Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blind Guardian's 'At the Edge of Time' is another solid effort from the German speed metallers

CD Review:
Blind Guardian
At the Edge of Time
8 out of 10

Symphonic metal is a genre bordering between being breathtakingly awesome and incredibly cheesy.

Bands like Therion and Nightwish helped formulate the style of music by combining heavy metal riffs with operatic sounds. Since then, there have been many bands, mainly from Europe and countries outside of the US, who have further explored this genre.

Blind Guardian started out as a straightforward speed metal band in 1984, then added a heavy dose of folk to create a dynamic sound that would be at home within The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

However, Blind Guardian is one of the few groups that can pull this off without inducing too much cringing, mainly because its members are so damn talented (Hansi Kursch is one of the best touring vocalists out there today).

2002’s A Night at the Opera saw the band taking on a more progressive symphonic direction, which continued on 2006’s A Twist in the Myth and the latest release At the Edge of Time.

The direction wasn’t really a surprise for Blind Guardian’s devout fan base, but every stylistic change comes with criticism.

The good news is, At the Edge of Time successfully combines Blind Guardian’s operatic sound, with its speed metal roots. The songs on the album are at times reminiscent of 1995’s Imaginations From the Otherside and most fit well into the band’s catalog of nine studio albums, although there are still a few issues holding it back from being a truly great album.

”Sacred Worlds” may have made its debut in a crappy World of Warcraft knock-off, but as the first track of the album (clocking in at 9 minutes), it provides a strong introduction to the extreme melodies and vocals yet to come.

Sure the chorus of, “War it’s now or never / We shall stand together / One by one / This world is sacred,” is nerdy, but I’ll be damned if you don’t get chills when Kursch sings the line, “I’m bleeding / I’m fading / Here in my final hour / When long-lost memories return / And a voice keeps calling / “All dead and gone.” It is one of the finest moments on the record.

At the Edge of Time’s final track Wheel of Time is equally epic and one hell of a way to close out the album.

The rest of the disc, while still impressive, can at times blur together. Guitarists AndrĂ© Olbrich (one of the most criminally underrated lead players of all time) and Marcus Siepen perform their trademark speed metal riffage on tracks like “Tanelorn (Into the Void),” Valkyries,” and “Ride Into Obsession,”.

The recent single, A Voice in the Dark should be a fan favorite live and embodies much of the classic Blind Guardian sound. And there are of course the ballads (“Curse My Name,” and ”War of Thrones”), which help break up the speedier tracks, but are no match for past classics ("Bard's Song", "A Past and Future Secret").

Blind Guardian is one of the better symphonic / speed metal bands around and continue to prove this on At the Edge of Time. Despite having a few similar sounding tracks, the album is worth checking out and may even win over some new fans.

Blind Guardian - "Sacred Worlds"

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