Since 1986, Blind Guardian have been stretching the bounds of Power Metal like no other band. They've gone from writing fast, aggressive Speed Metal classics to some of the most grandiose, epic music ever imaginable. This is their most recent album, and the question I'm sure everyone is thinking is does this live up to the standard the band have set with the rest of their discography? Let's see.
Over the past 22 odd years, Hansi Kursch has proven why he's undoubtedly one of the best vocalists Metal has ever seen, and on A Twist In The Myth
he shows no signs of slowing down. Throughout the whole album we're treated to the riveting, insane power of his voice in tracks such as 'Otherland', while we can also hear the serene beauty in his voice in tracks such as 'Skalds and Shadows'. An actual choir of 3 people is used for the really huge vocal parts (ie the chorus of 'Otherland'), but throughout most of the album Hansi's voice is layered 2 or 3 times to achieve that awesome choral effect that we all know and love. Just like in every other Blind Guardian album (besides maybe the first 2), Hansi is the standout member in terms of individual performance.
That's not to take anything away from the rest of the band, however. Guitarists Marcus Seipen and Andre Olbrich once again prove why they're highly underrated in the Metal world on a A Twist In The Myth
. They may not have much technical skill, but that's stops them from ever being excessive, and most importantly, they do everything they need to do perfectly. Marcus is his usual self here - a very traditional rhythm guitarist, mostly just playing chords, which works really well. Andre is also a pretty traditional lead guitarist - playing the main riffs and performing every solo. His solos are never technical or very fast, but are always double or triple layered to create that oh so epic effect. The solos throughout the album are always melodic, and fit every song very well. As is common knowledge, long time awesome Blind Guardian drummer Thomen Stauch left before the recording of this album - luckily the new drummer, Fredrik Ehmke, is simply fantastic. His style is slightly different to Thomen's; his beats are less samey (not that that was ever a bad thing with Thomen), but still the incredibly fast technical insanity which somehow manages to always fit in the music and never become overpowering. Like most Blind Guardian albums, the bass isn't audible throughout most of this, but when it is it's doing some decent stuff, adding a welcoming lower end to the sound.
The production on this album is, as is expected at this point, very good, besides the drumming sounding a bit muddy at times. So with that out of the way, the fact the individual performances on this album are top notch, and the fact this is a BLIND GUARDIAN album, you must be wondering about the low-ish score I've given this album. Well, you shall be enlightened.
On first listens, the only glaring faults with the album are the songs 'This Will Never End' and 'Carry The Blessed Home'. 'This Will Never End' is simply a terrible opener. From the (admittedly insane) F#5 to A5 to F#5 scream which didn't once fail to give me a headache when listening to it through headphones to its stale chorus and boring lyrics, it has to be the worst Blind Guardian album opener of all time. 'Carry The Blessed Home' simply bored me to tears, sub-par stuff. In the long-term however, the problem with this album is it just sounds like we've heard it all before, which makes everything unspectacular.
Throughout the album, we're fed the same chord progressions, guitar solos and vocal harmonies we've heard a million times before. While it has a delicious chorus, 'Straight Through The Mirror' fails to leave any sort of impression due to the fact I've heard it all before. The riffs in 'Another Stranger Me' sound very recycled. 'Skalds And Shadows', while being a lovely song just feels like it had little thought put in to it. Even the non-Metal, folky song 'Turn The Page' sounds like generic Blind Guardian of old. By the time the album reaches its closer, 'The New Order', it feels like the band have just straight-up half-assed their songwriting. While all of the aforementioned tracks (and the rest of the album besides 'This Will Never End' and 'Carry The Blessed Home') are all high quality, the only tracks that really stand out here are 'Otherland' and 'Fly'. 'Fly' is awesome with its slightly progressive nature, basic lyrics, lack of central hook and vocals which bear this lovely magical quality, while 'Otherland' is just 100% pure total ownage for 5 minutes and 15 seconds (awesome start, great verses, fantastic chorus, good solo, awesome ending...you get the deal). Dare I say 'Otherland' is one of Blind Guardian's best ever tracks.
So there you have it, A Twist In The Myth
. Of course, my overall rating is pretty low, as this album is a lot better than most metal albums out there, but it's just underwhelming/not very good compared to the rest of Blind Guardian's discography. If you're new to the band this is a good choice as it showcases all the strengths of the band and is fairly accessible, but Blind Guardian fans, don't get your hopes up too high for this one.