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The War of Knights -vs- Minstrels Lasted One Day - 100%

Hidius, September 13th, 2008

And there was a really good reason for it, too. Somewhere Far Beyond is representative of that.

This album combines the best of both thrash metal and power metal. From power metal it takes the expansive, bombastic chorus work and clean melodic singing, as well as the high fantasy lyrical subjects. From thrash it takes the dark, morbid atmosphere and the aggression, and balances out all the clean singing with just as much harsh singing. Hansi’s voice gets particularly harsh in the first verse of Theatre of Pain, if you listen to it loud enough it gets just within range of splitting your skull. All that is topped off with a dash of folky-ness in the instrumentation to complement the general sense of metal minstrelsy.

Tragedy happens to pique my interest, and there is no shortage of that on here. This is what darkness in power metal is all about, this is darkness in power metal taken to its highest quality extreme. It never gets cheesy and it avoids pure depression. There’s no boredom inducing parts anywhere on this album. There’s more soloing on this BG album than on any other, and it’s more intense, but the music overall is intense. The riffing is still as high speed as these guys can play—and without getting stale.

There are a couple of slower moments here with Black Chamber and In the Forest, but they do not disappoint. On Black Chamber Hansi’s voice maintains its ability to cut right through your head, while on In the Forest he goes for his minstrel style almost in full. The only thing that would have made this album’s ballad stand out would be if they had taken it to the next level as they did with Lord of the Rings and A Past and Future Secret. On those songs the music is dense and Hansi is in full-on Rennaissance mode. This is mere acoustic work with Hansi’s voice flowing normally, the structure isn’t that adventurous. But I don’t consider this a flaw, just a possibility that went unexplored here, unlike on the other albums. This is still one of my favorite albums.

Another song that was very well done and easy to enjoy but that could have been a little more adventurous was Quest for Tanelorn. It seemed sort of standard, as far as songs go, and BG’s strength is playing with the songs in unusual ways, creating oddly structured songs. Most of the rest of the songs on here are unusual and offer much for the ears to catch, that all flies by at lightning speed, but without going overboard on happiness. Actually none of this is upbeat in any way, it’s just that sometimes the mistrel style of the music makes all these tales of dread and woe seem lighthearted, the way a Rennaissance guy with a flute would prance around in a skirt singing poems to women who always ended up with the hunky knight instead. It didn’t matter what that guy sang about, he always seemed happy about it. When you take into account his record for getting laid you’re left wondering if he was on drugs, or what.

This is much meatier, much more manly. This is the equivalent of hearing the hunky knight kill the minstrel and take over his duties. This is how the knight—who has been laid, and who has been to battle—would sing the poems. The knight is thrash metal and the minstrel is power metal. I like both genres, but this is what I want to hear more of from thrash—an epic sensibility—and what I want to hear from power—snarling aggression and, well, a real acknowledgement that there is more than just idealistic super-happiness to write about. There are bands in both genres that do some of this, but none so well as Blind Guardian, and on SFB they reached one of their career zeniths with one of their loudest, most intense and yet melodic albums.