Review Summary: Combining three decades of styles into one album, Blind Guardian releases one of their strongest albums yet.
For many people, stepping outside one's comfort zone is quite a difficult task. From social gatherings, to job opportunities, and in this case music, each person has a certain level of content that they like to stay. I am saying this because over the past two years my focus on a musical level has covered just about every genre except hip-hop and country. Entering new genres of music may be hard to some, but over time that person can expand their musical tastes. As a user on Sputnik I am generally criticized/made fun of for loving power metal. While it is cheesy and ridiculously over the top, it has enabled me to create a happy place in my mind that I can go to whenever needed. Unfortunately the genre has been saturated with so many horrendous or mediocre bands and albums that I abandoned it in terms of new releases. Earlier this year Avantasia sparked interest again with The Wicked Symphony. It combined everything that makes power metal great and put it on another level with the bombasticism involved. Blind Guardian has now done the same thing with At the Edge of Time
but they have brought back that initial love for the genre that I had for a three year period.
Starting with “Sacred Worlds” Blind Guardian instantly shows off their recent style that was ever so present on A Night At The Opera. Combining Andre Olbrich’s distinctive guitar tone, Hansi’s layered vocals, and an orchestra, the band immediately gives the listener an over the top epic song. The various tempo changes that go on in the song makes this nine minute song never seem boring and always fresh. While it is definitely a strong way to start off a Blind Guardian album, fortunately the song is not the best on the entire disc.
The one problem that the band, and pretty much every other power metal band, has always had is that they stick to a certain style to the point where you can pretty much tell what new songs and albums sound like. Case in point is the ballads. Now I am not saying that they are terrible, far from it, but a typical Blind Guardian “ballad” is the image of a bunch of dudes in a tavern swinging their steins back and forth singing while another guy is playing the flute. “Curse My Name” is the perfect example on here. In fact the theme of the song works extremely well with this style as it is based on John Milton’s The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates
which deal with the people’s displeasure of a king. While I may criticize the lack of innovation, this is pretty good song. Sadly that cannot be said about every song. “War of Thrones” is an overall ok song that is just filler. “A Voice in the Dark” and “Valkyries” come really close to being that filler spot but avoid it with a stellar chorus in the former and stellar verses in the latter; this is actually quite strange for some reason.
Enough of the negativity though; this review is a praise over a fine album. “Wheel of Time” is the most interesting song the band has done in a couple of albums. It is basically And There Was Silence II in sheer amount of things going on at once and it quite hard to describe with words. You just have to hear it yourself, but I can tell you that the Middle Eastern tone is just gorgeous. Blind Guardian also decided to do something they have not really done in about twelve years: going back to their roots. Songs like “Tanelorn” and “Ride Into Obsession” are reminiscent of the Somewhere Far Beyond days with that thick melodic crunch of guitars to go with Hansi’s great vocals. “Ride Into Obsession” is the best song not on here but pretty much the best song ever. It could easily be placed on any Blind Guardian album and would be one of the highlights. From the perfect tone of Andre’s guitars, to the tight drums, and the flawless layering of vocals, is just heaven.
At The Edge of Time
combines all the elements that Blind Guardian has brought the metal world over the past 24 years. Going back to the roots of the band for a couple of songs was a smart move that gave the album something different. Continuing the epic over the top orchestral onslaught that has been present for a couple albums now is also a good thing because they do it so well, as apparent in “Sacred Worlds” and “Wheel of Time”. I criticize the styles that power metal bands stick to for a long period of time. Fortunately for Blind Guardian, they have changed their style over time and gave us the best of their best, minus the Tolkien of course.