Review Summary: This is Blind Guardian at either their very best -- or very worst -- depending on how you look at it.
Blind Guardian is (well, was, on this album):
Hansi Kürsch (vocals)
André Olbrich (lead guitar)
Marcus Siepen (rhythm guitar)
Thomen Stauch (drums)
A Night at the Opera. With this album, Blind Guardian and power metal in general, you either love it or you hate it. When this album was released, it caused a huge divide in the Blind Guardian community: those who loved how over the top it was and those who absolutely hated it. Count me in with the former.
This album was released in 2002, a staggering four years after their critically acclaimed album, Nightfall in Middle Earth. Guardian fans everywhere were eager to see what the Bards could come up with next after the 1998 masterpiece -- and were left speechless. This album took everything that Blind Guardian began and or expanded on NiME (the use of many layered vocals, heavy orchestration) and absolutely took it to the next level. Every single track on this album is absolutely packed with energy. However, whether that's a good or a bad thing is really up to the listener. With a million vocalists seemingly on every track, for newcomers to power metal or Blind Guardian, that could seem a bit tiring. For those who have a bit more experience with either or, it's a very rewarding experience.
The instrumentation on this album is phenomenal. Bar none, this album has some of the greatest drumming in the history of power metal. Thomen must have grown two extra arms for this album -- in the solo section of the opener 'Precious Jerusalem', the drumming is something that can't be described -- it must be heard. Every other track (except 'The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight', being a power ballad) features exceptional drumming. The lead guitar is also very amazing on every song, with great melodies and riffs (especially on 'Age of False Innocence', 'Battlefield', 'Under the Ice', 'Sadly Sings Destiny'). The greatest Blind Guardian solo ever appears on this album as well, in the song 'Punishment Divine.' That being said, the guitar solos and riffs tend to be great all of the time. However, the rhythm guitar sorta takes a back seat on this album, and so does the bass. It simply is hard to hear all of what's actually going on this album at one time. That's one fault I would give the album, and the other would be the sort of 'foggy' production, but other than those two, this album is flawless. The orchestration as well, with the use of a piano and other keyboard sound effects sounds great as well. This is used the greatest in the albums epic...
And Then There Was Silence.
Possibly the greatest Blind Guardian song. Possibly the greatest power metal song. This is 14 minutes of sheer metal at it's absolute best. It has everything a power metal song should have: excellent riffs, great orchestration, absolutely mind blowing vocals and chorus, and even some slow, peaceful sections here and there. It's very progressive at (like I said) 14 minutes and every second of it is just balls to the f-ing wall. If one doesn't not appreciate this song, one should not listen to power metal in general.
All in all, this is a fantastic album. My personal favorite from Blind Guardian. Many may cite that it's hard to get into, and I'd be the first to tell you: it is. It takes TIME. It takes a ton of time to get into. I was once one of those who said Nightfall was their greatest album, and that's a perfectly fine choice as well. However, this album just blows it away --- as well as any of the other albums. Every single element which makes Blind Guardian great is shown here and made better, tenfold.
This album comes with my highest of recommendations, and every song on here is astounding, so it's hard for me to give a list of recommended songs. However, just do yourself a favor:
And Then There Was Silence