In a small venue in Ludwigshafen, Germany in 1988, a speed metal quartet began to play. This band was on their first tour ever in support of their debut album. Despite the fact that there was literally only 10 people in the audience, that band wasn’t ready to let a slow start ruin their chance for a long, productive career in music. Nearly 20 years later, that crowd of ten people has escalated into thousands. That band, Blind Guardian, has come a long way since their modest beginning in the mid 1980’s. Their debut album, Battalions of Fear
, only now garnishes the acclaim that it deserves. Blind Guardian has earned the title of definitive power metal band over their eight-album career, and it wouldn’t be at all possible without the persistent speed metal debut. Battalions of Fear
is a solid 40 minutes of raw, fast, aggressive, melodic speed metal. This isn’t the same epic power metal they play now – this is heavy stuff. The band may have been young at the time, but their musical skills were decades ahead of other bands surrounding them.
The album immediately comes off with the in-your-face, indisputably metal sound. Riffs are fast and melodic, yet fierce. Guardian of the Blind
fires off with a barrage of double bass and thrash metal guitar riffs while Hansi Kürsch’s youthful, vigorous voice echoes beyond. Run for the Night
and By the Gates of Moria
both start with dark, menacing guitar riffs before progressing into rhythmically enchanting tracks, the former of which features epic power metal choruses resounding in the black chamber. The title track, Battalions of Fear
begins with a low, percussive onslaught of metal riffs while Hansi begins his demonic verbal assault of heavy metal mayhem. The song soon ascends into a realm of guitar shredding madness, one that all musicians would gladly reside in.
The lead guitars and melodies make up the familiar yet diverse aspect of Blind Guardian’s original works. Instead of the constant guitar/keyboard-led melodies, the memorable sharp notes come in fast, aggressive bursts in between trashing instrumental and vocal assaults. Majesty
, arguably one of Blind Guardian’s finest moments (certainly their best speed metal performance), is a relentless display of mercilessly catchy melodies and raw, shredgasmic solos clear through its 7:32 duration. Just as well, The Martyr
begins slowly and progresses into a perilous journey through orc-laden passages down the darkest of corridors. Nothing could more fittingly ensue than the song’s saddening guitar lick and harmonized solo. As if listeners hadn’t already been beaten into metal oblivion by the nonstop onslaught of riffs and lead guitar antics, Wizard’s Crown
launches its solo with a festival of tapping into a harmonized bout of six-string lunacy.
To break up the impenetrable wall of brutal battery, several shorter instrumentals are dispersed throughout. The first, after soaring through two of the album’s more notable songs, is Trial by the Archon
, and epic lead guitar display. A calm, peaceful tincture flows directly into the beating of Wizard’s Crown
. The album closes with the final two instrumentals: By the Gates of Moria
, a hauntingly melodic 3 minutes of wonderful guitar harmonies, and Gandalf’s Rebirth
, an uplifting smorgasbord of guitar techniques and basslines.
Battalions of Fear
may not be A Night at the Opera
, but by god, it can hold its own against any other album in the Blind Guardian discography. It’s a wonder why such a commendable speed metal album is so often forgotten, but one look at Blind Guardian’s later power metal albums leaves no doubt that this German quartet has earned their keep and proved their worth. If you dare break out of your luxurious prison, delve into the world of aggressive riffs, incredible guitar solos, and harmonious clean singing. Prepare yourself for the Battalions of Fear
- A faster, heavier, more unpolished side of Blind Guardian
- Great combination of heavier riffs and melodic leads
- Classic speed metal!
Personal Favorite Moments:
- Majesty (1:55) A brutally memorable guitar lick
- The Martyr (:56) A sort of mini guitar solo precedes a very evil riff
- By the Gates of Moria as a whole is a very fitting instrumental
- The Martyr
- Battalions of Fear