Blind Guardian - A twyst in the myth 3/5
1. This will never end
3. Turn the page
5. Carry the blessed home
6. Another stranger me
7. Straight through the mirror
9. Skalds and shadows
10. The edge
11. The new order
Lengendary German power metal sensation Blind Guardian has evolved a lot over the years. They started out playing extremely fast, catchy, power metal. On their 3rd and 4th (and best) CDs 'Tales from the twilight world' and 'Somewhere far beyond' they took that style and added a level of depth that elevated them to masters. These CDs were packed with more mature, deeper songwriting, and Hansi Kursch's vocals had evolved and widened in range, making him a completely unique singer (at least until the band Persuader came around). For their 5th CD, 'Imaginations from the other side' they evolved further. While still having plenty of quicker tempos, they rarely showed the extreme speed that dominated their first 4 CDs. The songs became more complex and they began seriously layering their productions with lots of vocal and guitar tracks. For the 'Imaginations...' CD, it largely worked very well. I remember not being thrilled with the production, but the material was strong enough that I still consider that CD a great one, if not a masterpiece like its 2 predecessors.
Next, the Guardians released their most ambitious CD, a Tolkien inspired concept CD 'Nightfall in middle earth'. This contained even more complicated arrangements and had the "epic" quality one would want from such a high fantasy concept album. I find a lot of the material on that CD to be very good, but here is where I think the band went too far with the layering. I actually find that CD a little hard to sit through nowadays with its excessive vocal layering and almost too much lead guitar layering. It almost makes me wonder whether lead guitarist Andre' Olbrich has tired of playing rhythm guitar. Anyway, despite my major reservations towards the production, I still find 'Nightfall...' to be a good CD with plenty of great moments. With their last CD 'A night at the opera', the band leapt way past the point of too far. It was an overproduced, overlayerd, overcomposed mess of a CD. Never was the band's problems with being TOO big, TOO complex, and TOO epic more apparent then in their torturously long, boring epic song "And then there was silence".
I had basically written off Blind Guardian at this point, and things didn't look any better when original drummer Thomen Stauch left the band citing "musical differences". Then Stauch formed Savage Circus with Persuader members and Piet from Iron Savior and produced 'Dreamland manor' which sounds a lot more like classic Blind Guardian than the Guardians themselves do these days. However, with 'A twist in the myth' it's clear that the band has begun to hear some of the criticisms of their recent work. They have definitely toned down the ridiculous layering from the past 2 CDs and have a production much more reminiscent of the 'Imaginations...' CD. The songs are a lot more catchy and enjoyable again reminiscent of the 'Imaginations...' CD. I know there are plenty of people who loved 'Opera', but this represents a big improvement for my tastes.
Things get off to a quick start with "This will never end". While the blistering speed of yesteryear is gone, Blind Guardian still maintains a pretty quick, peppy pace today and this song speeds out of the player immediately. Right away, it's obvious that the vocal layering has been held more in reserve, generally only used in some bridges and choruses which makes it all that much more effective. While Oblich still adds a lot of lead guitar over the material, it's not as overly layered and ridiculous as on their previous 2 CDs and there are even times when he gets down to playing some actual rhythm guitar! "Turn the page" has that patented Blind Guardian folky melody influence on it, and it's quite nice to hear actual catchy melodies again from Guardian! "Straight through the mirror" is my favorite track on the CD with some very slick harmony guitars and a fantastic chorus. The songwriting skills for the band are still pretty much in tact, and it's nice to have their efforts not be buried under an excessively muddy production. 'Shields and shadows' is a nice medieval style ballad much like classics 'The bard's song' or 'A past and future secret'.
I have to admit when I first heard the band's first single 'Another stranger me' I wasn't that hopeful for this CD. I'm happy to say my first impression didn't hold, and the song and the whole CD have really grown on me. Fans of their last 2 CDs may be slightly disappointed by the "watering down" of their more complex material, but they should still find plenty to like. It really does remind me of the 'Imaginations...' CD in style and production. I don't think the material is quite as strong here as it was on that CD, but at least this band is moving in the right direction.
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