Review Summary: A fantastic blend of the old and the new, At The Edge Of Time proves to be the best Blind Guardian in years, despite some missing pieces and slight missteps.
Whether you really like them or not, it’s difficult to deny that Blind Guardian are one of power metal’s flagship bands. They’ve single-handedly defined how to make a fantasy-based power metal album for people who really don’t enjoy power metal in the first place with Nightfall In Middle-Earth
, and since then have wandered around trying to find their way back to a place they’ve already been. It’s been a slow regression, sure, but a regression nonetheless into a place where everything has seemed uninspired and rather clumsy compared to the sheer fluidity of their more renowned works. At The Edge Of Time
proves to be a slight turn for the better, showing inklings of confidence and willingness to experiment- part of what made them who they are today.
In between the wallows of a handful of filler tracks and cliché, disjointed attempts at melancholic ballads, Blind Guardian have made a vast amount of headway in recapturing their signature sound of brilliant lead riffs and choruses that make you rise up and sing along, elements which are absolutely crucial in making a power metal album avoid stagnation. The pace changes between crawling acoustics and emotional vocals to thrashing riffs and grandiose symphonics backing layered choruses that just ooze pretension, yet still remain enjoyable. That- the ability to keep all overblown concepts at bay- is perhaps the most crucial element keeping At The Edge Of Time
as enjoyable as it is. The wailing guitar solos that are drenched in Blind Guardian’s very particular guitar tone are as good as ever, showing a focused balance between structured songwriting that has a goal in mind for the entire album as a whole, and enjoyable guitar licks and drum fills that are there just for the moment itself.
The grandeur and sheer epic qualities of songs like “Sacred Worlds” and “Wheel Of Time” contrast the mid-paced and down-tempo “Curse My Name” and “War Of The Thrones”, and while the change is welcome and helps the album move along without becoming repetitive, these ballads seem like cheap attempts at emotion. The success and popularity of fantasy ballads like “The Bard’s Song- In The Forest” have spawned a slew of similar tracks on their subsequent albums, and At The Edge Of Time
is no exception. That, coupled with several filler tracks that litter the album, really take away from the quality of the final package which otherwise is the best album Blind Guardian have released in years. The outstanding vocals by Hansi Kürsch have remained as powerful and effective as ever, and the guitar riffs and atmosphere are top-notch.
It’s interesting, though, how At The Edge Of Time
still falls short of what Blind Guardian were trying to achieve. The feeling of being taken somewhere else entirely, and the illusion that everything going on actually has meaning in the grand scheme of things, is eerily absent from this album. That may be the reason why, despite rock-solid songwriting and musicianship, At The Edge Of Time
will remain as another stepping stone towards the album Blind Guardian have been trying to write ever since Nightfall In Middle Earth
was released; a power metal album that really means something to people who have never cared about power metal before. It’s all just wishful thinking, though, because At The Edge Of Time
is still the best power metal release in quite a while, and is an album that definitely does not deserve to go unnoticed.