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Underrated and Misunderstood. - 90%

hells_unicorn, March 11th, 2007

Often passed up by the old school thrash/speed faithful and fans of the newer and more progressive Blind Guardian, “Tales from the Twilight World” represents the first hint at a transition from the former school of metal to the latter. Formally it still functions as an extension of the melodic brand of thrash/speed established on BG’s first two releases, featuring fast paced songs with signature speed riffs, brief yet brilliant guitar solo interchanges and Hansi Kürsch’s rough edged yet tuneful vocals. But there are also some rather interesting innovations that, although rather limited, put the sound more on a course where we see hints of the power metal sound realized on “Imaginations from the Other Side” and “Nightfall on Middle Earth”.

The most obvious evolution in BG’s sound is found on the ballad “Lord of the Rings”, a rather impressive acoustic folk/metal hybrid that combines a well conceived lyrical summation of Tolkien’s timeless classic with some harmonically and texturally beautiful keyboard sounds. Unlike the title track of “Follow the Blind”, which made limited use of the acoustic guitar to complement an otherwise speed dominated song, this is the first true ballad in the sense of such classic tracks as “The Bard’s Song” and “A Past and Future Secret”, and stands tall even amongst them in terms of performance and sound.

The rest of the advancement in the BG sound is dispersed among most of the other tracks found on here, mostly appearing as added detailing to which is otherwise a speed metal track cut from the same grain as previous releases. “The Last Candle” and “Traveler in Time” feature much denser vocal tracking, much closer to the current BG approach to this area, as well as a tighter and crisper overall production in the guitars. “Weird Dreams” and “Altair 4” are shorter tracks that have some keyboard sounds not found on earlier works, and although they function mostly as afterthoughts when compared with the other tracks on here, also display the beginnings of the more conceptual oriented approach to album pacing that resulted in “Nightfall on Middle Earth”.

Much of the remaining work on here is closer to the older sound, although they do highlight some changes in the musical direction of the band. “Welcome to Dying” and “Goodbye my friends” are the closest to the sound heard on previous albums, but feature a much more melodic approach to guitar soloing and lead riffing on the part of Andre Olbrich. The title track features Kai doing another guest vocal slot, the first one being on “Valhalla” off the last release, and further pulls the sound of the album towards the “Walls of Jericho” sound that it is often compared to. “Tommyknockers” is heavily similar in the guitar department to several songs found on “Nightfall on Middle Earth”, although it still listens like an earlier thrash/speed track. In my opinion this is the most underrated BG song, mostly due to people obsessing over some corny parts in the lyrics and not really listening to the amazing guitar and drum work, not to mention Hansi’s raw edged vocal work.

Blind Guardian has taken a road different from most of its peers, opting for a gradual evolution in sound rather than the abrupt changes that other acts engaged in during the early 1990s (Pantera and Sepultura being the obvious examples). Consequently, this album exhibits a sound that is so gradual a transition from its predecessors that it is passed up by later fans of the band, despite the production being a step up. However, there is enough of a power metal tinge to it that people who didn’t take to the newer sound will often regard this as a lesser work to the first two BG releases. Those who have an appreciation for the entire BG catalog, and people who like both older thrash and newer melodic power metal will find a great album awaiting them. The music on here is top notch, which is par for the course for Blind Guardian, a band that weathered and overcame a tide of anti-metal sentiment and reminded us that what makes metal distinct from the rest of the rock styles out there is its uncompromising pursuit of greatness.