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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