Blind Guardian

Century Media, 2003

REVIEW BY: Riley McDonald


As a huge fan of this German quartet, I was quite overjoyed to find this double-album for a fairly low price in one of the local CD shops a few months ago. After sitting through the whole two hours and twelve minutes (or somewhere near that time), there was only one word in my vast vocabulary that could adequately describe the spectacle my ears had just beheld: impeccable.

From start to finish, this album doesn't miss a beat. We are treated to the opening passage from their 1997 release, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, called "War of Wrath." This is a dialogue between Morgoth and one of his servants from J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Silmarillion. The audience jumps right in, and speaks with the audio recording, making it sound even better. As soon as this is done, guitarists Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen unleash the ferocious assault that is the opening riff of Into the Storm.

This album encompasses many Guardian hits, reaching all the way back to their debut album Battalions Of Fear, with the audience-requested song "Majesty," and also taking many tracks off their latest album (at the time), A Night At The Opera. One real gift they give to the audience (both those who attended the concert, and those who bought the disc) is track six on the first disc, "Harvest Of Sorrow." This a harrowing, sweeping ballad that was only released in Japan as a bonus track on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 A Night At The Opera. This was the first time I had ever heard it, and I was not disappointed.

This is a very rare occurrence, especially for someone as musically cynical as myself, but I cannot find one weak track on this whole album. After each disc had spent several weeks of relentless inspection inside my CD player and walkman, every sonic inch inspected eighteen times over, I was shocked to find that each track was perfectly crafted. Even on my most cherished records, I can typically find one filler or lackluster track, but this album simply doesn't offer anything that's weak. This may be because Hansi Kursch and co. were able to construct their playlist so the songs compliment each other. The ballads are weaved throughout the set, acting as tranquil interludes between the thrash assaults. Tracks like "A Past And Future Secret" and "The Bard's Song (In The Forest)" serve as buffers between the much heavier songs such as "Time Stand Still (At the Iron Hill)" and "Punishment Divine."

At first, I was slightly nervous about listening to this album, for I hadn't heard a lot of Guardian material at the time, and I thought the music would be too difficult to grasp. I couldn't have been more wrong. Though I only knew about 1/4 of the setlist, each song was easy to listen to. There was nothing self-indulgent or "hard" to listen to.

Production-wise, it's flawless. The sound comes in with crystal pitch, and the instruments are muffled of shoved off into one side. However, and this is the only thing I could find wrong with the album, is the editing job. After the mind-blowing tracks "The Bard's Song" and "'Lost In The Twilight Hall," the crowd cheers for 2-4 minutes without interruption. As a guy who likes his music, I found these periods to be tedious, though I think that the band left it in there because they wanted people who weren't in Italy (where the album was recorded) to have a genuine live experience with the band. They succeed on that aspect.

Yes, Blind Guardian can be over-the-top at times, and yes, each song is a monumental, ascending piece, usually accompanied by a huge choir, but that just makes each song even better. Blind Guardian are -- at least in my opinion -- the greatest power metal band around, and this album only serves to reinforce that opinion. I recommend this album to anyone who likes power metal, epicness, Queen, or rock opera. Even to people who have never heard a Blind Guardian song before in their life, I urge them to pick this up, and learn to follow the blind.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Riley McDonald and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Century Media, and is used for informational purposes only.