Blind Guardian is a special band; a band that has laughed in the face of convention since day one and have created some of the seminal classics of the power metal genre. With a legacy as powerful how will new release Beyond The Red Mirror fare in the land of MMXV?
Since the days of ‘Tales from the Twilight World’ and the untouchable ‘Nightfall In Middle Earth’, Hansi Kursch and company have ventured into a more progressive sound, notably on the much overlooked Night At The Opera but the press releases have been proclaiming that Beyond The Red Mirror is a return to the earlier Blind Guardian mantra. This new album does indeed draw on the earlier sounds but rather than imitate, Blind Guardian have incorporated older elements into a fuller sounding orchestral bombast. Three classical choirs, from Boston, Prague, and Budapest, along with two 90-piece orchestras were assembled during the recording process.
Complexity is the order of the day on opening song ‘The Ninth Wave’ that clocks in at over 9 minutes. Electro beats (yeah, you read that right) follow a choral introduction before more familiar staccato power metal core comes to the fore with Kursch sounding as if his voice has not aged a single year. It’s not a racing start but it builds layers towards the first single from the album ‘Twilight of the Gods’, which could easily have nestled in the heart of Nightfall. The influence of Messrs Mercury, Taylor, May and Deacon is strong throughout Beyond The Red Mirror, notably on the falsetto multi-harmonies. Witness the twilight of the gods /will they ever return? It’s definitely the most classic sounding song on the album with riffs, catchy choruses and extravagant solos bound to satiate the older fans. The storytelling power of Blind Guardian is fundamental to their success and at times the narrative can be lost with how much is actually happening in the song. ‘The Throne’ and ‘Sacred Mind’ are layered as if glimpsing deep within mind of a crazed composer but this is also compelling as it keeps the listener guessing. The intriguing ‘Prophecies’, the imaginative ‘At The Edge Of Time’ and the crunching ‘The Holy Grail’ all lend to the grandeur of the album. ‘Miracle Machine’ is the stripped back piano accompanied ballad which offers respite before the grandiose album curtain call. ‘Grand Parade’ closes the album with more twists and turns than the labyrinth of Minos. Strings, percussion, brass, woodwinds, abound basses with director Kursch on the podium controlling every level in the evolving soundscape.
Time stood still as Blind Guardian developed and recorded this album and the result is an album that draws from the past whilst firmly moving forward with a steadfast determination to the next chapter of the tale. To answer my initial question.; Beyond The Red Mirror is a worthwhile companion piece to any album in their discography and is another testimony to the leviathan that is Blind Guardian.
1.The Ninth Wave
2.Twilight of the Gods
4.At the Edge of Time
5.Ashes of Eternity
6.Distant Memories (Bonus track on limited edition digi-pack version)
7.The Holy Grail
12.Doom (Bonus track on Earbook version)