises in pace and heaviness, but the other songs are also strong enough. War Of The Thrones is a much slower paced song than many would expect from a band such as this but serves to break up the flow of the album and give a much more interesting pacing to it than many of its contempories within the band's own discography. The drum performance on this song is rather incredible but throughout the whole album it is probably the best thing about it. There are numerous fast double bass sections and a lot of snare use without ever threatening to abuse that particular piece of the kit.

Hansi Kursch is the one real let down for this release. Whereas on other Blind Guardian albums he has put in performances that range from excellent to stellar, on here he feels a little tired. He has his moments on The Wheel Of Time and Curse My Name but for the first four songs in particular he lacks any sort of range and power behind his voice. It just feels as though Hansi has been in the metal industry for far too long now despite his best moments on Wheel Of Time. The lyrics are also a let down on here. They follow the same fantasy-ridden template that the band used on other albums but they lack any of the ingenuity they previously had.

At The Edge of Time is the sound of a band that has pushed themselves to make a great album following the low point of their career and succeeded with a great drum performance and numerous songs that best display the band's dynamic and often shifting style of music within their sound despite the fact it is marred by vocals that occasionally border on being abyssmal.

Thank God this happened come 2010 - 90%

rapps, December 13th, 2012

I'll just get straight to the point here, I love this album and what a friggin reilef too! Blind Guardian has been a fav of mine for about 6 years now ever since discovering that "A Night at the Opera" was (in my opinion) a brain fart on the radar of a lengthy career. Unfortunately, that album was my first BG experience after hearing about them for so long and how good they are. I hated that album but it was easily forgiven after I eventually sat back with a beer one night and sampled their back catalogue. I ended up damn near spilling that beer with what I heard and since then I have loved these guys...their older stuff though.

So, I then hard to stay current but following "A Night at the Opera" 4 years later we got turned around and again kicked in the balls with one of those pointed toe bitch boots with "A Twist In the Myth" a different album than the last, yes, but nonetheless boring as hell other than "Fly", a catchy enough tune but the album offered nothing else at all otherwise. Damn it then, for a fan of the older BG the natural assumption then was that these guys have lost it so forget it now and just keep to the back catalogue and enjoy.

For this reason is why "At the Edge of Time" breathes a huge sigh of relief in that it offers a little of everything that made BG great throughout the years, for better or worse, depending on what era you prefer of course. Now see, this would actually be the perfect album for someone joining the BG scene fashionably late to listen to in order to gauge this band's full monty and take from it what they will rather than my inadvertent backwards approach that cost me years of great listening thanks to that damn "A Night at the Opera". Specifically though "At the Edge of Time" is a rejuvenating listen for a fan like me who so desperately wanted like hell a re-living of the speed, grit and, well, metal music in general. No more of this side-show shit.

So, for those who dig the (ahem...boring) ballad and folksy type sound that BG defers to at times (The Bard's Song - In the Forest is one of the most boring songs I have ever listened to) then you have "Curse My Name" and "War of the Thrones" to enjoy from this album. Personally, it is because of these two songs why I dropped the bid to 90% for the review. Now please, take my opinion here with a grain of salt as I know that there will be those who will spill their own beer (or whatever your tonic) when reading this because of their "love" for those two songs and the Bard's Song (I have seen the live footage where every person in the crowd sings every word to the Bard's song in a festive few minutes of kumbaya so I am aware of how unpopular my opinion here will be to some). But, to those who know what I mean about craving the earlier stuff that doesn't urge you to hold your girlfriend's hand then the fact that my review is essentially 100% without those two ballads might give you a good idea of what you are getting here in a modern sense with "At the Edge of Time".

With that said and out of the way, being a fan of the earlier stuff it would be no surprise that the tunes from "At the Edge of Time" that hit me right in the face are Sacred Worlds, Tanelorn, Ride Into Obsession, Valkyries and Control the Divine to a slightly lesser extent. For some reason "A Voice in the Dark" just doesn't hit that mark with me even though it features everything I have ever enjoyed about BG from the earlier years but doesn't get skipped because it is still bad ass in its own way. "Road of No Release" is quite enjoyable too because I like the piano intro and Hansi carries his chorus quite nicely in that one and I love that guy.

Which leads me to my final point and the only other noticeable difference on this album which is in the vocal delivery. It is still great and Hansi will always be better than most in this department even if/when he reaches 80 years old but his voice is losing its steam and he ends up delivering on this album with a slightly more of a raspier sound. Interestingly, this does not diminish the product at all but rather I find that it almost adds an aging maturity that is suitable after 20 plus years on the job. This is what a talented lead man will inevitably end up creating over time so really what I am pointing out in this case can be considered a tribute to one of metal's best vocalists. Still, it makes me wonder how many albums BG (or Hansi) physically have left in the tank moving forward especially considering the piss and vinegar this entire band was fueled with back in the late 80's and early 90's which has to take it's toll even on the great ones.

Bold and intruiguing - 100%

ijy10152, March 2nd, 2012

After listening to Blind Guardian’s other works and getting more acquainted with their sound and earlier material I can now properly review this album and I tell you that it is in my opinion their best album to date. Now 2010-2011 was a crazy time for symphonic power metal. Some really good bands came back after long hiatuses and some bands made really good albums after some very meh albums. The question comes to mind - how does this album fit in with the rest of the albums in that time period? My opinion (not that you all care) is yes, it fits in very well and I think that this could be ranked as the best album of 2010-2011. In general, this is a bit of a turnaround for Blind Guardian after A Twist in the Myth and ANATO, which were both very good albums, but were missing something that can be found in albums such as Nightfall in Middle Earth and Somewhere Far Beyond (which was my favorite album by them until this).

Style-wise, it fits in perfectly with the Blind Guardian music style, perhaps improving on it a bit and modernizing that old 90s metal sound and streamlining and smoothing it out. The best song on this album is Sacred Worlds which opens with a really cool symphonic section that leads into a heavy metal section with the orchestra mixed into the background. Blind Guardian is very good at mixing metal with symphonic elements, which is part of what makes them one of the leading bands in the genre. Every song on this album is really good and worth mentioning, and to be honest, I can't really find any weak points. The main ones that deserve mentioning are: Sacred Worlds, Tanelorn, Control the Divine, Voice in the Dark, and The Wheel of Time. Sacred Worlds is simply superb. It is by far my favorite Blind Guardian piece and is the definition of symphonic power metal. It opens the whole album with a really cool orchestral part that leads into the metal part of the song smoothly while still maintaining the symphonic sounds. It has a very catchy chorus and great instrumental solos. In general, Sacred Worlds is an amazing song and deserves some consideration as one of the best metal songs of all time. Tanelorn is a typical Blind Guardian blazing fast metal song that I wouldn't even bother mentioning if it wasn't for the really awesome chorus. I mean it just sticks in your head and refuses to leave. Control the Divine is probably my second favorite song on this album. What I love about it is that it changes tonality a lot and goes from dark and dreary to uplifting and hopeful smoothly and quickly. The chorus is also worth mentioning; it's very catchy and fun to sing. Also, this song involves some more of that symphonic metal element that I just can't get enough of. Voice in the Dark needs to be talked about because it's the heaviest song on here and also the music video/hit song of this album, and it has everything a hit like this needs, fitting very well with the established classic power metal songs such as Hunting High and Low, Dawn of Victory, Unholy Warcry, Black Diamond, ect. This album really streamlines the style that Blind Guardian was trying to establish in A Twist in the Tale and makes it sound a lot better. The Wheel of Time is the best Middle Eastern-style song since Nights of Arabia. This song really captivates that sound and makes it work in a modern music setting really well. This song didn't really amaze me on its first play, but after listening to it several times it grew on me and now I really like it.

Unfortunately, this album is one of those that you have to listen to at least 2-3 times before you'll really start loving it. Some songs like Sacred Worlds, Tanelorn, and Voice in the Dark will hit you right away, but the rest of it kind of takes some time to grow on you. But once it does, I guarantee that you'll be singing these songs in your head over and over again for weeks.

Betwixt the past and the future - 84%

Jophelerx, January 20th, 2012

After Blind Guardian's previous effort, A Twist in the Myth, I think it's safe to say that most peoples' expectations weren't very high for this one. I certainly had no idea what direction they were going to go in at the time. If Twist was a reaction away from the pompous grandiosity of A Night at the Opera, would the next album be a reaction to Twist? Would they continue on in the style of Twist? Would they go back to a style they played on earlier albums? The band hinted long before the album's release that this might be the case, which had fans drooling and masturbating to Battalions of Fear and Imaginations from the Other Side pretty quickly, as I personally can attest to. The question is, did the album really live up to those expectations Blind Guardian created? Well, yes and no.

At the Edge of Time does a good job of fusing the catchy, modern sound of Twist with the speed/power of the Somewhere Far Beyond/Imaginations era; some songs lean more heavily toward one side or the other, and some don't really fall in either field ("Wheel of Time", primarily), but for the most part they are a combination of the two. However, while staying generally within those confines the album still manages to be extremely varied; it has several slow or midpaced songs, as a few fast songs, it has stripped down speed metal and grand orchestral epics. If you've yet to listen to it, strap yourself in and prepare yourself for an unpredictable and exciting ride.

First, the production is a little more metal than it was on the last album, but not much. It's still modern slick, just a little toned down; it's still quite a ways from the production of something like Somewhere Far Beyond, and I think if it was closer to that kind of production, the album would sound a lot better, but it's far from awful, and the songs are more than listenable. In fact, although the riffs are a bit glossy, it works very well for the solos.

The main carryover from Twist is the simplicity of the melodies and the song structures, for the most part. Aside from "Wheel of Time", the songs are fairly simple, much more traditional in structure than in Blind Guardian's earlier albums. Largely absent are the catchy guitar harmonies Blind Guardian perfected over the years; the songs focus on a straightforward melody and stick to it more linearly than usual. That being said, the songs are far from bland or excessively predictable, and the guitar harmonies are still present, just not as much as usual.

Also of note is Hansi's voice on the album - he was 43 here, and it's finally starting to show. Although we didn't hear any sign of wear in his voice on Twist, the vocal tracks were heavily produced, and he didn't really hit all that many high notes, at least not as many as he used to. Here it's clear his voice has significant wear, as he sounds strained throughout nearly the entire album. Still, the strained sound gives his voice an extra rasp that actually contributes to his style if anything, so it doesn't detract from the songs, but it's definitely noticeable.

Now, to the songs themselves. "Sacred Worlds" is a revamp of a song most Blind Guardian fans had heard previously, "Sacred" from the 2008 game Sacred 2. It starts off with a classical-sounding orchestra, but it goes on for over a minute without contributing much of anything musically, until the opening riff comes in. The song as a whole is a slow, dark, cavernous piece, and it's really good. The highlight here is the softer sections of the verses with Hansi's clean vocals, and the outro, both of which are haunting. They remind me of the first clean section of "And Then There Was Silence" where Hansi begins "Welcome to the end..." in a soft, fluttering voice, accompanied by haunting synths. The song closes with another symphonic piece, which is much less excessive than the opening one and works well as the song fades out.

"Tanelorn (Into the Void)", the next song, probably makes you think of "Quest for Tanelorn" from Somewhere Far Beyond, and indeed it's in a similar style. This is probably the song closest to the classic BG speed/power sound, but even so you're immediately aware that this would not really fit in with Somewhere. The higher vocals are thin and processed, showing Hansi is clearly having a problem singing the range he used to, and the riffs are a bit more repetitive than on most of the songs on Somewhere. It's a good song for what it is, but it falls pitifully short of the sort of execution Blind Guardian had in the early 1990's, and the production isn't great for this particular song; it's not one of my favorites.

Following is "Road of No Release", definitely one of the better songs here. It works well with the production, and neither the riffs nor the vocals are particularly demanding. Here they seem to recognize their limitations and work within them; it works brilliantly. The songwriting here is top-notch, and the slow, heavy, but simple melancholy of the guitars and piano are absolutely perfect for it. Hansi's vocals here are mostly clean and/or pretty low, so he doesn't have too many problems. One of the highlights.

"Ride Into Obsession" is another heavily speed/power song, and this one is much better in execution. It's fast and bombastic, a combination Blind Guardian has always done well, and this is no exception. The chorus vocals are well placed, and although some parts feel as though they drag on a bit, for the most part it's excellent. It has added value to me as a fan of The Wheel of Time series, which the song is based on; the lyrics aren't as masterful as the ones on "Wheel of Time" but they're still quite enjoyable to someone familiar with the series. Overall, a nice speedy song, perhaps the best attempt at their older sound here.

"Curse My Name" is the mandatory ballad (or the first of two mandatory ballads, as has been the trend here and in Twist). It's refreshing to hear such a well-executed Celtic-style number here, as this is one department in which Blind Guardian have improved since their older days. Of note are the drum lines, which march and beat along creatively, showing that Frederik Ehmke does indeed have some ingenuity and creative talent, although not nearly to the extent of Thomen Stauch. The ballad is a jovial, almost carefree, well-layered piece; it's one of the best ballads Blind Guardian have ever done. The section at the end with three or four vocal lines on top of each other is probably the highlight here.

Next is "Valkyries" which starts out with a nice acoustic intro reminiscent of nature, then turns into a simple, midpaced power metal number. Of note here is the huge, soaring, almost dreamlike chorus; it is strong enough by itself to feel as though I'm transported to some surreal dream world of valkyries and rainbow bridges and virgins. The rest of the song is decent, but not very memorable.

"Control the Divine" is a dark, aggressive, midpaced song that has a desperate, ominous sound to it. The chorus could be better, but it still works with the song, it's just not as majestic as the one in "Valkyries". It feels a bit too simple at places, like a worse version of something like "Punishment Divine", but it's still a very enjoyable song, and has ideas and a direction all its own.

"War of the Thrones", the album's second ballad, is as good as the first; which is saying something. It starts off with graceful-sounding piano that evokes a feeling of reflective solitude. Although I haven't read A Game of Thrones, on which it's based, the high fantasy lyrics are very enjoyable here, without being too cheesy. The chorus is festive and joyous, and works perfectly with the more somber verses. Though simple, the song does what it does wonderfully; this is one of the best songs here. It simply transports the listener to another world.

Following is "A Voice in the Dark", another dark, speedy number, and much better in execution than "Tanelorn". This one actually might conceivably be at home in Somewhere Far Beyond, were the production and Hansi's vocals a bit different. The riffs here are heavy and merciless; this is the kind of song I think of when I think of power/speed metal. The vocal lines are catchy too, and harmonize well with the riffs, and the whole song does a great job of conveying a feeling of being deep in a cavern somewhere, far away from civilization. This could quite possibly be the best song on the album - at any rate, it's probably the best song for the fan of pre-Nightfall Guardian.

Finally we have the symphonic epic "Wheel of Time", a song with middle-eastern influences and a feeling of pure, manic desperation. This is the most ambitious piece of the album, and it doesn't fail to disappoint. The song builds up throughout, evoking the feeling of something extremely important happening, someone tormented by that event. Assumedly, Rand al'Thor at the last battle against the Dark One; although that had not yet happened in the series as of the release of this song, I'd be hard-pressed to find another scene in the series which matches the vastness, intensity, and torment found in this song. The lyrics work wonderfully with the music, particularly in the section after the violin solo:

The young man said "I will never give up"
The inner war I can hold against it
My mind, my mind
My mind's in darkness

The young man said "I will never give up"
The prophecy, behold it's true
I conquer the flame, to release the insane
I'm crying, I cannot erase
I'm the dragon reborn
And in madness I soon shall prevail!


The ending of the song is a bit bland and anticlimactic, but overall the song is amazing, definitely one of the best here and one of the best from Blind Guardian. Some of my love for the song might be personal feelings, but it's definitely a great piece of metal.

Overall, the songwriting on the album is pretty good, but not great; there are clunkers like "Valkyries" and, to an extent "Control the Divine", and most of the songs are very simple, sometimes but not often to excess. The production works well with the ballads, and perhaps the symphonic songs, but not much else; songs like "Tanelorn" and "Ride into Obsession" definitely suffer significantly from it. Also, the vocals are weak in some places, specifically "Tanelorn" and "Sacred Worlds", as well as some more minor problems in other songs. The album is the sum of its parts, and it, too, is merely good; maybe worth a listen now and then but nothing to worship or masturbate over, unfortunately. This, for me, marks the true beginning of the end for Blind Guardian.

The Wheel Will Turn - 90%

Twisted_Psychology, October 15th, 2011

Originally published for http://suite101.com

Despite the changes that have made over the years, Blind Guardian is frequently cited as being one of the most consistent and highly regarded bands in power metal. While a few of their more recent works such as A Night At The Opera and A Twist In The Myth have divided fan opinions, their ability to write great material has rarely been called into question.

But unlike past efforts, their newest album actually shows the band working backwards rather than forewords. While this may be seen as a sort of artistic loss by some, it actually results in a release that has everything that fans have come to love about the group.

Musically, you could describe this album as sounding like a large mish-mash of everything that Blind Guardian released between Somewhere Far Beyond and the previously mentioned Night At The Opera.

All the band's signature elements are present including the Freddie Mercury-esque vocal layering, blazing guitars, technical double bass drumming, and songwriting that is simultaneously complex and catchy. But with everything that is revisited, the album almost never sounds forced or derivative and the band puts on a continuously great performance.

Lead singer Hansi Kursch unfortunately never sounds as manic as he did in the band's earlier days, but his vocals carry the songs well and retain their power and class. The guitars and drums are also great and particularly stand on faster tracks such as Tanelorn (Into the Void) and Ride Into Obsession. Unfortunately, "session" bassist Oliver Holzwarth rarely makes an impression though this has been a rather common practice since their third album came out in 1990.

As previously mentioned, the songs are full of variety and are more energetic than just about everything that was on A Twist In The Myth. You've got a couple bookending epic numbers ( Sacred Worlds, Wheel of Time), speed metal runs (Tanelorn, Ride Into Obsession, A Voice in the Dark), mid-tempo tracks (Road Of No Release, Valkyries, Control the Divine), and two scattered ballads (Curse My Name, War of the Thrones).

Predictably, the faster tracks win out and feature the album's strongest hooks and band performances. However, the opening Sacred Worlds also stands out thanks to its bombarding orchestrations and Curse My Name serves as another installment in the band's popular folk ballad tradition. Valkyries is also memorable thanks to its infectious chorus, though it may take a few listens to truly appreciate.

And as with every other Blind Guardian album, the lyrics are interestingly written and almost exclusively based on literary themes. References are repeatedly made to authors such as George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and John Milton alongside previously featured writers like Michael Moorcock.

You've also got a small amount of mythological influence in Valkyries, though there seems to be a lacking amount in comparison to past efforts. I'm also slightly surprised that there isn't a song about Christianity on here, as it has been a popular topic throughout the band's history...

In a way somewhat similar to Megadeth's Endgame and Metallica's Death Magnetic, Blind Guardian has released an album that seems to have been written exclusively for the tastes of their fans. However, there is still a great deal of quality in the music that makes the listening experience even sweeter.

It may not be revolutionary as Imaginations From the Other Side or Somewhere Far Beyond, but it should especially appeal to the listeners that have found the band's last few releases to be somewhat lacking. It also makes a great introduction for newcomers, as it contains pretty much everything that you need to know.

Current Favorites:
Tanelorn (Into the Void), Road of No Release, Ride Into Obsession, Curse My Name, and A Voice in the Dark

Blind Guardian show us how it's meant to be done - 90%

TrooperOfSteel, May 5th, 2011

One of the more highly skilled bands who were pioneers of the fantasy-related power/progressive metal genre, Germany's Blind Guardian, have always been a popular group amongst metalheads since their inception back in 1986. Singer/songwriter and co-founder of the band, Hansi Kursch is an impressive, well respected and talented figurehead not only with Blind Guardian but within heavy metal itself. While his trademark vocals are totally unique and recognised by almost every metal fan in the world, Kursch is also a highly sort after vocalist, with guest appearances on CDs by bands such as Gamma Ray, Ayreon, Grave Digger, Edguy and Therion. And let's not forget the forging between Kursch and Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer with the fantastic Demons & Wizards.

As far as Blind Guardian goes, every CD from the debut 'Battalions of fear' back in their speed metal days, right through to 'A night at the opera' and 'A twist in the myth' has been great releases. In fact, Blind Guardian have not released a bad CD to date, however, many consider 'A twist in the myth' to be the "weakest" release in their discography. That's not a bad thing, considering it is still quite solid as far as power metal CDs go.

Now, I'm not the biggest Blind Guardian fan around, even though I've thoroughly enjoyed their CDs and have the upmost respect for the band; however I am quite excited about the band's latest release, entitled 'At the edge of time'. One reason being, that from watching the in-game performance of a song called "Sacred", by Blind Guardian, as a quest "reward" within the video game 'Sacred 2: Fallen angel'. Knowing that an extended version of this song would be on the upcoming CD, my interest and anticipation grew strongly.

Now 'At the edge of time' is here and it is most definitely worth the wait, 4 years since the previous release is long enough; even for the lightest of Blind Guardian fans. The power metal pioneers from Germany have certainly returned with a vengeance, as the new CD is one of their best and very epic to say the least. "Sacred worlds" kicks off the CD (did I already mention it was epic?), 9 minutes of unleashed majestic power metal as only Blind Guardian know how, with a full orchestra to boot. While Hansi's voice is melodic and mesmerising (as always), "Sacred worlds" features a flurry of furious guitar riffs, dynamic melody and a bombastic presence. Once the catchy chorus has disappeared from your mind after repeating it over and over, you'll come across the next track entitled "Tanelorn (Into the void)"; and what another brilliant track this is too. A fast and powerful track here, similar in style to tracks from the 'Somewhere far beyond' CD and the track itself is about the Eternal Champion series of books written by Michael Moorcock, featuring the character Elric (Italian power metal band, Domine have also used material from Eternal Champion in their releases).

After the straightforward, yet impressive "Road of no release", we get to the speedy "Ride into obsession", based on the series of epic fantasy novels written by American author Robert Jordan, called 'Wheel of time'. It's the shortest track on the CD (4:47), but also one of the catchiest and quickest; with Blind Guardian returning to their original speed metal roots. The bards make a return on the ballad "Curse my name", with the hearty song featuring flutes (among other instruments) and giving off a medieval mood that makes you move side to side with a large pitcher of ale raised to the sky. The final 5 tracks are all very good, including the multi-structured mid-paced "Valkyries", the brilliant power charged "A voice in the dark" (also released as a single) and the CD closer "Wheel of time", another epic masterpiece with a middle-eastern influence, orchestras and big choruses.

Like I mentioned before, I'm not the biggest Blind Guardian fan around, but I must say that 'At the edge of time' completely blew me away from beginning to end. A very emotional and powerful CD, which grips you tightly and takes you through an epic metal journey that is sure to tantalise, thrill and kick your ass! One of their biggest CDs to date, 'At the edge of time' is a dramatic and undeniable improvement from 'A twist in the myth' and even rivals their best releases from the mid-90s.

Blind Guardian fans who have been salivating at the mouth in the wait of this CD to be released will continue to drool in awe once this CD enters their ear-drums. In actual fact, nearly all metal fans of the power, speed, fantasy and traditional genres should automatically track down 'At the edge of time' not only because it is Blind Guardian; one of the best power metal bands in the land, but also because the CD is easily in the top 10 best metal releases for 2010.

Also worth mentioning is that the CD is released not only as a regular CD, but also a jewel-case CD, a 2 or 4 LP picture set, a pyramid box set, and also a 2-CD digipak (featuring alternate versions of some of the CDs tracks, plus a studio documentary, a video clip and lastly a cover of the John Farnham 80's classic Aussie hit, "You're the voice"). With all that said, what the hell are you waiting for?

Originally reviewed for www.themetalforge.com and www.metalcdratings.com

It's now or never, we shall stand together - 93%

extremesymphony, March 4th, 2011

This is their 9th album and the guardians have yet to release something mediocre. Yes folks, At The Edge Of Time is a gripping, solid and powerful release which contains all the standard Guardian cards with great balance between aggression and melody. In this record Blind Guardian merge their epic and more symphonic approach of Nightfall In Middle Earth with their earlier speed metal approach and yeah as expected they pull it off wonderfully.

As usual the performances of all the members on this album are solid. Needless to say the star of the show is once again Hansie. The vocals are just breathtaking and you are just left with wonder and awe at this man's vocal ability. The guitar work is again fantastic. This album contains many fast and heavy songs, so we find the riffwork being quite splendid here. The lead work is even more competent and I might add nothing short of being flawless. Special mention must be given to drummer Frederik Ehmke whose superb performance behind the kit ensures that we do not miss Thomen Stauch. The arrangement of orchestra is just fantastic. The orchestra gives the album the required edge and adds an wholesome feel to it and does not quite go on to become a film score as happens in many cases.

The songwriting and composition on this album is of an extremely high caliber. As usual the songs are quite proggish and the pace changes in them are just superb. The choruses of all the songs once again are amazing. And it makes me wonder as these guys have released 8 albums ranging from practically flawless to being enjoyable and yet the songwriting and the composition in the album sounds quite original. You won't find any recycled melodies, choruses, song structures. The lasting power of this album is also quite high. Since I have it, I have listened to it more than 10 times and yet it amazes me in the same way as it did when I heard it the first.

The album starts with the nine minute, Sacred Worlds which I might add is an excellently crafted epic. The use of orchestra gives much wholesome feel to it. The song goes through many pace changes. The part around 3:30 to 4:50 is just superb. The next song Tanelorn (Into The Void) is pure speed metal in the vein of Somewhere Far Beyond. Hansie pulls of some really amazing screams in this song. Road Of No Release and Valkyries are mid-paced and more complex songs. The pace changes are again superb and keep you glued throughout the length of the song. A Voice In The Dark and Ride Into Obsession are again more faster songs much in the vein of Tanelorn though not as quite great. Curse My Name and War Of The Thrones are the ballads similar to A Past And Future Secret. The ballads are arranged excellently and have an excellent, bombastic power in them. The final song Wheel Of Time is just flawless epic and I might not hesitate to add, one of the best songs composed by Blind Guardian ever. The orchestra in this song at many times overpowers even the guitars, but the intensity in the song is just amazing. The song according to me is based on "the breaking of the world" episode from the famous Wheel Of Time series. There is an interlude somewhere around the five minute mark, which is again superb.

So should you buy this album? Well, after reading all this, if still this question arises, you may please go and quietly die in a corner. If you like this band's catalog from Battalions Of Fear to A Twist In The Myth, do yourself a favor and lay your hands on this masterpiece.

At the Edge of Perfection - 96%

HeWhoIsInTheWater, January 27th, 2011

I was very excited this past summer, when I saw that the legendary Blind Guardian would be releasing a new album, such that I even made an effort to order it prior to its release; something that rarely happens. Before getting into the music, I do recommend going through the effort to obtain a physical copy of this album, as the lyrics booklet features some cool artwork, and the bonus material is pretty sweet, as the 20 minute documentary gives a nice look at Blind Guardian. However, the demo versions of the songs are pretty useless, but I’ll talk about them later.

This album can be nicely divided up into three different categories, which shows a nice range that Blind Guardian takes with their music, something that is more apparent in their later music, while their earlier stuff was relentless speed/power metal, as they have now solidified themselves as symphonic power metal. The three sections are fairly straightforward, being symphonic-based songs, traditional speed metal songs, and the ever present power metal songs that are on every Blind Guardian album.

Let’s start with symphonic. This section is comprised of the first and last songs on the album, Sacred Worlds and Wheel of Time, respectively. At the beginning of Sacred Worlds, you get a really great idea of how awesome these guys are at writing for an orchestra. As the member of an orchestra myself, the first thought that came to my mind was “I want that sheet music”. It is a shame they don’t have it, but the music is skillfully written and the guitars play off of the orchestra and likewise. It creates an amazing atmosphere.

The guitars in these songs take a backseat to regular Blind Guardian riffing and become hyper melodic. However, this does not mean an absence of shredding, mind-blowing solos that I love Blind Guardian for. Quite the contrary, André Olbrich is on the top of his game in these songs, complementing the orchestra at certain times and taking center stage at others. Frederik Ehmke, the drummer, however, falters a little in these songs and provides a flat backdrop for the songs. However, the drum beats in the middle section of Wheel of Time add a nice flair. Hansi Kürsch however, steals the show, but we’ll get to his incredible performance later.

Also, the ballad that is present on virtually every album made by these guys, comes with a piano this time and also makes use of the full orchestra now at Blind Guardian’s disposal. War of the Thrones is a little light ditty compared to the crushing material of the rest of the album, and is a nice break. However, as such the song comes off as a little pop sounding, but not harshly so. Also in a ballad style is Curse My Name, which features some awesome vocals and nice folk elements such as the tap dance band which is explained in the documentary.

Next, let’s look at the speed metal songs on here. The ones that I found to be speed were Tanelorn, Ride into Obsession, and A Voice in the Dark. These songs feature ripping guitars that never seem to stop moving and the solo sections even more so. Riffs come and go before you get bored with them, and it all ties into the main riff that you usually hear at the beginning of the song. Even during the solo sections, Marcus Siephen, the rhythm guitarist, does a nice job of keeping the song moving and playing some interesting rhythms.

Also in these songs, Ehmke keeps up with the songs a bit more, but it is still not the same as their previous drummer. He is clearly improving, but The Omen was a very good drummer, but apparently a not very well liked one. The double bass pedal has some interesting parts, but the main drumming that you here is nothing special, but it nicely suits the music.

And saving some of the best for last, we have now come to the epic power metal, only outmatched in epic scale on the album by Wheel of Time and Sacred Worlds, which sucker me because I love orchestras. Under this category I have The Road of no Release, Valkyries, and Control the Divine. The drumming featured on these songs comes through as a lot stronger, and really drive The Road of no Release, especially during the solo section where he just goes crazy on his kit.

These songs are most recognizable by the presence of something out of the ordinary (piano on The Road of no Release, pouring rain and thunder on Valkyries), or just by their nature of highly melodic guitar melodies. The vocals make a point of being absolutely soaring on these songs, as do the guitars, and the competition that they have with each other reaps immense rewards for the listener. These songs also make a point of being much more down trodden than the rest of the album, dealing with darker themes.

The one thing that stands out the most to me on this album is the pinnacle of Hansi Kürsch’s vocals. Listening to Somewhere Far Beyond and then this, his vocals have improved drastically and carry a much better vocal range as well as still being able to belt and do the talking-style singing. In fact, they completely own a few of these songs, being by far the dominant part on Control the Divine. However, his vocal performance on Wheel of Time is some of the best I’ve ever heard from anybody. The lyrics on all the songs are also traditional Blind Guardian with fantasy stories that help the music from getting old by being something new every time.

In the end, this album is not to be missed. I gave myself a while after buying this to write a review, because I thought I might have been thinking too highly of it at the time, but that is far from it. It is every bit as awesome as I tried to describe it for you. It contains many different elements of Blind Guardian, so I would recommend this for newcomers to their music, and have loaned my copy to a few people on my own. This album also serves another purpose; and that is to hype me up for their next album which is going to be purely symphonic, and that excites me a very great deal.

This old dragon definitely isn't dead yet. - 84%

hells_unicorn, January 15th, 2011

There has been this ongoing question of when being predictable becomes either a good or bad thing, and naturally it has been a slave to the subjectivity of whoever is making the claim. But from where I stand, predictability generally tends to be a good thing, particularly insofar as power metal goes as most of the experiments that tend to veer away from the established formula usually don’t turn out very well. Blind Guardian has generally been more akin to a band that came face to face with the same problem that haunted Iced Earth in the mid 90s, which ended in them putting out an album that was too slowed down and anti-climactic in “A Twist In The Myth”. It wasn’t necessarily a bad album, but definitely inferior when put up against every album that preceded it, as well as that of Thomen Stauch’s lone effort with Savage Circus “Dreamland Manor”.

Nailing down the needed revisions that have taken place on this, the band’s 9th studio offering in “At The Edge Of Time” is essentially an exercise in recognizing familiar elements from the band’s past. Most of these are drawn from the transitional era of “Somewhere Far Beyond” and “Imaginations From The Other Side” when the symphonic and folksy elements really started to take precedence, but where blistering speed/thrash riffs are still the general order of the day. Most of this album is a solid exercise in head banging goodness, which is something that could literally describe none of the songs on their previous album, but there is time for melody made between the furious power chords and primal shouts. It’s tight, mathematically timed, yet manages to put across enough emotion to avoid sounding mechanical or overly intellectual.

The old familiar formulas are all back in full force, making little room for subtlety and a lot for anyone who likes it fast and heavy. A quick trip down the memory lane of fist pounding goodness circa 1992 leaps out in “Tanelorn (Into The Void)”, but with a crisp production that really brings out the haze of harmonic leads that coexist with the bone-rattling rhythm section and crunchy riffing. “A Voice In The Dark” punches out a few mean thrash riffs and blazes with the best of them, while a somewhat interesting mix of slower thudding and folk oriented guitar work sneaks in on “Control The Divine”. And, of course, what BG album would be complete without a return to the woodland acoustics of “A Past And Future Secret” and any other ballad such as the really sweet and catchy one here in “Curse My Name”.

If there’s any weakness to be found amongst this triumphant collection of heroic tales and mystical exploits, it is when the band regresses back into the “A Night At The Opera” stage where they get a little too ambitious and start to sounding like they want to one up Rhapsody Of Fire. This is particularly apparent on the album’s longer works in “Sacred Worlds” and “Wheel Of Time” where the band goes a little overboard on the orchestral presence and samples. There are plenty of good ideas mixed in with the overdose of pomp, but ultimately these songs both come off as lighter versions of “And Then There Was Silence”, going a bit harder on perfecting the production but lacking the continuous flow that made said 14 minute epic work as well as it did 8 years ago.

While definitely not the best thing that this seasoned German mainstay has offered up, it trumps what has been heard since the turn of the millennium. Blind Guardian fans of every stripe and age should really be able to sink their teeth into this one, barring perhaps the really old school holdouts who haven’t liked anything since “Somewhere Far Beyond”, but even they have to acknowledge some elements from that era being present here. If nothing else, it proves that either with or without Stauch behind the kit, this band is purely capable of keeping all of closeted dorks with a secret obsession of Tolkien behind the politics and evil.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 15, 2011.

Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time - 85%

whitefrozen, October 29th, 2010

If this album shows anything, it's that after 25 years on the scene Blind Guardian is definitely one of the best bands out there. The last album was pretty weak, but this one more than makes up for it.

First off, Hansi's voice is immaculate. The guy's been singing like this for almost 3 decades and he's only gotten better. There's times here that he'll rip your face off with savage ferocity, there's times he'll shatter glass, and then he'll tone it down for a soothing ballad. The choirs sound perfect, as usual. Everything about the vocals on this album is pitch perfect.

The instruments are the same way; after 25 years these guys know how to play their music flawlessly. Guitars range from ultrafast leads, riffs and solos to more standard chords and riffs. It all sounds amazing and the tone the guitars have here is just fantastic. Crunchy, heavy but not obnoxious. The drums...well, Thomen Staunch is still gone. Frederik has gotten faster...but he's still not the same kind of jaw-dropping drummer that Staunch was. He does a fine job but tends to stick to standard patterns and speeds, which is perfect for the music here. He does play all the flutes and bagpipes you hear though (which are used brilliantly in the ballad "Curse My Name"), so that makes up for the slightly boring drumming. On a more positive note, the drums are used perfectly in "War of the Thrones and "Curse My Name" and add a real bombastic and dramatic feel to both those songs.

The production on this album is absolutely perfect; I'll go so far as to say this is the best mix Blind Guardian have ever had. Everything, from the orchestra to the choirs to the instruments sounds perfect and the louder you turn it up the better. This is such a solid mix, I really have to hand it to them for knocking it out of the park with that.

The songs themselves are all really, really good stuff. From fast and aggressive throwback tracks like "A Voice in the Dark" and "Ride Into Obsession" to huge, bombastic and dramatic ballads like "Curse My Name" and "War of the Thrones" to huge mid-paced numbers like "Sacred Worlds" this album has it all. The choruses are huge, the melodies are uplifting, the build-ups are dramatic and the catchiness still has yet to be rivaled by any other band. There's not really a weak track here, but if I had to pick one or two I didn't like as much, it'd have to be "Tanelorn" and "Wheel of Time," as neither of them really have quite the same power behind them as the rest of the album. "Wheel of Time" in particular spends too much time playing around with a Middle-eastern sound, and it takes away from the orchestral bombast it tries to achieve.

While not the high point of their career, "At the Edge of Time" is a terrific Blind Guardian album that's leaps and bounds beyond the previous album. There's something for everyone on this album, and it's all put together so well that I highly recommend any music fan pick this up. Blind Guardian are masters of their craft and really show it with this album.

*edited

http://whitefrozen.blogspot.com/

No magic moments - 45%

kluseba, October 6th, 2010
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Nuclear Blast

Blind Guardian's problem is that the band combines two very rich and overwhelming genres. On one side, we have the band's hectic, pitiless and technical power and speed metal style from the early years and on the other side, we get some dramatic, epic and massive symphonic metal sounds from the middle years. These genres are incompatible. Instead of complementing each other, they bury, fight and overtone each other on this release. As soon as the band comes around with some technically great riffs, multiple layers of overwhelming orchestral sounds water the metal sound down. As soon as the Germans offer some elegant classical melodies building up a cinematic atmosphere, they accelerate and annihilate any potential moments of magic. The worst elements are though the numerous over-lapping vocals and nerve-firing choirs that try to give the album a cinematic and energizing feeling but sound surprisingly artificial and coldly calculated to me. Despite the talent of all musicians involved and the charismatic lead singer, the chemistry is simply lacking.

To make things worse, the songs on this record here are often far too long for their own sake. While a short overloaded track of four minutes might exceptionally be bearable, the same can't be said about tunes which are artificially stretched to nine minutes. The length doesn't make the tracks more balanced, intellectual or progressive but simply induces more headaches to the listener. Charlie Bauerfeind's clinical, modern loudness war production doesn't help by any means. Even though the band actually recorded real instruments, the orchestrations sound as if they came from a cheap keyboard because of the over-saturated mastering. It's nearly impossible to listen to this record in one shot because it makes you feel dizzy. This is a completely unbalanced roller coaster ride.

In its early years, the band either stuck to only one genre or combined power and symphonic metal in a smoother, more diversified and more balanced way without any unnecessary lengths and I still think records such as ''Somewhere Far Beyond'' or ''Imaginations from the Other Side'' were entertaining, harmonious and revolutionary. Since Charlie Bauerfeind took over production duties for the overambitious ''Nightfall in Middle-Earth'', the band's sound has become more and more stressful, overloaded and clinical. While some shorter and more concise tracks on ''A Twist in the Myth'' seemed to be a promising indicator for the future, it would turn out that ''At the Edge of Time'' and even ''Beyond the Red Mirror'' would go back to the headache symphonies of ''Nightfall in Middle-Earth'' and ''A Night at the Opera''. Apart of two great records released more than two decades ago, Blind Guardian are an overrated circus act whose appreciation in the metal scene I won't ever and don't even want to understand.

Blind Guardian is back in full force! - 95%

Feanor_USMC, September 26th, 2010

It has been four long years since Blind Guardian released their last album, A Twist in the Myth, which garnered some mixed reviews. For their latest effort, At the Edge of Time, the pressure was on the band to produce something much better. In short, they have delivered! This album is much better than I had expected, and (dare I say) this is perhaps their best album yet! This is the first time the band has ever employed a full orchestra to accompany them, and what a difference it has made! The songs are fully fleshed out and epic, particularly the tracks “Sacred Worlds” and “Wheel of Time.” Hansi is also at the top of his game; there is some amazing vocal work to be heard here, part ANATO and part IFTOS. He clearly hasn’t lost his ability to wail with the best of them! Andre’s soaring leads are outstanding as usual, and this album has some of the most memorable guitar melodies the band has ever produced.

An epic track and an excellent start to this album, “Sacred Worlds” is a more fully produced version of their song “Sacred,” originally written for the video game Sacred 2. It is miles beyond the original, and this is due very much to the accompaniment of the orchestra. The song is an absolute joy to sing along to as well! Next is “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” – The spiritual, if not musical, successor to “Quest for Tanelorn,” and it is classic Blind Guardian: speed metal with a wonderfully melodic chorus. Hansi belts out some screams the likes of which haven’t been heard from him since the mid-nineties! An excellent romp through the land of vintage Blind Guardian, “Tanelorn” is going to impress a lot of old BG fans! The first mid-paced track of the album, “Road of No Release” starts off slow and builds into a mid-paced sing-along that sounds like it came straight from Nightfall in Middle-Earth. Seriously. Everything about this song, from Hansi’s singing style to the musical composition to the sound and use of the keyboard make it sound like it was an unused NIME track, which of course isn’t a bad thing.

“Ride Into Obsession" is pure, unadulterated, uncompromising, and unapologetic speed metal! I absolutely love it, and it’s easily one of my favorite songs on the album! There a couple of short, slower-paced breakdowns, but they build back up in a very satisfying way. The lyrics are awesome, the music is speedy, the chorus is catchy, and everything about this song drips with awesomeness! The first ballad of the album, “Curse My Name” is a wonderfully written lyric based on John Milton’s “The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates.” This is the first time Blind Guardian have ever used the accompaniment of a full orchestra on one of their ballads, and it has really paid off! The result is one of their best ballads to date, right up there with “The Bard’s Song” and “A Past and Future Secret.” The breakdown and build-up starting around the two-minute mark is some of the most beautifully elegant and memorable music in all of Blind Guardian’s history. “Valkyries” is another track that (musically) would sound right at home on Nightfall in Middle-Earth. It’s mid-paced with a catchy sing-along chorus. A solid track, but among such other great songs it doesn’t quite stand out as much.

“Control the Divine” – Another mid-paced power metal track featuring Andre’s signature dualing lead melodies, “Control the Divine” has a mixture of very dark sounding passages with a contrastingly upbeat chorus. It is a great song, but not outstanding. In my opinion, “War of the Thrones” is the weakest link on this album. The song isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as anything else here! The chorus is a bit hokey, but the music is very well-done. “A Voice in the Dark” is the same song that was released as a single prior to the release of the full album. Honestly, as a single I didn’t like the track very much, but the more I listened to it, it grew on me. It’s pretty much retro Blind Guardian: unabashed speed metal. It makes great driving music! “Wheel of Time” is an absolutely epic track with many layers and a decidedly middle-eastern flair. The strings and horns of the orchestra really accent the melodies of the song, and it sounds amazing! The song has a fair amount of build-up and musical explosion that gives me chills every time I listen to it! The only other song I can think of that has the same effect on me is “And Then There Was Silence,” and while I hesitate to say it’s quite as good as that seminal track, it is nonetheless absolutely outstanding and easily one of the best songs on this album; a wonderful and fitting finish!

This is an album whose whole is better than the sum of its parts. It is a wonderful ride to take, and it is easily one of Blind Guardian’s best albums to date. I really didn’t think they had it in them, and I have been pleasantly surprised. Why are you still reading this? Go buy this album now!

I Never Knew Passion and Never Knew Pain - 90%

Arjunthebeast, September 24th, 2010

2010 comes and goes, more so than the year before and probably less than the year that follows. They say that every year passes quicker than the last because of mathematical fractioning; 1/21st is less than 1-20th or 1/19th. Yes, that’s right, I am a mere 21 years of age and I attempt to sound like I am heading into the “Twilight World” of my life. Yet, we live in times that lead many of us to feel that at any moment all we hold dear will fade away like the sun over the mountains, in my case, the Coast Range from the Sacramento Valley. Much of what was golden to me just a few short years ago has turned to tin. When there is no magic, the matter which can hold it withers and dies, which is why my age group has one of the highest rates of suicide. It is the dawning of real life, where fantasy becomes the stuff of feel-good movies and giftcards. We dispise ourselves because we know our suffering is miniscule and adolescent, yet we cannot help to feel that way. Perhaps we are at the “Edge of Time,” be it 2012, proton collapse, or maybe technological singularity.

There is a joy I found in rock ‘n’ roll in my early teenage years that promised to liberate me from my past, something that could give me masculinity and could help me belong to something bigger than myself, which was in crisis at the time. Eventually I found Blind Guardian in spring 2005 (at the ripe old age of 16) and I thought I found my Messiah. They gave me enthusiasm and courage and every other cliché that people like me can come up with. It was a different time in my life, I felt great things happening around me, and I fell in love with, surprisingly enough, my high school, and everyone there. It was something called positivity, a novelty in the world of metal. Even if they were leading me back the way I came from, Blind Guardian brought me the greatest joy, as they combined the mythic quality of 80’s arena rock with the escapism I found in fantasy and daydreaming of my childhood. For what else inspires nostalgia in my generation than the handful of years before we were born and that which never existed at all? It was a double dose of magic; pure and innocent. I felt I had joined with something wonderful, and now it feels so long ago because it has passed, like all things did.

I wrote a review of the “Myth” album for my high school newspaper back in 2006, and I praised it for it brought me the same euphoria at first like the other albums of the Guardian did. I suspect that a pompous and self-important person like me finds such music to be appealing. Soon, my orgasms faded into tremors and I was left with only moments of the love I left before.

This release is something of a review of the Guardian of the Blind’s past four albums (“Imaginations” through “Myth”) which defines the very nature of the recording. While their last album was something of a searching record (lead single “Fly” treaded in to bizarre euro-pop) and an attempt to pull the group in a different direction after the ridiculously pompous and admittedly awesome “Opera,” this one searches for something in the past, much like anyone would when they feel the best days are behind them. Sometimes, even better times might be ahead if we can pay attention enough to see them through the melancholy.

It took a month for me to get around to purchasing the album, which contrasts with my same day pick up of “Myth” four years ago; I suspect it was because I feared being disappointed (I will answer that later).

When I first popped it in, I felt the same rush of getting head from a dream girl with everyone clapping for you (Clockwork Orange minus rape?), it took me back within minutes to where I wanted to be, and by the time “Road of No Release” rolled around I was in something close to heaven. The next day I took it with me in the truck to listen to on my way to Sacramento State. I felt sadness, for the feeling was lost, a mere 12 hours later. I picked at tracks like “Curse My Name,” “Valkyries” and “Ride into Obsession” for they annoyed me with shadows of what I had heard before from the band. Little did I release then that I have been doing the same thing for the past several years, looking for something.

We hear similar semi-speed metal with similar leads whining at the right moments, we hear similar vocal layering and similar progressions. Who wouldn’t be let down if one of your personal Gods was repeating itself from scripture? Yet, there were moments that did sink into me, the slower pair, “Road of No Release” and “Battle of the Thrones” awoke something even deeper in my past. I realize now that latter day Blind Guardian takes cues from Glen Yarbrough’s work on the animated “Hobbit” and “Return of the King,” to treasured relics of my early childhood. My mother would play those two worn vhs tapes to sooth me to sleep past my growing pains. I always loved those songs, and after watching them a few days ago I was brought full circle. Even if such a thing does not really resolve anything it at least reminds us of something we forgot.

“The man who’s a dreamer, and never takes leave, who thinks of a world that is just make believe, will never know passion, never know pain, who sits by the window, will one day see rain.” It takes a song to make us really understand the catchphrases we pick up from political ads and self-help books. It was never the words of Blind Guardian that moved me back then, nor was it the words of Glen Yarbrough that stuck with me; it was the simple sounds themselves. I think a sound can be so much more personal than a word, for it is not something spoken, but rather hummed or whistled, like we do when we are alone. We all understand it yet we cannot really put words to it, for they are not important at that point. When you’re a little kid and you can’t talk, you can still make sounds, even if they do not make sense. When you’re an adult, and you feel like you can’t talk anymore, then you resort to breaking the silence with a sound.

I wanted to stick with the album because I knew it would also become part of my life. Soon I did not think about it at all when I was listening to it, it just was there. It’s something that would play in my head even when I didn’t have the headphones or the radio turned up. That is what keeps people coming back to something like music, it can enter our bodies and move freely, and when it becomes memory it can stay for as long as we live. The thematic material that the group chooses to play over does not matter to me nearly as much as the sound that it creates. It like how I also couldn’t sleep when I was a baby unless I was moving in a car or sitting on top of the washing machine, the humming of the engines brings peace and lets us forget the silence, that deadly silence that warns us of darker things.

I know I did not discuss the content of the album beyond how it relates to my life, but this is the best way for me to illustrate it. This is a popular band, and while I hold dearly to my experiences, I know them not to be just my own. Other beta and omega males (and females) out there rush to stuff like this to escape whatever it is that ails them.

The point is that I NEED this group. More so than I need so many other things that make me worry and sometimes cry. Whether or not a million other 21 year olds out there are the same way, this is MY story. The group sings to me when I sleep, when I try to remember things I can’t remember, feelings that I lost and cannot feel anymore. It’s that important.

I don’t think I felt the kind of passion described by Glen Yarbrough or Blind Guardian unless I was listening to them, and I never felt the pain foretold unless I couldn’t listen to them. The humming just wasn’t there. Have to find that humming…

What's the temperature out at the edge of time? - 79%

Empyreal, August 25th, 2010

This is more or less a Blind Guardian album without any surprises, purely hearkening back to their glory days in the early 90s and capitalizing on them. The production is similar, the choruses are similar and the riffs are similar. I would say it’s like the last ten years of their progression never happened, but it’s more like they’ve done the Megadeth Endgame thing and made an album solely to please the fans, playing it safe, since older Blind Guardian was never quite this calculated and meticulous. This was a very mathematical effort by a band that knows exactly what their fans want, and thus, have delivered wholly. I’m not decrying them for that – this is a well done album, and it kicks a fair amount of ass when it’s on target. But it’s not perfect. Let’s get started with At the Edge of Time.

First, I’d like to say that sadly I do not think Hansi Kursch’s voice is in top form here. He’s still singing technically well, with his sonorous, melodic voice still intact, but his age is showing, and he lacks the ferocity and bite of even tunes from a few years ago like “This Will Never End,” let alone classics like “I’m Alive.” He just sounds like he’s holding back a little, but then, he is getting old and we wouldn’t want him to completely throw out his voice. He does good enough, but I keep thinking he could have injected just a little more venom into some of these songs, anyway…

Second, well, the music here is pretty much what you’d expect. Pin-drop production, crunchy, layered guitars, pummeling drum-work and hooky choruses, along with a hefty helping of progressivism in the songwriting to boot. They were always a forward thinking band and this is no change in that. And the songwriting here is good, no doubt, but it’s also a little inconsistent, with some songs having a few noticeable flaws that could have been touched up. “Sacred Worlds” has some of the most complex arrangements on the album, but the chorus is way too simple and just doesn’t have any oomph to it; it’s very flat. Luckily “Tanelorn,” with its jackhammer riffing, starts up and shows us why we love this band. “Road of No Release” is one of the choice cuts here, with a slow, melodic ride through stodgy guitars and delicate keys being fronted by a really first rate, sorrowful chorus.

The rest of the album slogs through songs like “Ride into Obsession” and “Control the Divine,” which are good tunes, but just lack a certain something musically that makes them really stay with you. They both have really great verses, but then the music is kind of flat and static – see what I mean? I hate to nitpick, but these songs just have some problems. “Curse My Name” is probably the only one I don’t really like at all, as it just really is not that musically interesting, and goes on for far too long. “War of the Thrones” is a much better ballad, with a simple piano riff carrying it for a shorter and more manageable duration than its compatriot. Good tune. And “Voice in the Dark” hammers out some more tasty riffing with another catchy chorus – might be a little long, but I’ll let it go, as it does kick a fair amount of tail.

“Valkyries” is one of the best songs on here, and an oddity in that it’s a much slower, more simple song than we’re used to from them, but doesn’t lapse into the folksy kind of balladry that they usually resort to. Instead it’s kind of like “Mordred’s Song,” with a big, hymn-wide chorus and heavy, hard hitting emotive melodies. And it’s damn good – expect to get a little misty eyed at its forlorn climax. But it’s the grand finale of “Wheel of Time” that really brings home the money, with a host of vibrant, swirling riffing quickly segueing into somber folksy acoustics, and ending up as a triumphant, pounding epic for the ages. This is really the song they seem to have put most of the work into, and it works tremendously well as an album closer. It really leaves the listener with the best possible impression of the album they just heard, and that’s very important.

So yeah, you’ll hear a lot of people putting this on their top ten of the year lists, and I won’t say it’s completely undeserved, but At the Edge of Time is really only a solid album. That’s admirable coming from a veteran band like this, but that doesn’t mean we have to exalt it because of that. Still, though, half of this is really fun and there are even some truly well written and poignant songs on here, so if you’re a fan, this is a must by. If you just like some good power metal, I’d say this is well worth a listen anyway.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

The lost successor to 'Nightfall in Middle-Earth' - 92%

Thiestru, August 2nd, 2010

At last, after a four-year wait following 'A Twist in the Myth', Blind Guardian's new album has arrived. The aforementioned previous album left many fans, including me, a little cold, owing to some strange and not always good ideas rearing their heads, and the general lack of truly amazing songs. It was a decent album, but 'decent' isn't want I'm used to hearing from this band. In short, it left the bards with something to come back from.

Enter 'At the Edge of Time'.

'At the Edge of Time' is BG's 9th full-length album in a 25-year career, during which we have seen them go from a full-on speed metal band to an epic, sometimes symphonic power metal band. Theirs has been a rewarding journey to follow, and I consider almost everything they've ever done to be brilliant in some way or another. The newest album continues in their fashion of gradual experimentation, and it also is their first to feature a real orchestra. This is both a point of praise and a point of contention that I have with this album. When the orchestra is just accompanying the band, it results in a really rich and powerful sound, every bit as sweeping as it's supposed to be. On the other hand, it irks me a little when the orchestra plays solo for more than ten seconds, especially at the beginning of 'Sacred Worlds'. I mean, this is the very first song on the album, so why do I have to wait for more than a minute to even hear the band I paid for? Fortunately, the orchestra does sound really good, so my complaint is a rather small one; in any case, there are only two songs in which it plays a significant role ('Sacred Worlds' and 'Wheel of Time').

But as long as I'm voicing my complaints, I'll get my other one out of the way real quick: pacing. For the first five songs, it's gold. Epic, fast, mid-paced, fast, ballad - no problems there. But then songs six, seven, and eight are mid-paced, mid-paced, and ballad, respectively, which leaves us with one last fast song for track nine and the other epic for the closer. My point is, the album's momentum slows down a lot right in the middle of the album, which is not horrible but it is distracting. I daresay it wants one more fast song at around track six or seven, or maybe just a revamp of the track-list.

And now I'm done complaining.

The songs themselves range from very good to great. The aforementioned 'Sacred Worlds', once it gets going, is epic as hell, and a good choice to open the album. 'At the Edge of Time' is a little like 'Imaginations from the Other Side' in having a song of this type get things started. 'Tanelorn (Into the Void)' is one of the best songs on the album, the kind of song that got Blind Guardian where they are now: epic speed metal. How I've missed songs like this! Following it is another outstanding song, 'Road of No Release'. This is a very sad song that delivers its emotion powerfully, and it manages to be pretty heavy at the same time. 'Ride into Obsession' is the first of two songs about Robert Jordan's terrible Wheel of Time series. Happily, it's about 6,782 times better than the hack series it concerns; also, it's another speed metal song! Yes, after 25 years, the bards can still pull out some blazing speed metal when they want to. Next is the first ballad of the album, and it's a solid song, though certainly no 'The Bard's Song - In the Forest' or 'A Past and Future Secret'. Then there's 'Valkyries', which sounds a good bit like 'The Edge' from the last album at times. Also solid. 'Control the Divine' is a little faster than 'Valkyries', though not by much, and contains some of the best melodies on the album. One of the best songs on here. The piano version of 'War of the Thrones' contained herein is better than the acoustic guitar version that was on the single, sounding a bit more somber. It's also the last ballad of the album. 'A Voice in the Dark' is exactly the same song that was on the single, and is just as much of a winner here as it was there. These guys can really do no wrong when they kick the tempo into high gear. Finally, we get to the closing epic, 'Wheel of Time'. I've already expressed my opinion of the subject, so I'll focus on the music. It showcases the orchestra quite prominently, and in its best moment is really inspiring. It has a bit of the 'faux-Eastern music' syndrome though, which has become such a nuisance in the last decade or so; maybe it's relevant to the lyrical topic, but I don't really care. Other than that, it's the obvious choice to bring the album to a close, and is a very good epic in a long line of Blind Guardian epics.

I won't take much space to discuss individual performances; I already covered all that in my 'A Voice in the Dark' review. Suffice it to say that they are all excellent. The production, too, is easily the best they've had since 'Somewhere Far Beyond'. I can't help feeling that it's the sort of production that would have best suited 'A Night at the Opera'.

Which brings me to my final thought: 'At the Edge of Time' intimates to me a strange feeling, like it could just as well have been the successor to 'Nightfall in Middle-Earth' as 'A Night at the Opera' was. There are times when this album reminds me of the atmosphere of 'Nightfall...', and it has a similar mix of aggression and pure over-the-top grandiosity. 'At the Edge of Time' stands as a proud entry in Blind Guardian's shining catalogue: bards they are, bards they will be, and bards they have always been.

Page turner with a few skippable chapters - 80%

autothrall, July 30th, 2010

Once more, a period of massive anticipation subsides for the latest effort from Germany's most visible metal export and one of power metal's royalty, and the product rolls out into hobbit holes, LARPs and out across gaming grids the world-wide. Another cycle of interesting literary subjects has been gathered for discussion, and the band have kept their fans in on the recording process, samples, and probably even the dietary supplements when recording their 9th full-length effort, At the Edge of Time. The band is so transparent and builds hype so well for each new release that I'm surprised we haven't been forced to suffer through a Hansi Kursch reality TV show in the months before each new release.

Judging from the single teaser, "A Voice in the Dark", my expectations were not sky high for this effort, as the two songs there felt like simply more of the same that the band had been rattling out forever, only lacking that certain explosive, memorable ingredient they'd perfected though the 90s in their rise to power. But the samples on their site held out some hope, and now that I've gotten to tear through the album a number of times, I can honestly say that the remainder of this material makes up for the few, forgettable pieces. It was probably foremost on the fans' mind whether or not Blind Guardian would be pushing to an even more poppy level than they did with their previous A Twist in the Myth, or regressing to their far more inspirational past, and I would offer that this represents a mix of these directions. There are no outright, cutesy rockers like "Another Stranger Me" or "Fly" (which were not bad), but several segments that feel close enough; and the straight speed metal raving doffed throughout this album recall the days of Somewhere Far Beyond and Imaginations from the Other Side, with a studio gloss every bit as modern and layered as their former 21st century arrangements.

It's off to a damn fine start with the symphonic suite that heralds "Sacred Worlds", which is an extended version of the song "Sacred" that was used in the computer game Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. In all, this rendition is over 9 minutes in length, but the orchestration truly helps flesh out the track, and if you can wipe your mind of goblins and trolls dancing and head banging to a computer generated cast of Hansi and crew, you are subjected to a reasonable measure of emotional power. "Tanelorn (Into the Void)" returns to the world of Michael Moorcock's Elric saga, a sequel or sorts to "The Quest for Tanelorn" from Somewhere Far Beyond, both lyrically and stylistically, for this is sheer speed/power metal with some excellent vocal arrangements that don't ignore the Queen-like rapport the band had developed in the past decade or so. "Road of No Release" centers on a Peter S. Beagle story, who you might know better as the author of The Last Unicorn. It's one of the most proggish pieces on the album, and could have easily appeared on the previous record, but not the most enticing here, despite a quality burning lead segment with some vocals cascading across it.

Next, "Ride Into Obsession" explodes into the realm of Robert Jordan's haughty and far too worded Wheel of Time saga, doing great justice to the meandering narrative, with a fairly catchy chorus sequence and a nice lead sequence as payoff to the storming aggression that the band have once again found themselves attached to. "Curse My Name" is another of the band's 'bard-like' pieces', slowly developing and steeped in flutes and windy, soaring background vocals. Like many similar tracks throughout the band's career, this would normally represent a sappy and unnecessary lull from their true strength (the metal), but the percussive climaxes here at least give something for the ears to latch upon. "Valkyries" might tease itself as yet another ballad, but soon matures into a multi-tiered, melodic prog piece that was one of my favorites on the album, a fitting enough tribute to the mythological, beautiful entities. Like "Curse My Name", "Control Divine" is based on John Milton, but this time his famous Paradise Lost. The various shifts in tempo and surges of melody do well to capture the desperation of the epic poem, but one wonders if this subject would have been served better by one of Blind Guardian's 8+ minute compositions instead of stuck into a shorter length.

We've already heard the next pair of songs from the single leading up to this album. Both "War of the Thrones" and "A Voice in the Dark" represent George R.R. Martin's sprawling, unfinished political fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire. The former is a calmly thriving ballad that blows into some soothing, sailing vocal passages, and I feel like the version presented here is superior to that of the single. "A Voice in the Dark" is probably the least interesting of the metal tunes here, with really only one catchy bit in the bridge riff. It conjures up Somewhere Far Beyond in style, but not execution. "Wheel of Time" revisits the Robert Jordan novels, a nearly 9 minute piece with plenty of savage orchestration and glistening melody to resonate through a long series of listens. This has some of the best individual licks on the record, so its almost a shame its tucked into the finale, but then, like any good stage performance, its indeed climactic.

At the Edge of Time is overall a pretty good record, though far from the best the band have produced in their 20+ years of existence. The musicianship is stunning, Hansi's vocals still honed and sharp, and the writing good enough to support longer and shorter tracks. Not everything here is gold. There were moments in "War of the Thrones", "Road of No Release" and "Curse My Name" in which I felt I was nodding off, and "A Voice in the Dark" is simply average at best, but you've still got about 45 minutes minimum of excellent writing that will hook onto your psyche and have you back, feeding for more until the inevitable follow-up. I truly believe that if the band is going to devote chunks of the album to specific writers or fantasy series, that perhaps the Germans should strive for another pure concept album like their finest, Nightfall in Middle-Earth. It just seems clunky to my mind having pairs of songs devoted to George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan, it'd be nice for them to go all out. By this point I don't feel the band have much ground to cover musically. Everything here is old hat, a classy retread of former works, with perhaps the exception of clearer orchestration, so a singular lyrical focus is one area in which they might keep us enthralled for another decade or beyond.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com