(2019) Blind Guardian – Twilight Orchestra: Legacy of the Dark Lands

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Artist: Blind Guardian – Twilight Orchestra
Album: Legacy of the Dark Lands
Release: 08.11.2019
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

 

Blind Guardian have been teasing us for around two decades about an orchestral album and, at long last, the time has come! Having lured us already with some lyric videos, fans the world round have been on the edge of their seats waiting for this massive 3-disc album, which is coming out on November 8th, 2019 via Nuclear Blast Records. We had the chance to listen to the first of those three discs and here are our thoughts!

The album opens with the eerie and ominous, yet powerful “1618 Overture,” which as a gorgeous symphonic dynamic build-up and, as an intro, starts the album off very well. The album is interspersed with short spoken parts, which really takes the listener back to Nightfall in Middle Earth (1998), which is a nice nostalgic touch. The first official track is “War Feeds War,” starting out pretty before transitioning into a powerful, bombastic piece. We then get some more story and the album slows down for “Dark Cloud’s Rising.” This track has an impressive dynamic build-up and a very “Blind Guardian” feel to it. We get a more tentative and ominous piece with “In the Underworld,” with a very dwarven vibe reminiscent of the mines of Moria music from the Lord of the Rings films. “A Secret Society” introduces a new character and there is a comedic moment towards the end as it abruptly moves on to “The Great Ordeal.” This one has some of Hansi Kürsch‘s vocals that I personally find the most emotionally moving, as can be heard in other powerful Blind Guardian songs (particularly longer epics) in the past.

One of the songs that equally combines the music and the story is “In the Red Dwarf’s Tower.” This track feels a bit like a progression through some sort of intrigue, with music that gets you excited to find out what happens next. “Treason” has a more soft and melancholic feel to it, yet still has a massive ebb and flow. With another story interlude, “Between the Realms,” we reach reach the first of the singles, “Point of No Return.” This was really a rather ingenious song to use as a first single because it very accurately shows the more unique side of the album with the light footstep-y feel, yet also displays the whole album’s power and fantastic use of the orchestra.

Another dramatic speech creates some more intrigue with the appearance of a white horseman and the song appropriately changes to “Nephilim,” with its dramatic choirs and storied lyrics; Kürsch belting it out about a twist of fate is really captivating. The narration then introduces a queen with “Harvester of Souls”; the gentle yet vaguely ominous (I’d go so far as to say autumnal) feel of the song builds up very gently and so naturally. This song has another familiar “Blind Guardian” feel to it, bringing me back to At the Edge of Time from 2010 (and not for the first time).

The story takes a dramatic turn in “Conquest is Over,” with a tragic intro depicting loss before it leaps right up into “This Storm,” which can be heard in the lyric video here:

The great booms of power from the orchestra are fantastic, and they make really good use of the snare drums; you also can’t tell me you don’t get chills when Kürsch sings “this storm will change it all.” It’s pretty bombastic. Hope then starts to feel lost with “The Great Assault” and the first disc approaches the end with the final full song, “Beyond the Wall.” It has a low and ominous beginning, marching forward into a final confrontation. The song has a bit of a slow burn but by the halfway point it’s really picked up and you can feel the excitement easily portrayed through the music. I was surprised at first that this isn’t the pinnacle of epic on the first disc, but it actually makes sense to have a bit of a more mellow song to wind things down as there has been so much energy throughout the album thus far. The story does not seem over, however, as heard in the final narration, “A New Beginning.”

 

To say that the overall opinion of this album is positive is a vast understatement. Let’s just say that there were high expectations for this album coupled with no real fear that they would be let down… and they weren’t. There’s a general feeling that if you like Blind Guardian, they won’t disappoint you when they release their long-awaited opus. If there are a few complaints about this album, they’re nitpicky at best. For one – and this may have been a misunderstanding on my behalf – I actually missed the band themselves. While the overall sound was very much familiar as Blind Guardian’s style, I would’ve liked to have some guitar and drums in there. It felt, at times, like something was missing from the music, because we know that Blind Guardian has had a ton of power in the pretty much every album they’ve done before now. As well, I was also surprised that they chose a German fantasy story over something more accessible to the worldwide fans, especially considering Heitz has works that have been translated to English. It’s a complaint simply because interested parties in the story/concept need to speak German to learn more about the original story. Nevertheless, these are minor complaints in the face of the overall project. The fact that they keep their own sound so strongly evident is impressive, and influences from the instrumental music of Howard Shore, among others, are clear. Truly, it’s an incredible piece of art and if you like Blind Guardian or orchestral music, you should definitely check this album out!

Rating: 9.5/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
Disc 1:
01. 1618 Ouverture
02. The Gathering
03. War Feeds War
04. Comets and Prophecies
05. Dark Cloud’s Rising
06. The Ritual
07. In the Underworld
08. A Secret Society
09. The Great Ordeal
10. Bez
11. In the Red Dwarf’s Tower
12. Into the Battle
13. Treason
14. Between the Realms
15. Point of No Return
16. The White Horseman
17. Nephilim
18. Trial and Coronation
19. Harvester of Souls
20. Conquest is Over
21. This Storm
22. The Great Assault
23. Beyond the Wall
24. A New Beginning

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