Blind Guardian

Beyond The Red Mirror

Written by: MIN on 13/06/2016 14:10:14

German power metal giants Blind Guardian have always been held in high regard, and having released almost nothing but critically acclaimed albums throughout their career (which spans across more than three decades), their first album in five years, “Beyond the Red Mirror”, has been greatly anticipated by their many fans. Although I have personally never paid much attention to this legendary fantasy outfit, it is hard never to have heard of them, and once or twice stumbled upon songs like “The Bard’s Song” or “Mirror Mirror”. Due to my limited knowledge of the band and its past however, I will not draw too many comparisons to their previously released material in this review, but just as soon as I put on the album for the first time, I was quite certain that there was no need to do so; the band is still perfectly capable of crafting impressive and grandiose songs that make you feel like you are travelling through time and space, or soaring high above the clouds on the wings of a dragon.

“Beyond the Red Mirror” is a concept album, which takes its setting in a world that is been deprived of its gods. These gods are called ‘The Nine’ throughout the album, and they have been transported through ‘the red mirror’ by an evil overlord who is now the ruler of the world we know. The album’s main protagonist, “The Chosen One”, is called upon to help get The Nine back into the known world, and the only way he can do so is by breaking through the red mirror, which works as a portal between the two realms. I will not spoil any more of the story, but that should give you a pretty good idea as to what the album is all about.

Musically, the record rarely strays from powerful anthems and fleshed out song structures that make you think of all sorts of genres ranging from musical theatre to raging speed metal. The album opener “Ninth Wave” kicks off with a huge choir singing in what I suppose is Latin, but after a little while it is joined by electronic beats, percussion and chunky riffs that slowly guide you into the actual song. After two and a half minutes that have more or less felt like an introduction, the guitar changes its pace and vocalist Hansi Kürsch starts depicting the twisted world and cursed existence that has emerged after the deportation of The Nine. Suddenly the chorus bursts through with impressive force, once again joined by a choir, followed by a skilful guitar solo courtesy of André Olbrich. The song is an excellent presentation of the album’s overall sound, as it features everything from huge orchestral compositions with strings and choirs to neck-breaking speed metal that should have your head banging several times throughout.

After you have given the album a few spins however, it quickly becomes apparent that while some of the songs are worth listening to several times on their own, others quickly grow tiring and excessively long. “Twilight of the Gods” is an excellent, energetic single, while “Miracle Machine” helps create diversion with its slow piano-balladry beauty, and “The Throne” works, much like the album-opener, like a presentation of the many elements offered throughout, standing tall and powerful like a whirlwind spitting out excellent choruses, awe-inspiring vocal deliveries, beautiful harmonies and strong musicianship. But other songs, though by no means bad, just do not have sufficient lasting value and are easy to skip. The album is already 65 minutes long, and both “Sacred Mind” and “The Holy Grail” do not seem to offer anything new. Furthermore, the final song, “The Grand Parade”, does not provide the epic finale that the album longs for, and thus the conclusion of an overall great album feels somewhat flat.

But this should not detract anything from the material that actual works. It is really impressive that a band that has been going strong for so many years is still able to create such fantastic music. Obviously, the album is not ranked out from this criterion, but I think it is worth mentioning when we are talking about a band’s tenth album over three decades. Personally though, I would have wished that more emphasis had been placed on the mixing of the bass and drums. Several times the bass is almost inaudible compared to what actually works, and the drums have a similar problem. Although the latter is definitely more evident than the bass, it is often easy to overhear and ignore the details that are presented in the drum-patterns, because the grandiose sound takes front stage in the mix. These minor issues aside, Blind Guardian have released a record that should not only please their fans, but also intrigue people who had not previously given them any real attention. “Beyond the Red Mirror” actually makes me wish I had listened to Blind Guardian more as a teenager than I did.

7

Download: The Ninth Wave, Twilight of the Gods, The Throne, Miracle Machine
For The Fans Of: Iced Earth, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Judas Priest
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.01.2015
Nuclear Blast

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