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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