Blind Guardian: Hansi Kursch (vocals); Andre Olbrich, Marcus Siepen (guitar); Frederik Ehmke (flute, bagpipe, drum, percussion). Additional personnel: Martin G. Meyer (keyboard, keyboard programming); Oliver Holzwarth (bass guitar); Olaf Senkbeil, Rolf … see full wiki
Pros: Epic, grand, superlative power metal with intelligence.
Cons: Songs seem to be short and give abbreviated versions of the stories.
The Bottom Line: The best power metal music on the planet. Bar none! The best export from Germany since...well, ever I guess.
If there was only one band I was able to listen to, I do not know exactly who I would pick, but Blind Guardian would most definitely be on the short list. Without question they are the epitome of power metal. Their sound is unique and their songwriting is superb. They deal mostly with the realm of fantasy and folklore and draw inspiration from some of the best sources around. From authors such as Stephen King and Tad Williams to the tales of Ulysses and the Skald poets of Scandinavia, the music of Blind Guardian take you on a musical journey through all these richly textured landscapes.
The album "A Twist In The Myth" was released in 2006 and is the eighth outing for the band. With an impressive history behind them, it would be easy for them to set on their laurels, but once again they come at you full force with their total mastery of the genre that they choose to play in. I say that because they can sonically take you to places that no power metal band can reach. Most bands try to use their music to fit the story they are telling. With Blind Guardian you get something completely different. Their approach is to let the story dictate how the music should feel.
Take the story of a boy's fight with Death that is the opening act of this play "This Will Never End." The heaviness of the band is very fitting for this telling of the Walter Moers tale "Wild Ride Through The Night." As the story soars to the heights of the moon, the music rallies right along with it. It soars and swells to epic proportions just as the hero does in the book. When he is dealing with the devil, the music is heavy and brooding just as it should. They could almost tell the tale with the music alone but then you would miss out on the treat of hearing Hansi Kürsch's terrific vocals. This band has it all and proves it easily with this song.
Epic is a word that can easily overused when talking about this band. Most of their music reaches peaks that few can ever hope to obtain. The intelligence that permeates their work may be the reason. Like when they decided to musically tackle the Tad Williams series, "Otherland." Few even try to use such complicated subject matter as a basis for their songs, but it is commonplace with these guys. In just over 5 minutes they will have you heading to the bookstore and wondering how you ever missed this great set of novels. From the orchestral beginning the fiery metal bleeds through as the tale unfolds before your ears. Sweeping choral passages give way to crunching guitars as:
"You're a part of the game You're a slave to the grind Oblivion Welcome to the Otherland."
Yes, welcome to the "Otherland" and the might of the band that leads you there.
The band pays homage to the ancient Wiccan beliefs about the changing of the seasons and the renewal of life in their heavy metal jig called "Turn The Page." You will not confuse this song with the old Bob Seger song, it has a very distinct flavor that is more reminiscent of the old Men Without Hats tune The Safety Dance. If there is such a thing as a power metal Irish pub, this would be sung there by all. BG (Blind Guardian) shows off their amazing versatility and superb musical ability by flying off in so many different directions and this is just one that of the paths that they take you down on this trip.
One of the heaviest songs on here was inspired by the film Finding Neverland and the story of Peter Pan. Not like the story of kids that never want to grow up, BG shows true maturity in how they deliver the message of the man behind the story and what he was trying to say to all of us. Peter Pan is a story that has a darker side to it and the band draws that out. But they also capture the key point of the fable which is never give up on your dreams. You may one day just be able to "Fly."
There are few writers that have the capability of creating a parallel universe as Stephen King has with his Dark Tower series. The trials and tribulations of Roland in this saga is a tale that I wish would never end. This is the basis of the next Blind Guardian offering "Carry The Blessed Home." This story is done on such a grand scale that I cannot think of anyone who could pull it off and musically put you in the middle of the tale better than BG. The way they sonically create the world of Roland makes you feel as if you are a gunslinger. And just as Roland goes through so many different scenes in the book, BG emulates the story by again fitting the music to whatever part of the tale they are telling. This makes me thirsty for the Lord of the Rings project that the band has been working on for a number of years now.
The Drawing of The Three from the Stephen King Dark Tower series is the subject matter of the BG burner "Another Stranger Me." This tune tells the tale of a person with multiple personalities who becomes aware of his other self. BG demonstrates with a metal zeal the complexity of this situation. Harsh guitars echo that torment that is going through the mind of the main character. This is what musical storytelling is all about whether it be Blind Guardian or Bob Dylan.
As majestic as ever BG spins another creative tale with the magical "Straight Through The Mirror." You can almost imagine dreaming of death only to wake up and find out it is a dream, or nightmare. This song, with its scary theme is one of the most frantic displays of the power and fury that Blind Guardian unleashes on the listener. Dramatically through the use of the guitars of both André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen, BG forges a dreamscape that is as terrifying as the thought of what they are portraying.
You will burn with the heat of Hell as the unbridled guitars greet you at the start of the Blind Guardian version of Ulysses, and his trip to Hades, which they titled "Lionheart." Grandiose on a scale that is unobtainable by mortal bands, BG slashes through this ancient tale with all the fire of Ulysses himself. Brandishing guitars instead of swords they contrive a world of fire and brimstone with their devilish sounding tone. If you want brutal, this is the one for you, but along with it you will also get the BG touches of style and melody.
The land of fjords and Vikings come alive with the baroque piece of Blind Guardian work entitled "Skalds and Shadows. Weaving their tale as if one of the ancient Norse poets, Kürsch's vocals bring the ancient art form to life. I almost thought that Mannheim Steamroller was backing his masterful singing and I could almost see the old king and queen listening to him and his minstrels.
Where can you find anymore inspiration than the Bible? BG next looks to St. Paul and his beliefs in their next song "The Edge." While Paul was a man who faced many a tribulation and trial, his faith never wavered. This proud dedication is aptly displayed by all the members of the band as they bring to you this heroic story. Musically the churning background is a perfect vehicle for this epic tale of dedication. Another 5 star offering.
The album ends on a grand scale with the optimistic and very spiritual look at the future "The New Order." This song tells us not to avoid change, that new ideas and ways of thinking is good. Learning from the past is a good guide into the future. Just make sure that you DO learn the lessons that are found throughout history. They are the best guidepost to making the right decisions about where we are going. Not very often do you get metal with such an intelligent message. These guys will make you think, while blowing you away with their terrific sound.
While some music is lyrically inclined and some is more about the melody, these guys hit the nail squarely on both accounts. There are no weak spots in the armor of these heavy metal warriors. It just amazes me that they are not commercially successful in the USA or even heard of in a lot of musical circles. They should be a household name, that is, if talent and unparalleled musical ability means anything. It is a real shame when we hear the airwaves filled with such trash and a band like this cannot get heard. I guess the thinking population will just have to keep searching out bands like this and people like me will just have to keep spreading the word.