Saturday, September 4, 2010

Review : Blind Guardian -- At the Edge of Time

Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time (2010)
   1. Sacred Worlds - 9:17
   2. Tanelorn (Into the Void) - 5:58
   3. Road of No Release - 6:30
   4. Ride into Obsession - 4:46
   5. Curse My Name - 5:52
   6. Valkyries - 6:38
   7. Control the Divine - 5:26
   8. War of the Thrones - 4:55
   9. A Voice in the Dark - 5:41
  10. Wheel of Time - 8:55 

The last few years have been barren ones for Blind Guardian fans.  In 2006, they released A Twist in the Myth; while there were a few standout tracks, it was quite a departure in sound, particularly in tracks like Fly and Otherland.  It felt overproduced to me, and lacking in energy and inspiration.  Its predecessor, A Night at the Opera, was a much finer album, in my opinion.

Now it's 2010, four years since A Twist in the Myth.  I've been waiting for this album for ages, listening to the 30-second samples on, monitoring YouTube for videos and finding not one, but two of 'em in HD!  It's hard to contain my elation.  Once I finally unwrap the thing, I give it a spin.

I have to admit, I didn't expect much after ATITM, but I was blown away.  The opener is Sacred Worlds, written by Blind Guardian for the video game Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, and it starts out with a symphonic score.  The score builds in energy and urgency, with occasional flashes of epic.  But it isn't until 1:26 that we finally enter the song with an energetic and insistent guitar.  The song proceeds with Hansi Kürsch in fine form, with a particular epic part at 6:26:  "My eyes are the eyes of a dead man/I feel the unholy stream/The source of my power/T-Energy/I'm in control!"  The song outros with a symphonic score increasing in calmness eventually fading to silence once more.

The next track is Tanelorn (Into the Void), which is the second song they've done concerning Michael Moorcock's Eternal City from The Elric Saga and other works.  This song takes BG back to their speed metal roots, as it hits you hard and never relents, with the classic Blind Guardian epic chorus we've come to expect since Nightfall on Middle Earth. 

After Tanelorn is Road of No Release, based on The Innkeeper's Song, by Peter S. BeagleIt starts with a piano riff, and then a military march, and then Hansi's clean vocals begin.  Each verse is told from a different perspective, the different characters in the story.  It drags a bit, but there are times where I love it.

The fourth track is Ride Into Obsession, with lightning fast riffs and Hansi's amazing voice carrying it.  This song is based on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

Track 5 is Curse My Name, which fits in nicely with their other medieval-styled ballads, such as The Bard's Song, A Past and Future Secret and Skalds and Shadows.  With songs like these they re-establish themselves as traveling bards.  Another fantastic track, with a serious and dark chorus: "Let them call me a tyrant so cruel/Let them Curse My Name but remember the truth!"  Curse My Name is based on a political tract by John Milton.  In the book, he claims that kings who fail to carry out their duties should be killed.    

Next comes Valkyries.  It starts slow, then builds to a metal crescendo, and from there we have the familiar layered vocals and Blind Guardian chorus.  It has a definite catchy melody.  It has its basis in Norse Mythology and references the Valkyries, warrior maidens on winged horses who appear after a battle.   They carry those who fought with honor and valor to a great Feasting Hall in the Afterlife, Valhalla.  

After Valkyries comes Control the Divine, about Lucifer in Milton's Paradise Lost and his motives and feelings.  It starts with an epic riff and continues with a pounding rhythm reminiscent of thundering destriers.  "How can we take it away from someone who has no right/No right to Control the Divine?"

The eighth track is War of the Thrones, inspired by the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.  It has a strange dichotomy to it, where the verses are melancholy and slow, and the refrain is more upbeat.  It refers to the war between the different noble houses over the throne and the vast Wall of Ice at the northern border that separates the men of Westeros from savages and horrors.  Unfortunately it gets a tad repetitive, and doesn't quite match the rest of the album.  It is not one of my favorites.

Track 9 is A Voice in the Dark, and it returns to the melodic thrash they perfected on Imaginations from the Other Side.  Technically perfect, energetic and epic, it compels you to contract a bad case of "Slayer Neck."  I got chills and elation the first time I heard the song.  This is also themed around A Song of Ice and Fire, and tells story of how Bran, one of the characters, lay with a broken back after being pushed from a high tower he was climbing, and in his coma was tormented by visions and prophecies. 

The final track, The Wheel of Time, starts out with almost a middle-eastern groove, before the crescendo into the main part of the song.  It, too, drags a bit, despite the frenetic orchestral interludes.  The song takes a bit to pick up the pace.  The subject matter itself is from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, and is about males and saidar, the magical power that drives them mad.

I have listened to this album practically nonstop since its U.S. release, banging my head in ecstasy as the band kicks ass again and again.  This is a very strong album, a much finer effort than A Twist in the Myth, and most tracks are very reminiscent of earlier releases such as Imaginations from the Other Side and A Night at the Opera.  I love the energy and feel to this album, even if the subject matter is entirely derived from other people's works.  It holds together well, and renews my hope in a band that I thought had lost its magic.  Well done, Blind Guardian!  May you continue to rock well into your golden years.  You are indeed worthy of Valhalla, all of you! 

No comments:

Post a Comment