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Blind Guardian Runs Out of Steam - 60%

BotD, June 25th, 2011

Up to this album Blind Guardian had played straightforward speed album of the old school German variety and it worked relatively well. Their first album is chock full of speed metal classics and the second album muddled through with the excellent Banished from Sanctuary and Valhalla. But here there are no songs to elevate the album from speed metal mediocrity.

It's a well-known fact that speed metal albums suffer because of their monotonous adherence to playing fast all the time. It takes a level of brilliance only found on the likes of Walls of Jericho or Scanner's first two albums to keep that pace and not start to bore the listener and even they conceded the point by having a few slower numbers. Unfortunately, Blind Guardian has never been that good and they weren't even at the top of their game here. Yes, they play really fast here but for the most part there are no riffs. Instead your ears will perk up for a moment as the lead guitar comes in at a higher register and plays something interesting to break up the monotony before we get back to more generic speed metal. It's a gimmick that Blind Guardian uses and abuses throughout their discography, but it's no substitute for some good riffs during the verses.

It should also be noted that the leads on this album feel kind of disjointed. For instance the solo section in Welcome to Dying is all over the place, there is no continuity to it and it ends up superfluous to the song.

What saves this album is Kursch who basically carries every song with a great chorus and decent work on the verses. Sadly, this is recurring theme in their later albums as well. Without his unique voice, Blind Guardian would never have been entertained as a first tier power metal band. He brings catchy melodies and emotion to songs that really don't deserve it and he doesn't while breaking the standard power metal vocalist mold. Unfortunately, his great choruses are undermined by Blind Guardian's inability to put anything musically interesting under them. Go listen to Majesty from their first album and tell me that tight under-chorus riff is not a vital complement to Kursch's vocals.

So recommended only for German speed metal or BG fanatics. Otherwise satisfy yourself with the first two and move on to their power metal days.