If there’s one thing that BLIND GUARDIAN are well known for, it’s an impressive level of consistency with their material. From 1995’s “Somewhere Far Beyond” to the fan-favorite “At the Edge of Time” from 2010, fans have received consistently good material from the German power metal legends. Their upcoming 2015 album, “Beyond the Red Mirror,” is a followup to the aforementioned 1995 release, but will it live up to the hype of its predecessor?
The first track, “The Ninth Wave,” is simply great. It’s not quite on the same level as “Sacred Worlds,” but it’s still a phenomenal song. It’s interesting to me that they’ve been putting their big epics at the beginning of the albums lately, rather than the end. Not that I mind, but it sets the standard pretty high to kick off an album.
The next track was the first single, “Twilight of the Gods,” which I’d already listened to a few times when it was released with a lyric video some time ago. I have to say, I don’t like the beginning of this song all that much. The kind of wailing at the beginning – “How’ve they dared to be…” – puts me off just a touch. This somewhat bothersome vocal style stops almost immediately though so it doesn’t by any means ruin the song for me. Ultimately, I think it’s an ideal single for them and overall it’s still a really good song. The chorus is particularly good.
I love the music at the beginning of “Prophecies.” BLIND GUARDIAN has a knack for gentleness, when they choose to use it. They’re such a great band with dynamics in general. “At the Edge of Time” is interesting, since it’s a namesake for the previous album, rather than the current one. This isn’t my favorite song on the album by any means, but the big orchestrated booms in it are really great. It feels a bit like “And Then There Were None,” but in the style of their 2010 album.
I feel a little like this is a very solid album across the board, but many of the songs stay at the good level without breaking off into greatness. “Ashes of Eternity” is a really nice track, but it doesn’t stick in my head. I enjoy it when I hear it, but there’s no hook to bring me back to it over and over, and a lot of the album is like this. “The Holy Grail” and “Sacred Mind” have the same effect. I do really enjoy the sort of tip-toeing tone to “Distant Memories” though. It’s a lovely song. “Then these fools will fade away” also just so epic and powerful each time – now that’s a hook. Odd that it’s a bonus track though, and doubly so that it’s in the middle of the album.
I felt immediately that “The Throne” would be like “Ashes” and “Holy Grail,” but the chorus surprised me by being really good. “We must serve the fire, we must confess we are liars, there must be something in the end…” These are catchy, powerful lyrics. Likewise with “Miracle Machine.” It’s very gentle and pretty, but without being boring. And lastly, there is “Grand Parade.” It’s an excellent album finale. It’s not even close to their most epic song again, but it is epic in its own way. And, matching “The Ninth Wave” in time, it makes the album feel more or less full circle.
“Beyond the Red Mirror” is a good album, far from their best, and perhaps not the most diverse, sound-wise. I can basically split the tracks into two categories – songs that have a hook and songs that don’t. “The Ninth Wave,” “Twilight of the Gods,” “Distant Memories,” “The Throne,” “Miracle Machine,” and arguably “Grand Parade” all have a hook, while the rest are nice to listen to with good writing and performance that just aren’t quite as memorable. I can listen to it straight through without complaint.
Honestly though, I really have to commend these guys on being so consistent over the years. The vocals sound as good as they did in the ’90s, and their musical style, this epic power metal, has only gotten stronger and has consistently avoided getting overly cheesy like many other power metal bands. BLIND GUARDIAN has been one of my favorite bands for as long as I’ve listened to metal and continues to impress. I hope they continue the trend in the years to come and I’m very much looking forward to their show here in June.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- The Ninth Wave
- Twilight of the Gods
- At the Edge of Time
- Ashes of Eternity
- Distant Memories (bonus track)
- The Holy Grail
- The Throne
- Sacred Mind
- Miracle Machine
- Grand Parade
Hansi Kürsch – vocals, production
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – orchestration
André Olbrich – production
Charlie Bauerfeind – production, mixing
Norman Eshley – narration
Douglas Fielding – narration
Nuclear Blast Records