Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror (2015)

Blind Guardian are one of metal's biggest bands. Their over-the-top style and retelling of Tolkien's stories have endeared them to countless metalheads around the world. Albums like "Imaginations From the Other Side" and "Nightfall in Middle-Earth" are considered defining works of the power metal genre. And let's not forget that Hansi Kursch is one of metal's best vocalists.

Despite all that, I've never been anything more than a casual fan. I always felt like the band had talent and a number of really good songs but there was always something stopping me from counting the band as one of my favorites. I think it can partially be explained the fact that BG songs usually have too many lyrics/singing and not enough instrumentation for my taste, but mainly because other power metal bands have simply released more enjoyable material (i.e. Stratovarius' "Nemesis," Kamelot's "Black Halo" etc.)

But here on "Beyond the Red Mirror," Blind Guardian have truly proven themselves to me, despite it sounding quite typical for their style. I largely dismissed this album on my first listen, impressed only by the title track and not much else. However, on the second listen it began to click very quickly.

Whether it's the incredible chorus in "The Ninth Wave" or the catchy, extremely memorable choruses on pretty much every song, this album is absolutely killer. Their previous album "At the Edge of Time" was good, but here they've really refined and focused their sound to make something very cohesive, much like a concept album.

The only issues I have are with the slightly uneven production and the song "Miracle Machine." The latter piano ballad is pleasant enough but would have been a true testament to the band's songwriting abilities were it composed with an acoustic guitar.

Other than that, this is a stunning album that's already one of my favorites not only of 2015, but of power metal in general. For a legacy band far along in their career to release something of this caliber is incredible. Even if you're not a Blind Guardian fan, I highly suggest you give this a listen. In all likelihood it'll be the album that turns you into a fan.


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