Blind Guardian is a band that today is known for their grand, subtle, symphonically tinged compositions combined with speed and power metal riffs and quick solo flurries. But Blind Guardian weren't always this delicate. Back in the day, their music had a lot more rough edges to it. And the prime example of their furious speed metal days is an album called Follow The Blind, their sophomore release.
And this disc begins like BG tend to. Following a short little ditty intro called Inquisition, the band roars into high gear with the furious Banish From Sanctuary. Quick, speedy riffs are traded along the road for melodic, technical solos, all accompanied by Hansi's trademark vocals and choruses. He didn't layer the vocals as much on here, but BG already showed their knack for writing a good song or two on this disc. Damned For All Time continues in the same vein, another high-intensity barrage of power metal delivered at inhuman speeds. It's a wonder Thomen Stauch hasn't yet died of asphyxiation.
Follow The Blind, the title track, is the token "epic", clocking in at a little over seven minutes. While I am a big fan of most BG epics, this one just doesn't cut it for me. Maybe it's the production, maybe it's the raw and unrefined sound, but Follow The Blind just cannot hold a candle to classics such as ...And Then There Was Silence. It is a little unfair to compare it to such a song, but Follow The Blind is just symbolic for this record: unrefined, unpolished, raw, speedy, everything that BG's early days stood for. But of course, this band still had the best days before them.
Of course there are also some live classics on here. Valhalla is one of my favourite songs, with an epic chorus and guest vocals by Kai Hansen(Yes, formerly of Helloween and now a member of Gamma Ray.) The riffs are immense, the drums are a bit repetitive but the double-bass rhythms are executed with great precision, and the beat is never off. What a joy it must be to jam with Thomen. The only problem with Valhalla is that Kai's vocals are a bit thin as opposed to Hansi's resounding voice. I simply find Mr Kursch to be the better singer,
Hall of the King is a typical paint-by-numbers BG track, as is Fast To Madness. They're both excellent tracks, but they simply don't have the compelling power of a classic like aforementioned Valhalla, or Damned For All Time. Beyond the Ice is a decent instrumental, but BG really needs Hansi to pull things off for them. Although BG aren't bad musically, I just have the feeling that the immense choruses and trademark screams are just the thing that sets BG above any of their colleagues and contemporaries.
The last two bonus tracks are cover songs, Don't Break The Circle is a Demon cover, while well-executed it is possibly the worst song on the disc. Barbara Ann is a Regents cover (NOT A BEACH BOYS COVER), and quite possibly the single most hilarious thing the band has ever done. Blind Guardian know how to seriously approach their music, and also keep laid back whenever they need to. It's a very funny ending to a great album.
Overall this may not be Guardian's best disc, but for nostalgia lovers, or fans of a more raw sound, with slightly inferior production, this is an excellent buy. It's also recommended to Blind Guardian fans and collectors. It's not the disc that exemplifies Blind Guardian's sound, for that I would still recommend listening to Nightfall or Imaginations, but damn, this is a good record. It may sound a little different, but the band had the best years ahead of them, and they already here showed they had a knack for their music, and the promise they held for the future. With such impressive first albums, it would be no wonder that this band would go on to claim the title for the most influential and best power metal band to ever roam the earth. And they highly deserved it, too.