Album review: BLIND GUARDIAN – Re-issues

Battalions Of Fear/Follow Me Blind/Tales From The Twilight World/Somewhere Far Beyond/Tokyo Tales’/Imaginations From The Other Side/The Forgotten Tales (compilation)/Nightfall In Middle Earth/A Night At The Opera/Live

Nuclear Blast [Release date 27.10.17]

German power metal band Blind Guardian have produced some fine albums since their 1988 debut. Their music has developed over time, from their mid 80s formation they were originally influenced by the likes off Accept and fellow teutonic power metallers Helloween.

Their first 10 albums have been re-released by Nuclear Blast and the albums sound as good as ever.

After a number of early line-up changes, the band stabalised with vocalist/bassist Hansi Hursch, guitarists Andre Olbrich and Marchus Siepen, and drummer Thomas Stauch.

Recorded at the tail end of 1987, their debut ‘Battalions Of Fear’ was released in 1988 to much acclaim. There’s not a great deal of finesse, the speed metal and thrash are frantic and frenetic. Opener ‘Majesty’ and ‘Guardians Of The Blind’ set the pace, and influences and themes on the album range from Lord Of The Rings to Stephen King’s It, Aleister Crowley, Jesus Christ’s Passion and even Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative. There’s some solid rhythms, plenty of double bass drum and a lot of shred throughout. At times complex, and beyond the thrash there are moments that allude to directions the band would later move to.

The following year’s ‘Follow The Blind’ was heavier but not quite so fast, more heavy polished, influenced by the by the Bay Area Thrash scene. Guests include guitarists Kalle Trapp and Kai Hansen, and keyboard player Mathias Wiesner. Banish From Sanctuary has an almost anthemic feel, and Damned For All Time nods to very early Metallica.

Enter the nineties with ‘Tales From The Twilight World’, and there’s a hint of a progressive touch, a la Savatage, but it’s still a brutal set. The opening set ‘Traveler In Time’ is a solid track with an occasional melodic nod. ‘Welcome To Dying’ has a good chorus, and elsewhere on the album there’s a nod to Judas Priest too. More varied, there’s a big ballad (‘Lord Of The Rings’), and there’s a song about Frank Herbert’s Dune in there too.

‘Somewhere Far Beyond’ (1992) really saw the band develop their sound further; ‘Time What Is Time’ is crunchy and heavy but more complex than earlier work, and ‘Journey Through The Dark’ as some searing and soaring moments. A seamless transition but very different from the 80s work, but just as good if not better. The drums and bass on ‘Ashes To Ashes’ are quite Prog Metal. This track alone is worth searching out.

Now touring around the world, 1993’s ‘Tokyo Tales’ is a live album that does just what it says on the tin. Mixing material from across their studio albums, it’s an energetic release and the band and crowd are on form. Every guitar solo gets a cheer, there’s no short cuts on this wonderful live set. Acting as a best of to that point too, it’s pretty essential listening.

1995’s ‘Imaginations’ was a darker affair, with more effects than keyboards, and the first to not feature Kai Hansen as a guest. Brooding, moody though it may be, it’s not quite gothic, but are some Mission or NFD moments. There’s some great guitar work (notably on ‘I’m Alive’), but the sound was a little more embracing of the 90s than earlier albums.

1996’s ‘The Forgotten Tale’s, a compilation of covers. And the opening ‘Chordettes Mr Sandman’ (which nods to bubblegum pop given a metal touch), NO was the first thought, which followed on repeat with my head in my hands. The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ USA’ again kicks off true to the original before getting more metal. A couple of Blind Guardian tracks, then Uriah Heep’s ‘The Wizard’ which is a better track than the first two.

A very VERY mixed bag, a mixture of covers and their own tracks, with Judas Priest’s ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death’ and Dio’s ‘Don’t Talk To Stranger’s two of the better choices.

A concept album based on Tolkien’s Silmarillion, 1998’s ‘Nightfall In Middle Earth’ was the first to feature Oliver Holtzwarth (Rhapsody Of Fire) on bass, to allow Hansi to concentrate on lead vocals. Musically and lyrically complex, it needs listening to start to finish, it’s some great rock music that mixes prog with power metal. It’s very encompassing, and is a standout and essential part of the Blind Guardian catalogue. Just buy it.

The set here finishes with ‘A Night At The Opera’, continuing the more progressive direction with instrument and vocal layers, keyboards and complex arrangements while remaining just as heavy and true to form. The final track ‘And Then There Was Silence’ runs to nearly 15 minutes. And do look out for the Live 2CD which covers 22 songs across the career and again a wonderful set.

Fantastic albums, wonderful power metal at its best, from speed metal through to prog.

Most of these albums have the same (or similar) bonus tracks to the 2007 remasters, but as I had downloads rather than finished product I can’t comment on the final packages.

All **** bar Forgotten Tales **

Review by Joe Geesin

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Featured Albums w/c 6 July (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 MANDOKI SOULMATES Living In The Gap (Red Rock Production/Cleopatra)
12:00-13:00 MAGNUS KARLSSON’S FREE FALL – We Are The Night (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 BEN REEL The Nashville Calling (B.Reel Records)

Power Plays w/c 6 July (Mon-Fri)

ZENITH MOON Gypsy (Golden Robot Records)
RARITY Leave It Alone (New Damage Records)
THE RISING I Want You (indie)
MANDOKI SOULMATES Young Rebels (Red Rock Production/Cleopatra)
LA GUNS Well Oiled Machine (Golden Robot Records)

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