We all know power metal. It"s a hard to listen to genre if you aren"t familiar with it. It"s fast, irritating, and cheesy to the uninformed. Those who listen to it, however, will tell you otherwise. They will state it as one of the greatest genres of metal. Personally, I think it is. Although you will find quite a few generic bands throughout here (as you would any other genre), there will always be those who defy all the boundaries, doing stuff no one has done before.
Ask any power metal head for a recommendation of bands in the genre, and 9 times out of 10, you will hear Blind Guardian. Many people consider Blind Guardian one of the best bands to ever come out of Germany, which isn"t that far from the truth. The group has been around forever, forming in 1984. Their first albums flirted with an almost speed metal esque style, but they truly broke out of the mold with their 1992 effort, Somewhere Far Beyond. Widely regarded as a power metal masterpiece, it made the group almost instant stars. Since then, the group has released many more albums, each never failing to let down their audience. Numbered among those were live albums, a concept album based on The Simalarron (or some spelling like that), a book by J.R.R. Toliken, and the point of this review, a little album called A Night At The Opera.
Blind Guardian - A Night At The Opera
- March 19th, 2002, on Century Media records
Hansi Kursch - Lead and Backing Vocals
Ande Olbrich - Lead/Rhythm/Acoustic Guitars
Marcus Siepen - Rhythm Guitars
Thomas Stauch - Drums/Percussion
Rolf Kohler, Thomas Hackman, Olaf Senkbiel, Billy King - Choir
Oliver Holzwarth - Bass
Matthias Wiesner - Keyboards/Orchestral stuff
Pao Bender, Boris Schmidt, Sascha Pierro - Keyboards/Sound Effects
Michael Schurien - Piano on "Age Of False Innocence"
So. Blind Guardian. Crazy German power metal on roids. Easy enough to remember, yes?
Like most power metal bands, Blind Guardian have that level of cheese to them that only a power metal band can obtain. Case in point: name one other band that has an entire album based around a Lord Of The Rings book. I dare you.
While A Night At The Opera still has that cheese factor in it, it"s more subtle, more hidden. You really have to analyze the lyrics to find out what the band is really talking about, and what they really mean. THEN you find out that it"s quite cheesy.
Be forewarned though: if you do not have a large amount of metal listening (or music listening, for that matter) under your belt, your body will spontaneously combust the instant this record is put on. There is so much going on at once, it"s almost impossible to listen to at points. You need to let the album grow on you a bit.
However, once you do, that"s it. All other music will cease to be classified as "the greatest thing you"ve ever listened to", barring a few extreme cases. A Night At The Opera may be one of the greatest albums (that"s right, ALBUMS) ever released. There is literally NO flaw to this album whatsoever. It is filled with eleven cuts of absolutely mindblowing music, on all fronts.
First, you have Hansi Kursch, considered by many to be a modern day Bruce Dickinson. I personally think this is a poor rationalization; Hansi is ten times a better singer than Bruce will ever be. Don"t get me wrong, I love Bruce, but Hansi is seriously the best vocalist in power metal today. His range is unmatched, his vocal style unmistakeable, and his capability endless. He can go as high as anyone, low as anyone, and anywhere in between. He can sing operatically, has an incredible harsh voice as well (not growled, not screamed, harsh. There"s a difference...think grungy, almost, except good), and his power will blow you back in your chair. He"s seriously that good.
Now, on this album, Hansi alone should be enough to sustain it. But the band added a choir as well, which gives not one, but 4 more depths to the music. The choral work is impeccable. They manage to fill in the parts that Hansi would normally do without much notice. Which is a good thing, considering Hansi"s ability.
And then we get onto the full time members of the band. The guitars first; Olbrich is an extremely underrated guitarist, considering he wrote nearly all of the material on this album. His leads aren"t really meant to stand out, they serve as more of yet another addition to the multifaceted aspect of the music. If you really listen to them, though, they are excellent. Siepen does a good job of rhythm guitaring, about as well as a rhythm guitarist can do.
Stauch, on the other hand, truly stands out. He may be one of the greatest things to happen to power metal drumming ever. His fills are absolutely ridiculous; he almost seems to call to mind a death metal drummer, or the grand walrus himself, Gene Hoglan of Strapping Young Lad, Death, Dark Angel, etc. His drums are in the back when they need to be (yet still crazy), and when he shines, he fu
cking blinds everyone. He"s crazy. His attitude, if it were publicly known: Death To False Drumming.
On top of all of these (another fact: the guitars are often multilayered in the songs), there"s the orchestra. And goddamn, when there"s an orchestra, there"s a goddamn orchestra. In every single song, the orchestra adds so much to the music, its nigh impossible to describe what they do. There"s 500 different things going on at once, all blending together to immerse you in sound, and completely shattering the notion of what music should sound like. Think an actual, famous orchestra, placed on top of an almost folky power metal band. There"s your sound.
Also, every song except the bonus track (which isn"t listed on the album that Sputnik has up, for some reason; it"s called Mies Del Dolor, a Spanish acoustic track) is over 5 minutes long. It"s the length of a normal album as well. That"s something an extremely low number of bands has ever done before. It shows that the band can write some longer material, and yet still keep you captivated.
Honestly, just go out and buy the album. I actually bought this one, and this is truly one of those albums that you can buy and be proud of owning, even 5, 10, 30 years from now. It"s that good.
It"s hard to pick recommended tracks...but, if you must:
Sadly Sings Destiny
All are written in somewhat of the same style, which, in the case of this band, is a good thing. They all feature absolutely perfect instrumentation and vocals.
Not to say the rest of the tracks are any step down at all (they aren"t), but these are some of my favorites.
However, one song that you absolutely must check out if you claim to like music at all is And Then There Was Silence
. Clocking in at 14:05, it"s absolutely astonishing. It covers everything Blind Guardian is capable of, and it will leave you speechless for days to come. Need I say more?
If you"re new to metal, power metal, or even Blind Guardian, don"t start with this. It"s too overwhelming to handle at first. If you ARE a fan of these 3, you still need some time with this to completely sink in. Once it does, that"s it. You"ll be hooked forever, and will claim almost all other music unworthy. One album that truly deserves 500 times more praise that it deserves, and one of the most original releases I"ve ever heard.
Final Rating - 10/10