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Blind Guardian - Somewhere Far Beyond CD (album) cover

SOMEWHERE FAR BEYOND

Blind Guardian

 

Progressive Metal

3.61 | 134 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Somewhere Far Beyond' - Blind Guardian (81/100)

I think Somewhere Far Beyond would have been the perfect album to be introduced to Blind Guardian with. Like so many others, the first track I ever heard of theirs was "The Bard's Song", but when it came time for a more substantive experience of the power metal titans, I dove straight into Nightfall in Middle-Earth, where many of the threads introduced on this and Tales from the Twilight World would finally come full-circle. Considering they soon earned a spot as one of my must-listen metal bands, I don't think it was a misstep on my part, but there's something about this one that makes it the quintessential Blind Guardian album in my opinion. Somewhere Far Beyond may not be as biting or as consistently written as Tales, nor does it ascend to the ambitious heights of the output that followed it, but in good faith, could I really recommend a better album to someone who wanted to know what the Bards are all about?

Although I might call Somewhere Far Beyond the 'safest' of their classics, that's only in hindsight; the evolution between this and Tales from the Twilight World two years prior required a grand leap of faith. For all of the intelligence and literacy Blind Guardian demonstrated on their three earliest albums, they still had a coat of speed metal grime to hide behind, if ever their ambition outreached their grasp. Although "Time What is Time" and "Journey Through the Dark" are both speedy and aggressive enough to have fit on Tales snugly enough, there's a much greater emphasis on the finer facets of musicianship. Somewhere Far Beyond is the first album of theirs that sounds completely professional in its execution. And all of this without the sense of feeling overbearing, as much of Blind Guardian's latter material (as much as I love it) is blatantly guilty of. I've always thought Tales from the Twilight World as the album of their most significant artistic evolution, but it was on Somewhere Far Beyond where they truly found their voice.

Although the songwriting sessions for Tales from the Twilight World had greater energy and produced a wider array of standout tracks, I don't think there's a single weak song on Somewhere Far Beyond. The Blade Runner-inspired "Time What Is Time" is one of the best openers they ever had, and a perfect representation of their 'heavy metal Queen' style. While Hansi Kürsch had made a point of establishing his choral arranging/performing genius on their third album, Somewhere Far Beyond makes a strong point of showing André Olbrich's skill and character with the guitar. Ubiquitous comparisons to Brian May aren't unfounded; he has a similarly playful, futuristic sound to his leads, and though I doubt any seasoned rock listener won't have the reference pass through their heads when they first hear the band, I think Olbrich came onto his own as an exceptional, unique musician.

"Theatre of Pain" and "Ashes to Ashes" are better proof of the artistic evolution between albums. "Theatre of Pain" is one of my favourite cuts off the album, being an early adopter of their future 'symphonic' leanings, as well as an uncharacteristically melancholic power metal anthem. The latter goes a step further, taking a reprieve (however brief) from the band's fantasy imagery to explore the very real pain of Hansi having then-recently lost his father. While the two "Bard's Song" tracks are crafted from a much more typical Blind Guardian topic (Lord of the Rings-- what else?) the two combine to make one of my favourite BG songs ever. It's a real shame that the second, 'metal' half of the set gets overlooked in comparison with the acoustic tune; the first "Bard's Song" may be more iconic, but the second is one of the most exciting songs of theirs I've ever heard.

There are days I might argue that this album's slower approach resulted in less memorable songwriting, but as a whole, Somewhere Far Beyond comes off as far more confident than any of its predecessors. If anything may be said for this album, it's that I think Blind Guardian were finally making the kind of music they dreamed of creating. Everything I associate with them-- the intelligent, fantasy-inspired lyrics, the complex vocal arrangements, the Brian May-influenced guitar leads, the grand scale of composition; the works! -- come to pass on Somewhere Far Beyond. What's more; the album gave us some of their best songs; "Time What Is Time", "Theatre of Pain, and the "Bard's Song" duology chiefly among them. There's no way they could rightly be described as a speed metal band by this point-- even calling them a power metal band does little to convey their depth and personality. It's far from my favourite of their albums, but I can't think of another time in their history where they sounded so much like... themselves.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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