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Blind Guardian - Follow The Blind CD (album) cover


Blind Guardian


Progressive Metal

2.81 | 111 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Follow the Blind' - Blind Guardian (59/100)

A band has all the time in the world to make their debut album. Without the exposure or expectation to pressure out an album, artists can sometimes spend years refining their best material for their big first impression. So it was, at least, with Blind Guardian's Battalions of Fear, a semi-professional effort that refurbished their best demo material to a pretty exciting effect. Having had a few years' worth of songs as Lucifer's Heritage to choose from the first time around, it is unsurprising (but nonetheless disappointing) that Follow the Blind fails to deliver as strong a package as its predecessor. With just over a year between the two albums, Blind Guardian's sophomore tends to settle for a set of palatable speed metal tunes, with just a couple of memorable highlights between the lot of them. The album isn't terrible, but it's significantly less than I would expect from this band at any point in their career.

Although it's a safe declaration that Blind Guardian kept setting their ambitions higher with every album, it is arguable that Follow the Blind was the only exception, at least until A Twist in the Myth two decades later. While Battalions of Fear was indeed gritty and juvenile, it often went the extra distance to reveal slight progressive metal influences, drawn from the likes of Fates Warning and Savatage. A lasting fan favourite like "Majesty" (from the debut) even nearly passed the eight minute mark; the style in itself was primitive, but some of their artistic choices hinted as something more sophisticated. Again, I do blame a large part of this on the fact that Blind Guardian didn't give themselves their usual years of building up the material, but the band feels less effectively intentioned. The songs are still crafted from most of the same biting speed and vaguely NWOBHM-inspired twin harmonies, but the choruses and song structures stand out as being significantly less interesting this time around.

I do think of Follow the Blind as a disappointing regression in an otherwise superb career, but developments can still be found in the unlikeliest of places. Though the influence isn't nearly profound enough to truly distinguish it for its 'second-rate Battalions of Fear' status, the Bay Area-thrashers that Blind Guardian were listening to at the time of writing the album have clearly manifested themselves in the music. The production is markedly heavier than the debut, and the twin bass/guitar riff lines typically used in thrash are employed to pleasantly energizing effect. Although there is even less sense of their distinctive identity on Follow the Blind than the debut had to offer, a few songs nonetheless stand out. Head, shoulder and torso above the rest is "Valhalla", a blistering assault of a song that easily deserves its continued inclusion in live performances.

While the combination of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail-derived intro "Inquisition" and "Banish from Sanctuary" are no match for "Majesty", they offer Follow the Blind a relatively powerful start. "Beyond the Ice" is a solid instrumental in the image of "Gandalf's Rebirth". With less focus placed on strong choruses and melodic writing, many of the album's other tracks aren't as successful. Songs like "Damned for All Time" and "Fast to Madness" feel like by-the-numbers facsimiles of the debut's material. Nothing is out of place, but there is nothing still to get me really engaged. Where is this album's "Run for the Night", its "Majesty", "The Martyr", or "Battalions of Fear"? I am constantly prone to bringing up "Valhalla" in each case, but the lack of otherwise great songs is solid grounds for disappointment.

If there's anything else to say about Follow the Blind, I can't help but bring up what a surprise it is to hear their cover of "Barbara Ann". Though originally recorded by The Regents, I associate this song closely with The Beach Boys, and while Brian Wilson and company aren't known primarily for their influence on speed metal, their meticulous attention to vocal harmonies beckons strong association with the direction Hansi would take his voice on future albums. Although Blind Guardian conclude their album with tongue-in-cheek (Voivod pursued similar ends with their "Batman" cover the year before on Dimension Hatross) it unwittingly stands as a continued reminder that this band were destined for far greater things, even if the standard here fell something short of excellence.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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