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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.