Posts Tagged ‘Blind Guardian’

The_savage_poetryEdguy were in an interesting position at the turn of the millennium. Starting the group as a bunch of wide-eyed teenagers in the early to mid ’90s, Tobias Samet and the rest of the boys who would go on to become legends of German Melodic Power Metal, were initially a rough an ready influences-worn-on-sleeves kinda band. They released a demo quality debut album called Savage Poetry in 1995 and then through years of practice and touring went on to become a leading force in Power Metal and one of the finest to be doing it at the time. After releasing their absolute magnum opus Theater Of Salvation in 1999 and being considerably more famous and beloved, fans kept asking if they would reissue Savage Poetry which had long since been out of print. Doing them one better, the band took all the talent, skills and confidence they’d been developing over the years and remade the album. No reissued, not re-recorded, but remade entirely.

Everything is different here, new artwork, new logo, new track order, new guitar solos, heck even the bassist and drummer are new when you think about it as neither were on the original version. They added a ‘The’ to the title as well, that’s new. Essentially, what happened was the band listened to these old songs and then wrote them again in 1999 as only the band who had released Theater Of Salvation could have. What resulted was a mix of old and new, that ticks all the right boxes to sound classic and modern, naive and accomplished, charming and sophisticated. There’s a duality to it that works as well as your go to metaphor (be that chocolate and peanut butter, tits and dragons or whatever people are saying these days, the point is the two compliment each-other despite seeming like different worlds).

For most people this is just some handy background information for a pub quiz however because unless you go out of your way, you aren’t hearing the 1995 version easily and the differences between the two versions are therefore largely academic. Regardless, because this is Edguy in 1999 we’re talking about here, this is an absolutely superb album not to be missed by Edguy fans, or indeed anyone with an interest in this style of music. If you listen to Gamma Ray, Helloween, Hammerfall, Blind Guardian, Freedom Call, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius or anyone of that nature, you really want to get up on this album. I would be so bold as to say The Savage Poetry is either the band’s second best, or sometimes if I’m feeling generous, joint-first best studio album.

There are a lot of similarities between this and Theater Of Salvation. They were both recorded around the turn of the millennium at Rhoen Studios in Fulda, Germany, and were both self produced by the band, with the same line-up. They both feature a mixture of Maiden and Priest influenced speed metal sections, bombastic grandiose sections with pianos and choral singing, and then some occasional ballads, and happy Helloween-influenced melodies. They both come before the band went a bit more Hard Rock in direction and they both come before the band started letting their humour play a big part.

Highlights include the speedier more metallic tracks ‘Sacred Hell’ and ‘Misguiding Your Life’ as well as the slow stompy Hammerfall-esque opener ‘Hallowed’ and possibly best of all, the diverse multi-faceted ten-minute ‘Eyes Of The Tyrant.’

The album works really well from start to finish, the two ballads break things up (and are surprisngly tasteful), the longer tracks take you on a little journey and then the rest of the album gets its head down and delivers exactly what you love about the band perfectly, only with a little bit more of a NWOBHM gallop than usual.

Overall; be sure not to miss out on one of the band’s absolute finest hours. If you like the glorious melodic guitar lines, crunchy riffs and pounding drums of Edguy at their most metallic, this is seriously up there as one of the finest examples of that. If you like the band being adventurous and writing long complex stuff, that’s here too. If you like them when they drop some ballads, these are some of the band’s best. If you’re tempted by the band but scared off by the more commercial Hard Rock stuff or the comedy stuff there’s none of that here. This is the band at their best, with some damn fine songs and a sterling production job, updating some charming old songs into an absolute beast of an album. Highly recommended!

Vain_glory_operaWow, what a change! For German Power Metal luminaries Edguy, the third time was a charm and every other cliché you can throw. The band started off at a really young age, their previous two albums were Maiden, Priest and Helloween worship with very demo-esque production jobs and not so confident performances. You could tell it was good but it didn’t grab your shoulders and shake you.

The third album they unleashed (y’know if you count 1995 version of Savage Poetry) changed that in a big way. Vainglory Opera, from 1998 is a whole other level of professional and inspired. Maybe its partially due to the much greater production job making things sound much more mature and slick, maybe its partially due to the songs themselves being a bit more stripped down, or maybe its just a sheer undeniable spike in confidence and talent…but this album just has that ‘x factor’ that elevates it high. The vocals, man, the vocals! Tobias Samet has such a majestic and gigantic voice. The guitar solos! They siiiiing. Its not even that flashy but its so sweet-spot memorable, y’know?

Then there’s the songs. Ok, there’s two ballads (an orchestral one and a powerballad), there’s a cover song (an almost unrecognizable reworking of an old Ultravox tune jammed through a sort of Stratovarius filter) and there’s an obligatory intro. There’s the title-track which serves as the album’s high point and is a semi-epic that most bands would use as an album closer. To me, it sounds like ‘Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter’ and ‘Mother Russia’ by Iron Maiden had a baby that then got stuck in the machine from the movie The Fly with Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s ‘Trilogy’ and the background music from a documentary on the Christian Church’s history. Its spiced up even further by the guest appearance from Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian.

The main bulk of the rest of the material is a mix of two themes; songs with fast double-kick drums that sound like what Helloween would’ve come up with if they had tried to replicate the style of Metallica’s The Black Album in their own unique way, and slower stomping songs reminiscent of Hammerfall when they go mid-paced, but with huge religious-sounding choruses (something they’d explore even more on their next record). The best two for my money being ‘Until We Rise Again’ and ‘No More Foolin.’ Also worth mentioning is ‘Out Of Control’ which features guest guitar work from Stratovarius virtuoso Timo Tolkki.

Its certainly a unique album. Within the genre and within the band’s discography. There aren’t a million other Vainglory Operas out there. Nobody else sounds like this. I don’t think anybody else would either be able to pull it off or be fool enough to try. In the first half of the band’s career when they were still unashamedly Power Metal without the hard rock tinges and before they started adding in all the humour, Vainglory Opera is the band’s attempt at doing the classy grown up mature album. Its real nice to hear the band exploring this ground.

On their next album, the fan favourite classic, Theater Of Salvation, the band would unleash their golden album of absolute pure Power Metal perfection. This album was a perfect stepping stone from their humble youthful beginnings to their zenith, along a not repeated path, but man, while they were here, they nailed it!

220px-Blind_guardian_follow_the_blindFollow The Blind is the second full-length studio album by the legendary German Power Metal band, Blind Guardian. It was released in 1989 and sees the band in a bit of a transition period, much more advanced than their debut but not yet fully developed into the full on Power Metal style they would become famous for on the next half-dozen albums.

It also sees the band leaning more into a Thrash Metal direction than at any point in their career, with notable Bay Area Thrash influences in particular. If you like Exodus, Testament and Forbidden’s debuts, and you also like Power Metal then this album is a delightful middle ground. Its harder and more aggressive than future Blind Guardian records, and has also yet to develop the more progressive tendencies of their later period. What it lacks in scope however, it makes up for in sheer fury. I think this album would be a great introduction to the band and indeed to the subgenre for fans of Thrash who are maybe afraid of Power Metal due to its reputation as being a bit flowery and wimpy compared to other Metal styles.

On the downside however, for Power Metal fans especially, all that Thrash influence leaves less room for catchiness, melodies and variety as compared to their other work. That is not to say it is devoid of those qualities, just that it is a smaller percentage of the music than usual. Listen to ‘Fast To Madness’ for example… a brilliant Metal song, but you wouldn’t generate as big a sing-along as say ‘Time Stands Still at the Iron Hill.’ The title track does experiment with different tempos and balancing heavy and clean styles, but more in a …And Justice For All/The Years Of Decay way than in an Imaginations From The Other Side way. Both fine ways to be sure, just depends what mood you are in and what expectations you had when you bought the album in the first place.

In terms of songwriting quality, I think Blind Guardian’s albums sort of just got better and better up until about Nightfall In Middle Earth, and so I think this album is better than their debut but not yet as good as Tales From The Twilight World, or the classic Somewhere Far Beyond. That is of course not to say its poor, just that it isn’t as good as the really good stuff. In terms of production, its a bit noisy and harsh on the ears, and works better in small chunks than as a whole. Not unlike fellow Power Metal Pioneers Helloween’s Thrashy Walls Of Jericho album in that regard.

Speaking of Helloween, Kai Hansen makes some guest appearances on this album, both on guitar on ‘Hall Of The King’ and on Guitar and Vocals on ‘Valhalla.’ These for me are two of the best songs on the album anyway, and are made even better by Kai’s presence. The other main highlight is the excellent instrumental ‘Beyond The Ice’ which is one of the best songs on the album for me, very pummeling, quite diverse and with astounding guitar work… it really shows off what a force the band are musically with its bouncy toms and double kicks and the excellent range of riffs and solos.

Overall; Follow The Blind is an experimental album that sees the band trying to find their sound. It is arguably the hardest, fastest and heaviest of their records and arguably the least melodic and catchy. It is however a very decent album that no Blind Guardian fan should miss out on (how could you be a fan and deprive yourself of ‘Banished From Sanctuary’ or ‘Valhalla’?) and that would be a good starting point for fans of heavier music trying Blind Guardian out.

*Ps. The Remastered edition has two cover songs and four early demos to add some value for money. None worth upgrading over in and of themselves, but very welcome if you are getting em for free anyway. *

Blind Guardian – Imaginations From The Other Side

Imaginations From The Otherside is the seminal and genre-defining fifth full-length studio album from the legendary German Power Metal band, Blind Guardian. It was released in 1995, and produced by the famous Danish producer Flemming Rasmussen (Rainbow, Metallica, Morbid Angel, Ensiferum) and it caught the band in an unstoppable run of classic album after classic album, with high public will at the time and historical importance nowadays.

The album sees the band in a bit more of a progressive mood; with less difference between the fast, the slow and the acoustic songs in favour of complex tunes that merge all three. It’s a far cry from the Thrashy roots of Battalions Of Fear but still unmistakably Blind Guardian sounding at the same time. The band do a good job at writing more complex and sophisticated songs without making them feel pompous or disjointed… everything flows logically and you don’t really feel as if you’ve sat there listening to the same song for six or seven minutes. It whizzes by as you think about Peter Pan and Narnia etc. enjoying some of the genre’s less-cheesy vocal melodies and some hard hitting Metallic music.

The standard of musicianship is immense, not just in terms of flashy virtuosity but also in more subtle ways and in terms of the actual performance captured here… this sounds like a masterpiece. You know when you get an album for the first time and just think “this sounds important” …this is such an album. Understandably it is now considered a classic of the genre and is justly recommended routinely to anyone interested in the band or this type of music in general and I would easily feel comfortable throwing out another voice in the crowd telling you to get your hands on a copy.

Album highlights for me are the opener, which is also the album’s Title Track, and the more melodic single ‘Bright Eyes’ as well as the brief ballad ‘A Past And Future Secret’ which I feel is the strongest moment on the record. Its all of a pretty similarly high standard though, and arguably best listened to as a single continuous journey rather than as separate tracks.

As strong and enjoyable as the album is, there’s not really that much to say about it other than it is essential listening for fans, its is a good first album for new fans, and that I highly recommend it. It doesn’t have any guest stars, special talking point or singular narrative concept. Its Blind Guardian doing what they do best, to perfection…which is a pretty damn strong recommendation in and of itself really!

Gamma Ray - Powerplant

Gamma Ray – Powerplant

Gamma Ray, the legendary German Melodic Power Metal band fronted by the immensely talented Kai Hansen (Founding member of Helloween, member of Iron Saviour & Unisonic, guest contributor to Angra, Blind Guardian, Primal Fear, Hammerfall, Avantasia and all around fingers-in-many-pies mainstay of the Power Metal scene) really came in to their own with their classic fourth studio album Land Of The Free. They had always been great, but something about that 1995 masterpiece really just elevated them even higher.

For me, the three albums that followed maintain that high standard. Most fans will be very familiar with Somewhere Out In Space and the popular No World Order albums. It seems that piggy-in-the-middle record, Powerplant is a bit more overlooked, or in other words underrated.

The album opens with ‘Anywhere In The Galaxy’ which is unquestionable, pure classic Gamma Ray. This sort of song is the reason people love this band. Elsewhere there is the fun tribute to Manowar ‘Heavy Metal Universe’ (filled with constant lyrical references, and musically based on ‘The Gods Made Heavy Metal’) which is great fun. There’s variety with a Pet Shop Boys cover (‘It’s a Sin’), a commercial sounding tune (‘Send Me A Sign’) and a lengthy progressively inclined number (‘Armageddon.’)

The production is a little flatter than the albums which surround it, and sonically it doesn’t perhaps pop out as much, but the songwriting and performances are spot on. ‘Wings Of Destiny,’ ‘Razorblade Sigh’ and the aforementioned gem ‘Anywhere In The Galaxy’ are memorable, melodic ragers that would stand proud on any other Gamma Ray record.

Overall; this album sees Gamma Ray in the middle of a great run of high quality albums. It maybe doesn’t get talked about as much as some other albums but you’ll be damn grateful to have it in your collection once you’ve given it a chance.

Blind Guardian had a very difficult task on their hands when they found themselves having to follow up the successful Imaginations From The Other Side album, but in 1998 they released their seminal classic sixth full-length studio album Nightfall in Middle Earth – a monstrously good album full of charm, eccentricity and an absolute ton of brilliant music.

Nightfall’ is a concept album based on Tolkien’s book The Silmarillion (which is a logical move from the band who wrote ‘Lord Of The Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’). The concept adds an extra layer of interest to things. It is filled with spoken dialogue and sound effects in between the true songs to get you in the mood – It could seem a bit gimmicky to some listeners but it fits very naturally with the band’s style. It also sees the band move even further in the Progressive direction, with very clear and obvious Gentle Giant influences not only in the vocal department but also in some of the arrangements.

That’s not to say that it abandons the band’s trademark Euro-Melodic-Power Metal meets Bay Area Thrash mix, it is still full of fun quick guitar leads, crushing Thrashy riffs and everything else that made the band work up until this point, just further mixing in the elements they’d been hinting at more and more with each passing album. The real thing that hits you about the album, regardless of what style it is in, or what speed the band are playing, is the sheer amount of catchy parts and memorable tunes. This is stuff that sticks in your head for a long time.

Highlights include “Time Stands Still (At the Iron Hill),”  “Mirror Mirror” and “Nightfall.” This is some seriously memorable, catchy, enjoyable Metal. Check those songs out if you want to try something before you commit.

Overall; There’s a lot of song writing depth, there’s plenty of bite and edge to the music, there’s a near endless supply of catchy choruses. This is one of the subgenre’s finest records, one of the band’s finest records and one of the best Metal records of its entire decade. Its must-own stuff for sure, and I’d highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t yet.

Somewhere Far Beyond is one of those masterpiece must-own albums. The 1992 effort was German Power Metal legends Blind Guardian’s fourth full-length studio album and saw the band really hit their stride. Everything about this album is perfectly developed, finely honed and impressively delivered.

Opening with the beyond-catchy “Time What Is Time” the album kicks out powerfully with a brand of Melodic European Power Metal that owes as much to Bay Area Thrash acts like Testament, Exodus and Forbidden as it does to the Neoclassical and NWOBHM legends who usually inspired Power Metal bands of the same generation. People who worry that Power Metal may be too wimpy for them need a stat dose of Blind Guardian. Stylistically this isn’t the band’s most progressive release, but sees the band well on their way to heading in that direction, with a lot of song writing depth and efforts made not to just be straightforward or simplistic. Overall; Its kind of something like listening to Keeper Of The Seven Keys being covered by Kreator.

The album unleashed some of the band’s classic material, such as “The Bard’s Song” “Journey Through The Dark” and the aforementioned “Time What Is Time” and impressively the rest of the album holds up to that high standard; there’s no weak tracks and nothing worth skipping, its just all pure high quality, interesting and well written music filled to the brim with chunky riffs, blistering double-kicks, interesting melodies and catchy choruses.

Highlights include “Theater Of Pain,” “Quest For Tanelorn,” (featuring guest guitar by the legendary Kai Hansen) and the seven-minute title track.

I could go on; but really you just need to hear it for yourself. If you have any interest in Power Metal you either own this already or are probably about to own it soon, all I can really add is another happy convert’s voice to the list of many praising reviews. Give this classic a chance, you won’t be disappointed.