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The path European power metal should've taken? - 95%

Xeogred, June 23rd, 2008

In my humble opinion this is essentially and easily Blind Guardian at their peak in terms of creativity. Even though it's usually a tie between this and their debut for my personal favorite pick from them in terms of releases, there's no denying that this is one of those albums that defines "Blind Guardian" and was truly innovative during the time. Their first two albums were straight up German speed metal with the occasional epic factor here and there, while Tales From The Twilight World was certainly transitional and a hint to what they'd do here with Somewhere Far Beyond. With this one, they nailed their own style and got everything right. Riffs prevail and the speed is always furious with a majestic atmosphere and epic elements making this a one of a kind gem.

Usually I tend to believe Germany (or just the entire European) side of things were having an easier time during the 90's, compared to other places like the US where metal was sinking a bit and some genres were just completely dying out altogether. This album kind of came out of nowhere and what were some of the other big German names doing around this time? Let's see, Helloween were in between Pink Bubbles and Chameleon ... yikes, let's not even get started on that. The newly born Gamma Ray were in between Sigh No More and Insanity & Genius, how about another "yikes"? Well at least Running Wild were tearing things apart with Pile of Skulls in between their older classics left and right. Aside from them though I think it's safe to say around 1992, Blind Guardian were at the top of their game and smashing most other legends around.

As it was already pointed out by some of the previous reviews, one of the greatest aspects to this album is the incredible production. The mix is very consistent and hey, this is something you can still call real heavy metal! The special effects and instrumental stuff is definitely abound on several tracks but unlike their later albums, the main instruments such as the guitars, drums, bass, and vocals are still the dominant forces and rightfully so. The guitars in my opinion are an absolute highlight, as I also mentioned in my review for Battalions of Fear but on here they're even tougher than before and those leads/solo's are downright razor sharp. The tone on them should instantly make anyone familiar with the band say "That's Blind Guardian alright". The riffs here really stand out and that's a connection you can make to my title for this review. For all the generic European power metal out there, what happened to the riffs!? (and don't get me wrong, there's still a chunk of stuff within this realm I really enjoy). All members are in top form here and by this time Hansi had fully developed his odd, semi-raspy, and aggressive melodic vocals. I also absolutely love his spoken segments where he pretty much just talks as if he's telling some tale or something, with his cool accent it adds a lot to the music and atmosphere (the Bard's Song is a good example of what I'm talking about). It's obvious, but Blind Guardian wouldn't be Blind Guardian without Hansi.

As much as I want to say this album is nearly flawless for Blind Guardian's sake, the choruses are something I have an issue with and are typically a hit or miss for me personally. Some of them are just a little too sing-along/sappy for me, I think a more aggressive approach to a lot of the choruses here could've worked better (since the music itself is typically pretty tough). It also gets a little predictable at times, on a lot of the tracks you can just tell "that chorus" is coming. Quest For Tanelorn is probably an example of one that bothers me that I could do without, regardless however Hansi's vocals and rest of this song (especially the excellent solo!) are its saving grace. That's why I still give this a pretty high rating overall. As I said though, they're a hit or miss. There's some here that I actually think work pretty well like Journey Through The Dark, Ashes to Ashes, Somewhere Far Beyond - multiple layers and choruses on this one and wow, it actually works incredibly well.

All the way through this album is a great experience. It's extremely consistent and chances are you'll walk away easily remembering half of the songs after your first listen. This is the path European power metal and even Blind Guardian themselves should've stuck with, the aggression and "metal" is still there with some nice epic elements that sets it apart from normal traditional/speed metal. Imaginations From the Other Side is often regarded as their finest and it's definitely a solid follow up, but I've always preferred Somewhere Far Beyond since they still had an emphasis on straight up aggression and speed. After that one though, the instruments slowly started to rot away. Anyways, it's also worth noting that all of the extra tracks along with the re-master are pretty awesome, especially the cover of Satan's Trial By Fire. Of course it's not superior to the original but I commend Blind Guardian for covering it so well while at the same time giving it their own flavor, it really goes along with the rest of the album pretty much perfectly. Overall, if you think European power metal is a little too "cheesy" for you or whatever and haven't heard this one yet, well you really need to give it a shot. Definitely one of the best out of the genre and easily one of the bands finest. Highlights: Journey Through The Dark, Ashes To Ashes, and Somewhere Far Beyond.