Review Summary: "Beyond the Red Mirror is the best album Blind Guardian has released since A Night at the Opera, and a triumphant middle finger to Father Time"
Time is a cruel master.
Metalheads like me have continuously witnessed our favorite bands fall from grace at the hands of Father Time. Even some of the biggest, best, and most talented artists to ever grace the stage were unable to hide from his bewitching grasp. Childhood favorites of mine including Metallica, Slayer, and Sabbath released a flurry of downright embarrassing material, and even the lucky ones (Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, to name a few) faced noticeable hiccups and difficulties. One band, however, has inexplicably managed to cheat Time himself, and still boasts an untarnished legacy after almost three decades
of existence. This band, of course, is Blind Guardian, a power metal quintet hailing from West Germany.
Their latest album, Beyond the Red Mirror, is exactly how you would expect a Blind Guardian album to sound in 2015; soaring vocals courtesy of Hansi Kursch, blistering guitar work, relentless double bass drumming, and a suitably bombastic orchestrated section. If you’re not a fan of the band’s over-the-top style, this record will do nothing to change your mind. However, to those well-acquainted with their previous work, this will likely be one of the most fulfilling releases of the year.
The album opens with "The Ninth Wave," a heavily orchestrated track that begins with distant chanting before devolving into the tried-and-true Blind Guardian formula, albeit with slightly more technologically-generated melodies than in previous releases. As should be expected, the song is gloriously drawn-out and pretentious, which is where the band truly shines. It’s a worthy opening track, although doesn't quite reach the incredibly high bar set by their last opener, “Sacred Worlds.”
From there, the record delivers everything one would expect from Blind Guardian. A welcome blend of old and new, songs such as “The Holy Grail” would have been right at home on Nightfall in Middle-Earth
while first (and only) single “Twilight of the Gods” has a feeling reminiscent of A Night at the Opera
. Due to this, this is an album that will have something for everyone; an attribute that I would argue is quite welcome.
Along with the aforementioned “The Holy Grail,” highlights include the orchestra-heavy “The Throne,” (which is highly reminiscent of “Sacred Worlds”) and triumphant closer “Grand Parade.” By far the most impressive quality Beyond the Red Mirror boasts is its remarkable consistency; every single song on here is worth listening to, even the bonus tracks.
The only criticism I have regarding Beyond the Red Mirror is its lack of “classic” Blind Guardian songs, as nothing on here will absolutely blow your mind in the same way as “Into the Storm” or “Mirror Mirror” did in 1998 (although “The Holy Grail” comes damn close). However, the album’s consistency more than makes up for it, even if the tracks are consistently “superb” rather than “classic.”
Beyond the Red Mirror is the best album Blind Guardian has released since A Night at the Opera
, and a triumphant middle finger to Father Time, who has seemingly no control over the power metal giants. Though it’s not likely to change the minds of those unimpressed with the band’s previous work, BG’s latest offering will firmly plant itself in any power metal fan’s rotation for months, even years, to come.