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Blind Guardian - At The Edge Of Time CD (album) cover


Blind Guardian


Progressive Metal

3.63 | 134 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'At the Edge of Time' - Blind Guardian (74/100)

Regardless of the places they've ventured since, I believe Blind Guardian's career-defining arc ended with A Twist in the Myth. The disappointing Follow the Blind notwithstanding, each subsequent album sought to outdo the previous installment in progressive ambitions. This arc, as steady as it was, culminated in near-overwhelming proportions with their seventh LP A Night at the Opera, an over-the- top musical feast with every element in their sound amplified to its conceivable limit. Although fans were even further polarized by Blind Guardian's decision to break the arc for a relatively accessible, song-based collection with A Twist in the Myth, I think it stood as a natural part of that evolution. They had a proper rising action with their first five albums, a climax with Nightfall in Middle-Earth and A Night at the Opera, and with A Twist in the Myth, they had their natural denouement.

But where does that leave Blind Guardian's more recent output; specifically their eighth album At the Edge of Time? There's some optimistic part of me that would like to see this as a brand new chapter in the band's development; they're arguably more confident in themselves in this decade than they ever have before. As I continue to listen to the album however, I get the impression that At the Edge of Time ushered in the truly post-classic era in their career. It is not as ambitious nor as challenging as A Night at the Opera, nor is it as stylistically risky as A Twist in the Myth. Rather, this is Blind Guardian taking a long look at their past achievements, and distilling their most characteristic elements to make a veritable fan-pleaser of an album. All the things you know and love (or hate) about the band are on At the Edge of Time; and though it doesn't sound like they pushed themselves here the way they have on albums past, I'd be lying if I denied the fact these ingredients have resulted in an immensely solid album nonetheless.

In a broad sense, At the Edge of Time represents the ultimate stagnation of Blind Guardian's sound. Everything-- the larger-than-life choruses, the fantasy-themed lyrics, the bombastic orchestrations, the mandatory minstrel ballads, the Queen-tinged guitar leads, the symphonic epics and the speed-fueled power metal assaults-- have been heard on albums past. Following A Night at the Opera and its natural rebuttal in A Twist in the Myth, I don't believe there were further heights they could take the music. As it happens, At the Edge of Time only appears to advance their art in terms of sheer budget; the production is sharper than it ever was before, and they finally have a live orchestra to match their symphonic ambitions. The music itself however, for all intents, is built from entirely familiar ingredients. At the Edge of Time was not an exciting development in their career; it began the purely fan-pleasing phase of their career that their most recent album Beyond the Red Mirror has only seen fit to continue.

And yet I love the album.

I've enjoyed it as much as any power metal album to come out this decade. Is this shamelessly hypocritical fanboyism at its worst? Possibly; but I think there is more to it. I really believe that only a band with a style as individual and distinct as Blind Guardian could risk stagnating on their pre-existing laurels and still create exhilarating art. Even without the impression of adventurous spirit that made Somewhere Far Beyond and others such classics, At the Edge of Time is filled with memorable songwriting, brought to life with much of the same attention to detail that has kept me coming back to their back catalogue. For one, "Tanelorn (Into the Void)" stands among the very best of the fast songs they've done; the chorus is one of the most exciting vocal arrangements I've ever heard from Hansi, and the song's arguably even better than "The Quest for Tanelorn" off Somewhere Far Beyond almost two decades before it. By this point in their career, Blind Guardian know how to milk the best out of their style.

"Valkyries" is another favourite of mine off the album; as energetic and epic as a power ballad has any right of being. As much as I could predict the presence of their mandatory plunge into acoustic minstrelsy, "Curse My Name" is a particularly good acoustic tune from them; comparisons with "A Past and Future Secret" off Imaginations from the Other Side wouldn't go unfounded. "Sacred Worlds" and "Wheel of Time" evoke the band's more orchestrated, epic side. It's on these tracks that the album's most notable innovation- a live orchestra- are highlighted. Although Blind Guardian take a similarly bombastic "Hollywood score" to their orchestrations like Rhapsody of Fire and Nightwish, it's surprisingly refreshing to hear the band finally working alongside a full-blown accompaniment.

Though I may cite "Ride into Obsession" and "Control the Divine" as less memorable songs, they're perfectly capable tracks in their own right. At the Edge of Time benefits from the fact that it has no truly weak links to it. By this stage of their career, Blind Guardian are clearly aware of what does and doesn't work in their formula. Although I would have imagined the 'same-old' approach to their albumcraft would have resulted in a less inspired performance, Blind Guardian sound as passionate in their execution as ever here. The album benefits from one of Hansi Kürsch's greatest vocal performances. Particularly on "Tanelorn (Into the Void)" and "Curse My Name", he amply demonstrates that his voice has lost none of its power with age, and we should continue to expect the best from him.

My obvious cynicism aside; Blind Guardian show some major confidence in themselves with At the Edge of Time. They have a perfect grasp of their style, and know exactly where they want to go in their music. For good and bad alike, Blind Guardian have reached full maturity.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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