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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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Beyond the Red MirrorBeyond the Red Mirror
Nuclear Blast America 2015
Audio CD$8.56
$13.92 (used)
Imaginations From the Other SideImaginations From the Other Side
Import
Imports 2009
Audio CD$10.61
$13.10 (used)
Battalions of FearBattalions of Fear
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$14.37
$13.31 (used)
Follow The BlindFollow The Blind
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$10.34
$10.33 (used)
Nightfall in Middle-EarthNightfall in Middle-Earth
Import
Imports 2009
Audio CD$33.81
$38.00 (used)
Tales From The Twilight WorldTales From The Twilight World
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$9.21
$36.99 (used)
A Twist In The MythA Twist In The Myth
Nuclear Blast America 2012
Audio CD$6.54
$3.11 (used)
Night at the OperaNight at the Opera
Century Media 2002
Audio CD$69.82
$11.17 (used)
A Twist in the Myth limited digi re-issueA Twist in the Myth limited digi re-issue
Limited Edition
Nuclear Blast America 2013
Audio CD$8.41
$7.48 (used)
Somewhere Far BeyondSomewhere Far Beyond
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$7.65
$13.27 (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)

3.22 | 86 ratings
Battalions of Fear
1988
2.96 | 80 ratings
Follow the Blind
1989
3.43 | 86 ratings
Tales from the Twilight World
1990
3.65 | 114 ratings
Somewhere Far Beyond
1992
3.92 | 172 ratings
Imaginations from the Other Side
1995
4.04 | 233 ratings
Nightfall in Middle-Earth
1998
3.97 | 169 ratings
A Night at the Opera
2002
3.11 | 86 ratings
A Twist in the Myth
2006
3.63 | 105 ratings
At The Edge Of Time
2010
3.77 | 25 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
1.00 | 1 ratings
Twilight Of The Gods
2014

BLIND GUARDIAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Beyond The Red Mirror by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.77 | 25 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.

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 Imaginations from the Other Side by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.92 | 172 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

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 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.

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 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.

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 At The Edge Of Time by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.63 | 105 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.

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 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.

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 Follow the Blind by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 1989
2.96 | 80 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.

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 A Twist in the Myth by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.11 | 86 ratings

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A Twist in the Myth
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'A Twist in the Myth' - Blind Guardian (79/100)

Whenever a press kit describes a band 'stripping down' their sound or, worse still, 'returning to their roots' on a new album, a part of me wants to hurl. The other part of me has been trained, time and again, to dismiss this claim as a euphemism for the stage in a band's career where they admit they've gone as far as they can go with their ambitions with the album prior. Metallica's infamously accessible Black Album is the first example that comes to mind; I'm sure you can think of many more.

Well, leave it to a band as consistently stunning as Blind Guardian to demonstrate how streamlining a sound can still result in freshly exciting material. Their seventh LP A Night at the Opera still stands as the most ornate, ambitious and ridiculously complex power metal album I have ever heard. Blind Guardian did everything they could to saturate each moment of the album with as much arrangement and detail as possible, and as far as I'm concerned, the effort paid off magnificently. As much as I think A Night at the Opera to be their magnum opus, there wasn't room for surpassing nor repeating it. Think of A Twist in the Myth as Blind Guardian's very own Going for the One; after pushing themselves as far as they could go, they managed to successfully reel themselves back in, all the while covering new territory as they went along. This is Blind Guardian at their most catchy and song-based, and the rare restraint they pulled off here resulted in some powerfully written and delivered material.

It really does make me wonder why A Twist in the Myth tends to get overlooked in favour of its more ambitious neighbours. It was the first album in their history that dared to diverge from the upward trajectory their career had taken for over two decades. It may have been a forced moved considering how exhausted the band must have been after pushing their limits so hard, but it was a risk nonetheless. Especially for a band like Blind Guardian, it seems unlikely the album turned out as well as it did; given that many of their past (and future) albums emphasized the awe of the arrangements, it's easy to forget that they're strong songwriters at heart. "Another Stranger Me" and "Lionheart" are two of the most contagious songs the band have ever penned in their time, and there are several other cuts off the album that could deserve being mentioned in the same sentence. Is it possible not to be swept away by the jovial optimism of "Turn the Page", or the melancholic sophistication of "Fly". Clearly it is possible judging from the opinions some others have expressed towards the album, but to my ears the album's catchiness is pretty irresistible, and cannot be found on anything else the band put out.

Blind Guardian weren't particularly progressive with this album, nor does the style here much resemble true power metal. Genre purists would probably say A Twist in the Myth is generally too slow and rock- oriented to warrant association with power metal. Regardless, it sounds completely like Blind Guardian. It's almost as if they stripped themselves of the pretences of power metal, and instead focused on writing songs regardless of genre. Although detractors and impartial arbiters alike would find common ground in describing A Twist in the Myth as Blind Guardian focusing on the fundaments of verse-and-chorus, these guys have always rocked at writing fantastic choruses. The two singles notwithstanding, "Otherland", "Straight Through the Mirror" and "Lionheart" all stand out for infectious, larger- than-life choruses. It should go without saying that these moments come with the band's signature choral harmonies. Hansi Kürsch gets a larger portion of the focus this time around, and leads the band confidently through each track. His greatest moment here is quite possibly the album's mandatory acoustic offering "Skalds and Shadows", which feels woefully underrated compared with the acclaim of their past minstrelsy. Even with a greater focus on mid-paced songwriting, his aggressive performance injects plenty of life into the music. Most painfully overlooked of all is the bonus track, "Dead Sound of Misery"; although it may be cynically interpreted purely as a variation on "Fly", it surpasses the single with its darker tone, and ties the album together in a way "The New Order" might have otherwise failed to achieve. Long story short; Blind Guardian may have shifted their angle somewhat, but they lost none of the tricks and flair they had picked up over the years.

Such as it is, A Twist in the Myth gets an undeservedly bad rep. Some people have even gone as far as to accuse Blind Guardian of selling out with this album. Hopefully I'm not the only one who knows otherwise. It's not Nightfall in Middle-Earth or A Night at the Opera, nor does it try to be. Hell, it's not even close to their pre-progressive stuff circa Battalions of Fear. What a lot of people seem to forget is that this was arguably a further step for them to take than any of the progressive albums in their career. To continue to satiate listeners with the same degree of bombast was one thing, but to rejuvenate themselves by seemingly going in the opposite direction? By all accounts, A Twist in the Myth should not have worked, nor should I like it as much as I do. And in case my praise is mistaken for preference; I will say I prefer any of the albums they had done prior since Tales from the Twilight World, but that shouldn't be held against the album. Indeed, whenever I've wanted a more grounded experience out of Blind Guardian, nothing but this one will do. It's a shame so many fans don't see it nearly so kindly.

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 Battalions of Fear by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.22 | 86 ratings

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Battalions of Fear
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Battalions of Fear' - Blind Guardian (71/100)

On the one hand, we have the Blind Guardian fans who think things only started to get worthwhile circa Tales from the Twilight World, or even Somewhere Far Beyond. Stranger still; on the other hand, we've got the trve metal purists who turn their noses at anything past their speed metal work. The first two albums offer a much different experience than the meticulous arrangements the band are known for, but so what? As incomparable as Battalions of Fear is to, say, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, Blind Guardian's evolution has felt incredibly natural, consistent and steady throughout their decades-spanning career. Even as a speed metal band, they managed to set themselves a block above the average; although they wouldn't begin to find a truly unique personality until their third album, Battalions of Fear already demonstrated traces of Blind Guardian's exceptional scope and intelligence.

For good and bad points alike, there is the inevitable urge that comes with listening to Battalions of Fear; to compare it with latter albums. Although their steady development from speed to prog-tinged epic power was brought about by conscious steps forward with every album (they didn't make the leap from primitive to progressive overnight, after all!) I imagine it would be as unfair and misleading as to compare a professional baseball player to a fresh-faced tween in little league. Or, for the sake of another arbitrary example, as perverse as judging a speed metal album by a prog rock rubric. Genres represent different sets of ingredients; the best sushi cannot be compared to the best burgers, even if most days I'd prefer an Alaska Roll to a Baconator?. It does feel hypocritical to be stressing a point I am trying to stress should not need to be stressed, but needless to say Blind Guardian were operating within a different style earlier on, and direct comparisons only work to a certain point, although there's no helping the feeling of the band's bombastic future hanging in one's head while listening to the debut.

If there's anything that all (read: most) genres hold dear in any case, it is fundamentally strong and memorable composition. Even from their time as Lucifer's Heritage (from which many of the songs on BoF derive), Blind Guardian were working with more ambitious song structures than many of their speed metal ilk. Quality-era Megadeth notwithstanding, it's incredibly rare to see a song in this genre extend past conventional song lengths. In contrast, Battalions of Fear's centrepiece "Majesty" clocks in at seven- and-a-half minutes, and two songs off the second side (including the title track) outreach the six minute mark. While this no doubt stands as a foreshadowing of Blind Guardian's future exploits, what's more impressive is the fact that the songs manage to span these lengths without any loss to speed or excitement. "Majesty" bites just as hard as your average sleazeball metal song, but manages to take the excitement further with surprising hints of sophistication. Just listen to the opening riffs of "The Martyr" and it's pretty obvious that Blind Guardian weren't going to sit in their cradle for long.

The lyrics already demonstrated Blind Guardian's fierce love for Tolkien's Middle-Earth and its derivative fantasies, but the lyrics are arguably the least polished thing about the album. "A burning fire's in my brain / I could feel the deadly flame"-- Hansi didn't exactly stand a chance at winning a Hugo award for his contributions to imaginative fantasy for his lyrics here, but his minor struggles with English don't hinder his vocal performance. Hansi's voice is the only part of Battalions of Fear that is directly recognizable from their latter work, and it's also undoubtedly the thing that made them stand out early on. There aren't the overdubbed choral arrangements yet, but there don't need to be; he's got an aggressive, Teutonic bark to his vocals here that already sounded distinctive.

It's unfair to call Battalions of Fear one of Blind Guardian's weakest albums; even if it's true, it is replete with great riffs, biting energy, good songwriting and a hint of beyond-the-call intelligence. Even if I go against my own advice and give in to the temptation of comparison between eras, I don't necessarily think the comparison is totally unfavourable. There was a gripping, instantly gratifying speed and punch on the debut that was drowned out by the orchestrations by the time of Somewhere Far Beyond a few years later. It was a strong first step for Blind Guardian to make, and even if it doesn't carry the monumental artistic weight of their later achievements, it is woefully underrated, and undeservedly so.

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 Imaginations from the Other Side by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.92 | 172 ratings

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Imaginations from the Other Side
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Imaginations from the Other Side' - Blind Guardian (81/100)

It's a strange thing; Imaginations from the Other Side is considered by some to be the greatest album of Blind Guardian's career. In at least a couple of places I've checked, it stands as their highest-rated accomplishment; yet, it seems to get overlooked whenever there's an earnest, casual discussion of the band. Depending on their own relative backgrounds, people are quick to excitement over the intelligent bombast of Nightfall in Middle-Earth, or the punch of their speed metal origins, and some most over the blend of eras they forged with Tales from the Twilight World and Somewhere Far Beyond. By contrast, Imaginations from the Other Side falls in that liminal region between the bold transition of their third and fourth albums, and the ambitious heights they would hit on the sixth and seventh. Though it would be unfair to label Imaginations as a reimagining of Somewhere Far Beyond, the fact remains that the major revelations that came on either side of it have given the album a sense of 'middle child syndrome'. It's a shame, really-- though it's a few spots away from being my favourite Blind Guardian album, it's easily the most consistent album of their career.

I'd hate to give the impression that I mean to undermine Imaginations from the Other Side's own unique developments to this incredible band's sound. Though much of the heavy-duty evolution was over by their fifth album, Blind Guardian saw fit to highlight their progressive leanings on this one. Somewhere Far Beyond was forward-thinking for its genre, but had very little to it that would place it amidst the progressive metal pantheon. I do think Imaginations from the Other Side is the band's most strictly 'prog metal' output; although they would get wackier on the next two albums (A Night at the Opera in particular), Blind Guardian's increasingly orchestral arrangements actually saw fit to distance them from being associated with the likes of traditional progressive metal. Hansi Kürsch has expressed the influences drawn from bands like Fates Warning and Savatage, and I'd argue that Imaginations from the Other Side is the album where those influences are most apparent.

If anything most characterizes Imaginations relative to their other albums, it's the tone and inspiration behind it. If there's anything Blind Guardian fans and detractors alike can agree upon, it's the band's fervent dedication to their fantastical source material. Every alchemical combination of elves, dwarves, and dime-a-dozen chosen ones has been explored ad nauseam in power metal, and it was decidedly uncharacteristic for a band like Blind Guardian to have set aside the escapism to write about the pain and ruin we might like to be escaping from in the first place. These songs are still veiled in fantastical and historical imagery, but only thinly so; unlike Somewhere Far Beyond or Nightfall in Middle-Earth or any bleeding album by Rhapsody, the fantasy is not an end in itself. Fear of death, self-conscious anxiety and the uphill struggle of real life are all powerfully expressed in the lyrics, amplified further still by a particularly aggressive vocal performance from Hansi. Suffice to say, lyrics like "Bright Eyes" ("...blinded by fear of life...") leave little room for interpretation as a call to noble quests and eternal glory. Even so, anyone who would otherwise miss the fantasy element in the music are covered; Blind Guardian's focus on the Crusades and the Legend of King Arthur are not a world away from their usual lyrical fare, but it's enough of a shift to make it freshly distinct from their other exploits.

Imaginations from the Other Side may not come across as a career-defining epic, but most of the songs collected herein are excellent. Although the brooding, mid-paced title track is arguably the most iconic song here, the greatest standouts are "Mordred's Song" and "Bright Eyes". I'm not sure either of these songs could have fit on any of the albums before or after; this was the point in Blind Guardian's discography when they were progressive without yet becoming overwhelmed with orchestration, and the two highlights reflect that powerfully. Although "Bright Eyes" is an original tune, I've always had the weird impression that it was a cover of a pop song; it feels too vulnerable and bitter to have been written strictly as a power metal song, but it does go to show Blind Guardian have a lot more versatility and range than their haters give them credit for.

The album delivers a satisfying blend of high-octane tracks with more lavish pieces. Only the underwhelming speed-fuelled "Another Holy War" falls below the high standard I have for classic-era Blind Guardian, and even then, I only notice it because of how consistently impressive the rest of the album tends to be. If we look at the band's discography sequentially, Imaginations from the Other Side might appear less thrilling than it really is; the argument could be made that the album entailed an essential consolidation of their progressive threads, but it's nigh-undeniable that they have taken far bolder leaps in their career. Regardless, with a grasp of style, songwriting and execution as brilliant as they had by the point of Imaginations, I would happily digest another dozen albums of this sort with little or no evolution to distinguish them. Of course, by Nightfall in Middle-Earth, they had dismissed any notion of stagnation, taking some of the most promising ideas here to even greater heights.

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