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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review: Blind Guardian's "At the Edge of Time"

Been a while since I reviewed an album, and since today was the official North American release date of Blind Guardian's newest album, I figured I'd post a review.  Here goes:

Blind Guardian has been a mainstay of the Power Metal genre for the last decade and a half, and with each album they have reasserted their worth to the genre and the metal world.  This most recent effort is no exception, taking the band once again in a new direction that departs from the very dark style of "A Twist in the Myth" to take on a more symphonic, triumphant tone that is at once both musically intricate and simply powerful.

The album opens with "Sacred Worlds," a song originally composed for the PC game Sacred II, but was fully re-worked and remastered for the album release.  At a full 9+ minutes, the tune sets the tone for the remained of the album, with a full orchestra playing alongside the band, including trumpets, strings, and heavy, resounding percussion that really lends an epic feel to the music.  Hansi Kursch's vocals are top-notch as usual on this track, again proving himself to be one of the best vocalists in all of metal. 

Another excellent track on the album is the piano-intro'd "Road of No Release" which builds quickly into a powerful slow-tempo ballad tune driven largely by Hansi's vocals and a hauntingly powerful refrain with a choir backing. 

About midway through the album, the listener is hit with "Wheel of Time," which is without a doubt one of Blind Guardian's finest songs in their history, and in my opinion, one of the best songs you'll hear all summer.  The orchestra is fully present throughout this track, and adds an incredible amount of power and layering to the listening experience, with varying flavors of music from around the world popping up, including oriental themes and brass-heavy parts that sound like something from the LOTR soundtrack, only ballsier.  Seriously, this song gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.  Plug in the headphones and turn it up.

Other highlights include the first single from the album, "A Voice in the Dark" and the mid-tempo Norse Mythology-themed Valkyries.  "Voice" hits you fast and hard with a great, driving riff that instantly tells you this song is going to kick serious ass before progressing into a trademark chorus section delivered with perfect backing harmonies and Hansi's powerful vocals, which have become the standard by which other power metal vocalists are judged.

The weak points on the album are the dull "Tanelorn (Into the Void)" and the inevitable medieval bard-style ballad "Curse My Name", which is of course far inferior to "The Bard's Song (In the Forest)", and is pretty bad even when compared to Blind Guardian's non "Bard's Song" Ballads.  The only redeeming factor of this tune is the bagpipes-and-fiddles interlude, which is actually pretty interesting.

Overall, I'd rate the album an 8.5/10, and definitely place it in the "Required Listening" category for fans of power metal and epic, orchestral metal compositions.

Somewhere, Robert Jordan is smiling.

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