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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!