Saturday, April 9, 2011

Blind Guardian - At The Edge Of Time (2010)

Pioneers. Visionaries. Masters. When the topic is symphonic power metal, Blind Guardian is all three. Those who doubt the connection between classical music and metal need only pick up any album by this German four piece. Flawlessly combining strings, horns and the standard guitar, bass and drums, the band has enjoyed success for more than two decades. Symphonic perfection is not common, but it seems to come easy.

Seconds after pressing play, you are treated to a flurry of strings and woodwinds, comparable to any symphony of the greats of yore. But Richard Wagner himself could not have conceived "Sacred Worlds" with such awe inspiring vividness. The orchestra does not fade, but rather melds with the band, creating a wall of sound like no other. Empowering and beautiful, the song is a story in itself, a call to action against evil.

The sonic assault that is "Tanelorn (Into The Void)" proves to be formidable. The vocal delivery is nothing short of monumental, showing both range and accuracy. All the while, drum fills blast forth, fast and furious. Guitar solos radiate outward, hitting you early and often, making it nearly impossible to sit still. A solemn drum march and chorus lead you onward, to "The Road Of No Release," an ominous warning of what lies ahead. Beautifully crafted backing vocals make it seem as though an entire choir accompanies the band on this quest. A piano melody ties the track up in a neat bow.

"Ride Into Obsession" is just that; a ride through the genre of power metal. Everything that has made this style so popular and accessible is presented for your approval. Orchestration, instrumentation, melodies both vocal and otherwise, and the pin point accuracy of each note. In sharp contrast comes the Renaissance modeled "Curse My Name," with all of its imagery sprouting forth. This offering would delight the most stubborn of kings. The quick fire tempo changes of "Valkyries" get the blood pumping, the heart beating and your mouth moving to the words. Air guitar is perfectly acceptable, and often hard to resist.

Questioning the right of ownership, "Control The Divine" is as lyrically powerful a piece as you will ever find. This could be the song of a movement, a call for freedom. It is followed by the down tempo, acoustic piece called 'War Of The Thrones." Another brilliant use of instrumentation, thinking outside of the proverbial power metal box. Since there is a noticeable lack of true metal radio, the choice of a single is often made to provide a cross section of an album prior to its release. This makes "A Voice In The Dark" the perfect choice for that honor. An unmistakable masterpiece of melody and substance, it gives just the right amount of each component to savor.

An epic adventure to close the album, "Wheel Of Time" is a movie theme waiting to happen. The fantastic use of horns takes this album to heights reached by so few. But it does not overpower, merely accents, the guitar and drum work. A string and percussion intermission creates visions of far off places, waiting to be explored. Surreal and life affirming, all at the same time.

The genre of power metal, in general, is one of few true superstars. This isn't for lack of opportunity, but rather because nearly everything has been done, perhaps to death. Only few can break new ground, set the others down a new path. When a band responsible for albums titled "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" and "A Twist In The Myth" has unnatural talents at their fingertips, rest assured things will never get stale. If their worlds were to collide, I think Beethoven, Mozart and Bach would beg for an audition. Maybe that is what they are looking towards when they named this album "At The Edge Of Time."


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