Nuclear Blast (2010)
When you look at the evolution of a genre, there are always landmark albums that serve as plateaus for hundreds of bands to dissect, emulate and attempt to better. For Blind Guardian, I believe they’ve released at least 3 albums that certainly have pushed the heights of symphonic, power and progressive metal in general. “Tales From The Twilight World” launched Blind Guardian on a worldwide scale, blending speed guitar parts with multi-tracked choir vocals and I think gave the audiences more reason for energetic back and forth participation at the live shows. “Imaginations From The Other Side” took on occasional commercial aspects and also saw Blind Guardian implement progressive rhythms and tempos.
And with 1998‘s “Nightfall In Middle Earth” the band reached a pinnacle for me - a full on conceptual album, they pushed the symphonic realm with this one and tied together creative narrative pieces with blistering material like “Mirror Mirror” and “Nightfall”. I can honestly say that with their two efforts of the 2000’s, it’s been a blessing and a curse because while still good, I feel like the band took some risks that didn’t work out as much in the recording studio - especially their overblown Queen-melody fixation for “A Night At The Opera”.
So here we are at album number nine “At The Edge Of Time”. With 10 songs and 63 minutes, everyone I’m sure is curious to know if Blind Guardian moved forward, backward, or once again took a series of risks with this record. “Sacred Worlds” spends the first 1:25 of its 9:19 timeframe building with a symphonic crescendo - preparing you the consumer for a magical fantasy trip of heavier, dual layers of guitar parts, slower, building double bass and Hansi’s special commander in chief voice - leading the troops as only his mysterious, chameleon-like vocals can. “Tanelorn (Into The Void)” runs back into their speed metal roots with another larger than life choir chorus. Midway through the album, “Curse My Name” takes the proceedings down, exploring woodwind and folk themes as tastefully as “Past and Future Secret” or “The Bard Song”.
The second half of the album to me gives back their progressive nature - guitarists Marcus Siepen and Andre Olbrich willing to intertwine bright and dark chords with clean parts that just scream out their own melodious ecstasy in songs like “Valkyries” and closer “Wheel Of Time” (love the grandiose symphonics battling with the normal instrumentation for this masterpiece). When you realize the meticulous skill it takes to produce a Blind Guardian album and have the sonic depth assault you, people will not mind the lengthy wait between records.
Dangerous for me to say this early in the game (I’ve only had the album in my possession a week), but I feel “At The Edge Of Time” contains everything I desire in a Blind Guardian album and just a little more. I can’t see anything really topping this for my album of the year - and this one should give musicians plenty to creatively stoke the embers of their minds. Welcome back!
Rating: 6 / 6
Composed by Matt Coe