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Transitional, yet obviously a classic. - 95%

hells_unicorn, February 25th, 2007

They often say that when a band starts to transition that you get a large amount of contradictory sounds appearing on the albums where it occurs, but they obviously didn’t listen to “Somewhere Far Beyond” when they said this, or the album that preceded it. One thing that Blind Guardian did differently from their fellow German Power Metal brethren Helloween was realize the transition from Speed Metal into Power Metal gradually, phasing in the folk and epic influences in little by little on “Tales From the Twilight Hall” and this release along side songs that are geared towards their older style.

Many of the Speed metal tracks have acoustic intros and interludes reminiscent of Progressive acts, although they are otherwise dominated by some very aggressive speed riffs. “Time what is time” and “Quest for Tanelorn” are the two best examples of this, the former highlighting blazing speed and a classically inspired intro, the latter showcasing some guest solos courtesy of Kai Hansen and a powerful chorus. Both parts of the Bard Song give an acoustic and electric take on the more folk oriented side of the band, the first one being a less atmospheric version of the more polished acoustic epic “A Past and Future Secret”.

“Journey through the dark” and “Ashes to Ashes” are a good deal heavier and more dissonant, the latter hinting a move towards the sound on “Imaginations from the Other Side”, while the first seems like a better produced version of something from the previous release. Meanwhile we also have a collection of interesting little short caprices that function as segues between songs. “Black Chamber” is a rather somber and dramatic vocal number by Hansi with a piano behind him, and seems to function more as an attached ending to “Journey through the dark”. “The Piper’s Calling” functions as a 1 minute intro to the riveting title track, dominated by Scottish pipes, which one could only be found of when they are pulled off properly, which is the case here.

The two highlights are the ones that hint more towards the Progressive sound that would follow, both using a more epic atmosphere to push them over the top. “Theater of Pain” is a nice slower rock/metal track with a catchy keyboard theme and some amazing guitar brilliance ala Andre Olbrich. The title track is one of the longest and most powerful speed driven epics they’ve put together, clearly the influences that resulted in “Nightfall” are to be found here, be it the dueling guitar solos or the smooth yet frequent transitions from section to section. The Irish pipes used during one of the instrumental sections are a nice touch, as I tend to be fonder of the pipes of my ancestors’ abode as they are less raucous and obnoxious sounding.

The bonus tracks are a nice touch, as BG has always been superb at marrying older rock and metal songs to their own brand of power metal. The classic version of “Theater of Pain” is not all that different from the one found earlier on the album, save perhaps a slightly larger keyboard presence. No complaints about any of these songs, but they are not quite as good as the bulk of the original work that is found on here.

Fans of older Blind Guardian will still be able to respect this, even though it is the first release they had on Virgin Records, which oversaw their transition into a different entity altogether. But fans of newer Blind Guardian should also check this out, particularly for the two highlights mentioned. I can’t say it’s the best they’ve done, but it is superior to much work they have done up until now.