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BLIND GUARDIAN

Progressive Metal • Germany


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Blind Guardian biography
BLIND GUARDIAN were founded in the mid 1980s in Krefeld, Germany as an "ordinary" speed/power metal band. Beginning with their third album, "Tales from the Twilight World", they expanded their musical vocabulary and would eventually create their very own style which is still rooted in speed/power metal, but is also very orchestral and epic, with rich arrangements of guitar lines and vocals and an ever-present medieval/folky presence. Lyrically the band - or rather singer Hansi Kürsch who writes most songs and lyrics - always had a faible for fantasy stories ... "Imaginations from the Other Side" for example is - among other things - picking up elements from the King Arthur myth (Merlin, Mordred etc), and their 1998 grand opus "Nightfall in Middle-Earth" is even a concept album based on J.R.R. Tolkien's "Silmarillion". Having said all this it has to be noted that their style is not really similar to that of the genre's "top dogs" - DREAM THEATER, PAIN OF SALVATION or TOOL for example sound nothing like BLIND GUARDIAN. Maybe it's because the usual obvious "prog traits" like frequent time signature changes or exceedingly complex structure are rarely used by BLIND GUARDIAN ... this may make them a little bit difficult to accept by prog "hardliners", but it also makes them a very refreshing diversion for the more adventurous prog fans out there.



Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
The band was cleared for addition by the prog metal team. When discussing their prog status it's important to know that they had a prog phase which mainly consists of the albums Imaginations from the Other Side, Nightfall in Middle-Earth and A Night at the Opera.



Discography:
Battalions of Fear (1988)
Follow the Blind (1989)
Tales from the Twilight World (1990)
Somewhere Far Beyond (1992)
Tokyo Tales (1993)
Imaginations from the Other Side (1995)
The Forgotten Tales (1996)
Nightfall in Middle-Earth (1998)
A Night at the Opera (2002)
Live (2003)
A Twist in the Myth (2003)

Blind Guardian official website

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At The Edge Of Time (2CD Deluxe Edition)At The Edge Of Time (2CD Deluxe Edition)
Deluxe Edition
Nuclear Blast America 2012
Audio CD$11.27
$8.99 (used)
Beyond the Red MirrorBeyond the Red Mirror
Nuclear Blast America 2015
Audio CD$7.40
$6.41 (used)
Imaginations From the Other SideImaginations From the Other Side
Import
Imports 2009
Audio CD$14.21
$36.99 (used)
A Night at the OperaA Night at the Opera
Import
Imports 2002
Audio CD$8.88
$7.90 (used)
Follow The BlindFollow The Blind
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$14.56
$20.86 (used)
Nightfall in Middle-EarthNightfall in Middle-Earth
Import
Imports 2009
Audio CD$18.85
$40.00 (used)
Tales From The Twilight WorldTales From The Twilight World
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$12.36
$22.16 (used)
Battalions of FearBattalions of Fear
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$14.17
$16.99 (used)
Memories Of A Time To Come [2 CD]Memories Of A Time To Come [2 CD]
Virgin 2012
Audio CD$7.94
$7.10 (used)
A Twist In The MythA Twist In The Myth
Nuclear Blast America 2012
Audio CD$6.52
$2.98 (used)
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BLIND GUARDIAN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

BLIND GUARDIAN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.28 | 89 ratings
Battalions of Fear
1988
2.88 | 82 ratings
Follow the Blind
1989
3.44 | 87 ratings
Tales from the Twilight World
1990
3.66 | 115 ratings
Somewhere Far Beyond
1992
3.93 | 173 ratings
Imaginations from the Other Side
1995
4.04 | 235 ratings
Nightfall in Middle-Earth
1998
3.98 | 169 ratings
A Night at the Opera
2002
3.07 | 86 ratings
A Twist in the Myth
2006
3.64 | 106 ratings
At The Edge Of Time
2010
3.80 | 26 ratings
Beyond The Red Mirror
2015

BLIND GUARDIAN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.65 | 28 ratings
Tokyo Tales
1993
3.66 | 34 ratings
Live
2003

BLIND GUARDIAN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.30 | 24 ratings
Imaginations Through The Looking Glass
2004

BLIND GUARDIAN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.66 | 43 ratings
The Forgotten Tales
1996
4.18 | 11 ratings
Memories of a Time to Come
2012

BLIND GUARDIAN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
Symphonies of Doom
1985
3.00 | 3 ratings
Battalions of Fear
1986
4.08 | 13 ratings
A Past and Future Secret
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Blind Guardian Plays Beach Boys
1996
3.33 | 12 ratings
Mr. Sandman
1996
4.00 | 1 ratings
Guardians Of The Rings
1998
4.07 | 14 ratings
Mirror Mirror
1998
3.43 | 18 ratings
And Then There Was Silence
2001
4.09 | 11 ratings
The Bard's Song (In the Forest)
2003
2.80 | 10 ratings
Fly
2006
3.33 | 12 ratings
Another Stranger Me
2007
3.03 | 12 ratings
A Voice In The Dark
2010
3.00 | 2 ratings
Twilight Of The Gods
2014

BLIND GUARDIAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Nightfall in Middle-Earth by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.04 | 235 ratings

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Nightfall in Middle-Earth
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Epic in Metal-Earth

What an evolution from their thrashy debut "Battalions of Fear"! With "Nightfall In Middle-Earth", BLIND GUARDIAN found at least the magic formula they were searching for. This sixth studio album is the achievement of the symphonic epic/medieval metal style the band has been crafting during the 90's. The compositions are now complex and refined, with magnificent choirs, majestic soli and powerful orchestrations. The theatrical impression has been enhanced too, with multiple different atmospheres and instruments. Some early fans can regret that the initial rage and direct approach present in the band's first compositions were left aside in favor of more polished sonorities and arrangements. Nevertheless, the music is like no other and still remains impacting.

Instead of "Lord on the Rings", from which most Tolkien's fan musicians draw their inspiration from, "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" is based on the complex "Silmarillion" collection. Each track relates an episode from the story of Middle-Earth, during a particular age. The record alternates songs and short spoken passages, sometimes with a discrete instrumentation. For this review, I will only focus on the "true" songs.

The thundering "Into The Storm" is gorgeous and haunting, it nearly touches perfection. Beginning softly, The medieval ballad "Nightfall" possesses an enchanting melody, whereas the dark "The Curse Of Feanor" contains fulminating guitar interventions. "Blood Tears" alternates calm, sad and violent moments, and is followed by the best track of the disc, "Mirror Mirror". A brilliant evolving song, catchy and powerful, with a slight medieval flavour. Mindblowing!

In contrast, "Noldor" is rather sad. Not the most remarkable track, but nonetheless pleasant. The theatrical "Time Stands Still" is also enjoyable, while "Thorn" is somber and melancholic. Then comes the piano ballad "The Eldar". Original, however a bit cheesy and out of place. Back to life with "When Sorrow Sang", an energetic and slightly gothic song that rocks! The ender "A Dark Chapter" has a middle-eastern feel but is a little hard to follow and finally uneven.

So, is "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" the ultimate symphonic / epic metal album? To be honest, it has a few flaws and I'm not a big fan of repeated spoken interludes (half of the track-list!). Nonetheless, the music is on par with the superb cover art: majestic, elaborated, heroic, complex... Some songs are just breathtaking. More theatrical, less direct than the former opuses, this disc may not instantly appeal to early 80's fans, but what the band lost in spontaneity has been gained in refinement. Unique.

"Nightfall In Middle-Earth" is an essential album of the genre, as well as BLIND GUARDIAN's summit. A treasure in the land of symphonic epic metal!

 Follow the Blind by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 1989
2.88 | 82 ratings

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Follow the Blind
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

2 stars You'd better follow "Battalions of Fear"

Second studio album by the Germans, "Follow the Blind" offers a music similar in style compared to their debut "Battalions of Fear": a melodic speed metal with an epic touch. However, similar in style does not necessarily mean similar in quality, and this is unfortunately the case here. BLIND GUARDIAN delivers a raw thrashy metal, sounding rather flat, with less inspiration, less remarkable guitar soli and less memorable hymns. Hansi Kürsch's singing has not very much improved yet. The promises given by the impetuosity and the youth of the first opus seem a bit deflated.

The only tracks worth listening are the sinister overture "Inquisition", a metal version of Monty Python's "Holy Grail" introduction, and the thundering epic "Valhalla", featuring Kai Hansen. Hearing this powerful song really makes you want to brandish your double axe to battle against your enemies! The cover of THE BEACH BOYS' "Barbara Ann" is quite fun and energetic but completely out of place. The rest is a bit rough and lacks catchy melodies.

One of the weakest albums from the GUARDIAN, better go with the first one. You must listen to "Valhalla" though, otherwise you won't go to Vikings' paradise. After this disc, the band will craft their identity, step by step, by incorporating more sophisticated orchestrations and medieval elements to their music, but this is another (bard) story...

 Battalions of Fear by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.28 | 89 ratings

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Battalions of Fear
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Prepare for an epic battle

First studio album of BLIND GUARDIAN, "Battalions of Fear" combines the epicness of 80's IRON MAIDEN with the destruction power of 80's METALLICA. Like their fellow countrymen HELLOWEEN, the music can be described as melodic speed / thrash metal, direct and ferocious. As their debut effort, Hansi K'rsch's singing is a bit rough and the tracks can get a little messy at times, but these small youth flaws are compensated by energy and rage. As you can see with the songs names, Tolkien's mythology is already part of the band's universe, even if the compositions do not possess the refinement of "Nightfall in Middle Earth" yet.

Do not rely on the circus music opening, the powerful "Majesty" is a thundering metal overture, with sharp guitar soli. The best song of the record, and one of BLIND GUARDIAN's classic! The dark "Guardian Of The Blind" also has a devastating riff and a catchy hymn. Very nice. The short instrumental "Trial By The Archon" reminds IRON MAIDEN's "The Ides of March", a little more sophisticated, and introduces the epic and rageous "Wizard's Crown". Wow! Until now, this is nearly perfect. However, the middle of the disc is its weak point. "Run For The Night" enjoyable, but a bit flat, whereas the uneven "The Martyr" has its moments, but is hard to follow and not very coherent.

Fortunately, inspiration comes back with the Maiden-esque title track, a ferocious fast composition with an efficient war hymn. The small melodic thrash instrumental "By The Gates Of Moria" incorporates a few surprises. Not excellent, but not bad either. The other ending instrumental, "Gandalf's Rebirth", is more convincing and coherent, and concludes the record on an enchanting feel.

"Battalions of Fear" is far better than BLIND GUARDIAN's next and other thrash opus, "Follow the Blind" (only "Valhalla" is worth listening in it). Although the music itself is not very original and the band has not crafted their identity yet, the compositions are direct, powerful and epic, without concessions or useless orchestration. What more could you ask for when you're leading your fearless battalions to battle?

An underrated album, one of the best and most aggressive from BLIND GUARDIAN! Very recommended to 80's speed metal, IRON MAIDEN and HELLOWEEN fans!

 Beyond The Red Mirror by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.80 | 26 ratings

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Beyond The Red Mirror
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Beyond the Red Mirror" is the 10th full-length studio album by German power metal act Blind Guardian. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in January 2015. It's the successor to "At The Edge Of Time" from 2010. "Beyond the Red Mirror" is a sci-fi/fantasy concept album and the sequel to "Imaginations from the Other Side (1995)". As usual Blind Guardian has created a majestic and very ambitious project and in addition to guitars, bass, drums, keyboards/piano, and vocals, the music also features choir sections and classical music sections, delivered by three different choirs and two classical orchestras.

Stylistically there are few surprises if you're familiar with the band's combination of power metal and symphonic metal with folk leanings. They shed their original speed metal roots a long time ago, and they've played the current style on quite a few releases now. As always the listener is bombarded with walls of sound. This is grand beyond epic and sometimes I forget that this is metal at all, because the guitars are buried in waves of huge choirs and classical orchestration. Sometimes the whole thing sounds a bit disjointed and the band and the orchestra seldom sound like they are in the same room playing (which they in reality pretty surely don't either), but when everything melts together to an epic whole, it's quite breathtaking. Blind Guardian also delivers more hard edged power metal parts that's a bit more "straight metal" and less theatrical, but those moments are few an far between. There are also a couple of ballad type tracks/sections featured on the album, which is nice for the dynamics and variation of the album.

"Beyond the Red Mirror" features a polished and professional sound production. To my ears it's a bit lifeless sounding though and as mentioned above it doesn't always succeed in bringing the rock instrumentation and the classical choirs/orchestra parts together in a natural sounding fashion. I also think it's an error not bringing the guitars more to the front of the mix, which would have made the album more sharper sounding. As it is now it simply sounds a bit overproduced and focusing more on the symphonic aspect of the band's sound an less on the power metal ditto.

The band are as always really well playing/singing. Blind Guardian are one of those artists where you are never in doubt that it's them playing. They have a very distinct sound. And my admiration for their unique sound and style is what saves "Beyond the Red Mirror". Not that it's a bad quality album or anything like that, because it's certainly not, but I personally miss the times when Blind Guardian kicked some ass and didn't focus so much on choirs and orchestras. A little less polish and more rawness and power would do the trick. Well...when that is said "Beyond the Red Mirror" is still a high quality release and to those who enjoy the more symphonic oriented Blind Guardian style, it's certainly a worthwhile release. One of their better releases in recent years. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

 Imaginations from the Other Side by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.93 | 173 ratings

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Imaginations from the Other Side
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This finely produced and performed album by Blind Guardian sees the prog-metal group blazing ahead at full speed, shredding out a savage assault of power metal showcasing shrieking vocals, blistering drumming, and lightning fast riffing. The effect is intense and dramatic. It definitely makes a forceful impression, but it isn't necessarily a great one.

When it comes down to it, Imaginations From the Other Side is artistic speed metal (with the occasional bit of Renaissance fair style), that fits very well alongside Blind Guardian's other offerings. It's fast, intense, absurd, and raw. There's nothing to criticize in this album's songwriting, which is dramatic and densely composed, or the band's playing, which is razor sharp - it's simply a sound that is hard to really enjoy.

I'm a casual fan of the band, and gave their highest rated album (Nightfall in Middle Earth) a pass because the lyrics were shrieking about Morgoth and Noldor elves... without that nostalgia connection I find Blind Guardian's sound bland, despite its intensity. It isn't bad, it's just not approachable for those of us preferring nuance, dynamics, emotion, or style in our prog metal.

If you need some monster speed metal mixed with your madrigal, then check out Imaginations from the Otherside. In fact, check it out even if you don't, because you may find yourself liking the screams and fireworks, but in my opinion it doesn't reach the heights produced by others in the genre. Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

 Live by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Live, 2003
3.66 | 34 ratings

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Live
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Live' - Blind Guardian (70/100)

At this point in their career, Blind Guardian followed the 'more is more' mindset; their studiocraft was increasingly lavish, and no potential layer in the arrangement was left unrealized. It's unsurprising that their approach to live albums would take a similar form. Live came out on the heels of A Night at the Opera; above and away the most insane album they've ever done, and still probably power metal's most complex achievement. When Blind Guardian eschewed the symphonic bombast for a more song- based focus on A Twist on the Myth, they did so with the expressed intention that they wanted to write songs that would better suit their live shows. What perverse pleasure is it, then, to hear them perform songs live that potentially took months a piece to record in the studio?

Blind Guardian came out with three more full-lengths in the decade since Tokyo Tales. As if to match their studio work in terms of sheer pomposity, Live is well over two hours long, touching upon every album, and virtually every classic a fan could hope to hear performed. Again contrary to Tokyo Tales; Live was recorded in spurts across a major world-spanning tour. They've returned to Tokyo with this one, but they've also rolled through Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy and Russia. I foreshadowed in my review of Tokyo Tales that live albums were usually released as a monument to a band's career- spanning achievements. Hearing them playing before they 'made it big' on Tokyo Tales was part of that album's charm. Though Live is arguably the more definitive live album, it proves my original point. Every part of this release is as if to ride home the fact that, yes, Blind Guardian are indeed incredible. And successful too!

The setlist here is enough to make any power metal fan wet at in the loins. There are choice selections from every album; from the speed-fuelled Battalions of Fear to the more recent-day symphonic prog metal of Nightfall in Middle-Earth and A Night at the Opera. I have said before that a live albums success depends on how well a band knows their audience, and in this regard, Blind Guardian have the clear sense to pick songs that fans will come frothing for. "Into the Storm" and "Nightfall" off Nightfall in Middle- Earth are exciting to hear brought to life; most notably, a lot of the songs from Imaginations from the Other Side bear a live interpretation extremely well. "Mordred's Song" and "Bright Eyes" sound as wonderful live as they did on the original album, and the crowd cheers accordingly.

While songs from the first four albums are well-picked, it's almost entirely material that was covered already on Tokyo Tales-- and with greater grit and fire, in my opinion! The only exception to this is the mandatory live rendition of "The Bard's Song", a classic that was conspicuously overlooked on their first live album, but has since become both the most anticipated and mind-numbingly overplayed song in their catalogue. As any fan of the band might expect, the crowd goes [%*!#]ing wild when they tear out their fiddly acoustics and turn the arena into a damp, plague-ridden tavern. The crowd chants hazily along, and occasionally chants on their own when Hansi takes a break.

I don't think any album Blind Guardian had made up to this point other than Follow the Blind was excellent, and even then, that album is represented favourably here with one of its two highlights, "Valhalla". As it happens, all of the songs here range from being great to downright incredible. If there is any bone to pick with the setlist, I might call to attention the way they represent A Night at the Opera. I'll take the unpopular view of saying it is Blind Guardian's strongest album, but even then, of the tracks they chose, only "The Soulforged" is perfectly chosen for a live album. This isn't to say that "Under the Ice" and "Punishment Divine" don't work here, nor that A night at the Opera didn't have other potentially fantastic live songs. I mean, instead of "Under the Ice", why not "Battlefield", or even "Precious Jerusalem"? Even that grimy few in BG's fanbase that can't see the album for the masterpiece that it is shouldn't have found any gripe in hearing those songs played live. I suppose it's a minor gripe overall, but considering we already had stronger live versions of many of the earlier songs on a live album already, the more recent stuff feels quite a bit more important to the album's success.

I'll go ahead and say it: the music here is fantastic. I love Blind Guardian and think they're one of the few metal bands to have genuinely altered the course of my listening digest in a significant way. With that in mind it's surprising I only checked out Live until recently. Unlike Tokyo Tales however, I'm not sure these performances enrich my appreciation of the music all that much. It is wonderfully performed and professionally mixed, but I don't get that feeling of 'really being there', the way I felt on their first live album. A large part of this, I think, is due to the fact that the recordings are drawn from a wide range of shows and crowds. There's never really a chance to get into the pulse of an audience, to experience the band with them. The album's engineer has nonetheless made it feel like a technically seamless product, but patchwork is evident in the lack of an emotional flow. It's even more difficult to feel properly immersed in their live magic when Hansi will be greeting San Sebastien in Spanish, and later hailing his compatriots in Stuttgart or Dusseldorf in his native tongue. Their performances are as fantastic as I would expect from one of metal's finest exports, but Live strikes me a bit like a live rendition of a greatest hits collection, rather than the virtual reality, immersive experience I can find in the best live albums.

 Tokyo Tales by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Live, 1993
3.65 | 28 ratings

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Tokyo Tales
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Tokyo Tales' - Blind Guardian (84/100)

Really; could a more perfect setlist have been picked out for Tokyo Tales? While more is obviously involved in the making of a truly great live album, it's as good a start as any.

It's important to keep in mind that, at the time of recording their first live album over two performances at Tokyo's NHK Hall, Blind Guardian were little over four years since their debut, and just a few months following their fourth LP Somewhere Far Beyond. Even with some of their best work still a few years away, these guys had amassed an impressive host of material. Their gradual shift from speed to power metal had resulted in a string of incredible work; even the relatively weak Follow the Blind had a couple of amazing songs to offer; both of which are showcased on Tokyo Tales.

It is in spite of-- or, I should say, because of their up-and-coming youth on Tokyo Tales that makes this live album so good. You tend to see live albums in the rock and metal spheres released as a self-congratulating testament to some established band's past achievements. More often than not, live albums are approached as a safe commercial bet when a band is past their glory days. It's not as common for a band to release them in the midst of their creative peak, and rarer still for a band to release one when they're still on their way up. While there's a certain enjoyment is seeing an experienced band playing songs they have spent half their lives perfecting, there is greater satisfaction in hearing a band performing long before the comfort of success. Of course, hearing Tokyo Tales, you wouldn't get the impression they were still dismissed by some as Helloween's little brother in the West. Leave it to Japan to embrace quality and talent when they first hear it. Contrary to the usually reserved concert etiquette Japan are known for, you can hear the crowd chanting away to virtually every chorus and verse of their set.

Before going into Blind Guardian's live albums, I had been wondering how they took to approximating the lavish vocal arrangements without the help of overdubs. As it turns out, the audience does it for them! Although the roar of a possibly intoxicated audience doesn't leave quite as much room for intricacy as intensive in-studio work, there's a different sense of exhilaration to be felt from a 3800-occupancy hall chanting along to these songs along with Hansi. Whereas the crowd ambiance is usually a grating distraction on most live albums, here it truly benefits the effect of the music. Though it becomes more apparent with each listen that Hansi's stilted banter between songs is dreadfully awkward, hearing the sheer enthusiasm of the crowd is enough to make this downtime worthwhile on the album. I can't begin to imagine how inspiring it must feel for Hansi and company to hear a response along those lines every night they play!

It really deserves second mention that Tokyo Tales boasts such an impeccable setlist. Despite their significant shift of style over the course of four albums, these songs sound like they're meant to fit together in a single set. While I do enjoy the more all-encompassing experience of their Live 2LP released a decade later, I do think a lot of Blind Guardian's peak-era material became too dependent on studio trickery to be done full justice live. Nothing from the first four albums risks this shortcoming; the songs off Battalions of Fear and Follow the Blind were already blistering in their original form; even the relatively tempered Somewhere Far Beyond has the right sort of energy to work wonders live. Although I'm no fan of Follow the Blind, "Banish from Sanctuary" and especially "Valhalla" sound perfect; while I might have liked to hear "Run for the Night" or the title track off Battalions of Fear, the inclusion of the epic "Majesty" was a smart choice. Given that Tales from the Twilight World is my favourite album from the period until Nightfall in Middle-Earth, I'm delighted that so many cuts from that album found their way onto Tokyo Tales. "Lost in the Twilight Hall" was a highlight on the original record, and so it is here. Most of all however, I think their live rendition of "Lord of the Rings" steals the show. Blind Guardian's speed metal material might as well have been written with live performances already i mind, but "Lord of the Rings" was among their first attempts at a more sophisticated sort of arrangement. With the help of keyboardist Marc Zee, they give the song a rekindled brilliance, with one of the best vocal performances Hansi's ever committed to the recorded medium. It is conspicuous that a song as chant-worthy as "The Bard's Song" off Somewhere Far Beyond was excluded from the show, but considering that it's since become the most overplayed song in their repertoire, that might actually be a blessing in disguise.

While Blind Guardian made an exception in writing A Twist in the Myth with live performances in mind, the other albums they've done in the time since Tokyo Tales have been progressively more ornate and bombastic-- some might even say overproduced. Whatever the case, their studio albums have been generally incredible, and in spite of the obvious challenges of bringing a metal symphony to life each night, they've garnered one of the strongest reputations as a live act in metal. Even so; given the chance, I'd probably still have rather seen Blind Guardian play back in the day. They have incredible enthusiasm here on Tokyo Tales, and their audience matches it note for note.

 At The Edge Of Time by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.64 | 106 ratings

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At The Edge Of Time
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by 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.

 The Forgotten Tales by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1996
3.66 | 43 ratings

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The Forgotten Tales
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'The Forgotten Tales' - Blind Guardian (78/100)

Blind Guardian are one of those bands with a style so unique as to be inimitable. You'll never find someone covering a song of theirs that does the original justice; their music is indelibly tied to a sound only they can provide. Conversely, their grasp of character makes them uniquely predisposed towards performing great covers of their own. It's not just the voice of Hansi Kürsch that really makes their covers truly 'work', nor is it Andre Olbrich's distinctively playful guitar work or even the band's heady rhythm section. A fine part of what makes them so successful with covers is the fact that they choose songs that are perfectly suited to highlighting aspects of themselves that are already present in their own music, even if it's not obvious on paper. The Forgotten Tales has several of these gems and much more. When all the lights go down and I'm looking for something just a bit different from their usual fare, this compilation encompasses their best-loved odds and ends, and shouldn't be dismissed as the sort of 'hardcore fans only' fare that releases of this sort usually amount to.

The Forgotten Tales was released a year after Imaginations from the Other Side was unveiled to the world; as such, I think it allows us to glance into a different side of the band in the midst of their creative peak. For an album essentially cut between curious covers and alternative renditions of existing songs, this release feels remarkably well-sculpted. Although I couldn't quite see myself recommending the album to someone who wasn't already enamoured with any one of their full-lengths, it is really to Blind Guardian's credit that much of the material here is memorable in its own right. A few of the alt versions are potentially even superior to their original counterparts.

It is strange to think that a couple of the cuts here were among my first experiences of Blind Guardian. I remember seeing the video of their "Mr. Sandman" cover and having a good laugh over the heavy metal spookification of an innocent pop standard. Their Beach Boys covers of "Surfin' USA" and "Barbara Ann" (originally by The Regents) are just as silly, but every bit as fun. After the comic dust settles however, it's actually impressive that Blind Guardian managed to take classics from another genre and make them their own. Covering Mike Oldfield's "To France", they make the song their own in such a way that it sounds like they penned it themselves. Hansi Kürsch is gifted with a unique voice that could make Mariah Carey covers potentially enjoyable to listen to, but the entire band inject themselves into these songs. They have substance and thought behind them; call them curiosities if you will, but these covers deserve more than to be tossed away after a single listen.

The alternate versions are even more interesting to me. It's as if Blind Guardian are covering themselves; the essence of each song remains intact, but each carries a different mood. In most cases (their more elaborate arrangement of "Black Chamber" notwithstanding) this entails the song getting softer, but not 'unplugged' as it were. The orchestral and folky instrumentation that tends to get sidelined in their full-length material takes centrestage on these versions, and it sounds just as thoughtfully arranged as something you might hear on one of their more substantial releases.

Compared to a lot of the money grabbing [&*!#]streaks that usually pass for fan comps, The Forgotten Tales is pretty incredible. It doesn't leave anywhere near the mark of Imaginations from the Other Side or another of their full-lengths, but it does dare to be listened to and enjoyed as much. Put simply, this is a collection of well-crafted outcasts; few of them would have rightly fit on a real album, but placed together they're pretty endearing, and should be experienced by anyone who calls themselves more than a casual fan of the band.

 Follow the Blind by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 1989
2.88 | 82 ratings

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Follow the Blind
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by 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.

Thanks to MikeEnRegalia for the artist addition. and to Angelo for the last updates

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