Artist: Blind Guardian
Album: Beyond the Red Mirror
Label: Nuclear Blast
Blind Guardian could arguably be my second original metal love, after Iron Maiden, and is undoubtedly one of my longest-lasting love affairs in music. It was truly love at first listen when I heard “Nightfall,” “Thorn,” and “Born in a Mourning Hall,” back when I was a teenager browsing through whatever my brothers had been listening to.
And unlike most bands, I have loved them fairly consistently over the years. A Night at the Opera was the first album of theirs that came out when I was getting into metal and I still adore it now. “And Then There was Silence”… an epic about The Iliad? Pure excellence.
A Twist in the Myth and At the Edge of Time took a bit longer to get into. Both of them required a few listens to truly appreciate, but they also both have some really great material. I really connect to the meaning behind “Fly,” and “Skalds and Shadows” is great in both the single and album versions. Furthermore, how cool was it that “Sacred Worlds” (an unbelievable song) was in a video game? Lastly, “Curse My Name” is one of, if not my all-time favorite song. It’s as though it was written just for me.
So with all this in mind, you can imagine that every time Blind Guardian puts out an album, I get pretty excited and nervous. January 30th, 2015, was the release of their latest, Beyond the Red Mirror, to expectant fans the world round. What did I think of it? Well…
Listen with me, if you like:
The first track, “The Ninth Wave,” is simply great. It’s not quite on the same level as “Sacred Worlds,” but it’s still a phenomenal song. It’s interesting to me that they’ve been putting their big epics at the beginning of the albums lately, rather than the end. Not that I mind, but it sets the standard pretty high to kick off an album.
The next track was the first single, “Twilight of the Gods,” which I’d already listened to a few times when it was released with a lyric video some time ago. I have to say, I don’t like the beginning of this song all that much. The kind of wailing at the beginning – “How’ve they dared to be…” – puts me off just a touch. This somewhat bothersome vocal style stops almost immediately though so it doesn’t by any means ruin the song for me. Ultimately, I think it’s an ideal single for them and overall it’s still a really good song. The chorus is particularly good.
You can check out the lyric video for “Twilight of the Gods” over here:
I love the music at the beginning of “Prophecies.” Blind Guardian has a knack for gentleness, when they choose to use it. They’re such a great band with dynamics in general. “At the Edge of Time” is interesting, since it’s a namesake for the previous album, rather than the current one. This isn’t my favorite song on the album by any means, but the big orchestrated booms in it are really great. It feels a bit like “And Then There Were None,” but in the style of their 2010 album.
I feel a little like this is a very solid album across the board, but many of the songs stay at the good level without breaking off into greatness. “Ashes of Eternity” is a really nice track, but it doesn’t stick in my head. I enjoy it when I hear it, but there’s no hook to bring me back to it over and over, and a lot of the album is like this. “The Holy Grail” and “Sacred Mind” have the same effect. I do really enjoy the sort of tip-toeing tone to “Distant Memories” though. It’s a lovely song. “Then these fools will fade away” also just so epic and powerful each time – now that’s a hook. Odd that it’s a bonus track though, and doubly so that it’s in the middle of the album.
I felt immediately that “The Throne” would be like “Ashes” and “Holy Grail,” but the chorus surprised me by being really good. “We must serve the fire, we must confess we are liars, there must be something in the end…” These are catchy, powerful lyrics. Likewise with “Miracle Machine.” It’s very gentle and pretty, but without being boring. And lastly, “Grand Parade.” It’s an excellent album finale. It’s not even close to their most epic song again, but it is epic in its own way. And, matching “The Ninth Wave” in time, it makes the album feel more or less full circle.
I give the whole album a 7.5/10. It’s a good album, far from their best, and perhaps not the most diverse, sound-wise. I can basically split the tracks into two categories – songs that have a hook and songs that don’t. “The Ninth Wave,” “Twilight of the Gods,” “Distant Memories,” “The Throne,” “Miracle Machine,” and arguably “Grand Parade” all have a hook, and the rest are nice to listen to with good writing and performance that just aren’t quite as memorable. I can listen to it straight through without complaint.
Honestly though, I really have to commend these guys on being so consistent over the years. The vocals sound as good as they did in the 90s, and their musical style, this epic power metal, has only gotten stronger and has consistently avoided getting overly cheesy like many other power metal bands. Blind Guardian has been one of my favorite bands for as long as I’ve listened to metal, and continues to impress. I hope they continue the trend in the years to come, and I’m very much looking forward to their show here in June.
Rating: 7.5/10, 4 stars.
01. The Ninth Wave
02. Twilight of the Gods
04. At the Edge of Time
05. Ashes of Eternity
06. Distant Memories (bonus track)
07. The Holy Grail
08. The Throne
09. Sacred Mind
10. Miracle Machine
11. Grand Parade
Text: Amy Wiseman